2022: The riddle of Mudavadi's role in emerging power games
By Oscar Obonyo
| October 6th 2021
Even though President Kenyatta has lately hinted at backing ODM leader Raila Odinga’s presidential bid, Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi politically remains at close quarters with the president – a development that begs a host of questions.
Is Raila a decoy of sorts meant to bamboozle the rival camp of Deputy President William Ruto? And is Mudavadi the actual ace card in Uhuru’s highly guarded succession plot or is he the valuable “supersub” waiting on the reserve bench to be introduced at the “right time” in the ongoing game of high political stakes?
Alternatively are Raila and Musalia members of one team engaged in a practice match aimed at identifying who is best suited to play which position in the final game?
“Hii game ni kaali sana bro, hapo hata mimi sidhani naiyelewa vile inavyochezwa (the succession plot is so complicated and some of us do not even understand the intrigues involved),” says Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, a Mudavadi ally.
Uhuru’s actions have lately been telling. Raila, for instance, appears to be enjoying the support of State machinery, whose operatives have spearheaded his forays in Mt Kenya region, beginning with last week’s meetings with the business community and elected leaders, including the whirlwind tour of Laikipia, Nyeri, Murang’a, Nyandarua and Kiambu counties, which culminated in a tour to Nairobi’s Kibra constituency in the company of the President. Here, Uhuru told his audience that Raila was best suited to continue with his development agenda and asked residents “to vote wisely”.
Despite this, Mudavadi remains within Uhuru’s orbit. In fact, The Standard has established that the former DPM continues to hold private strategic meetings with the President as well as enjoying funding from a section of Uhuru’s business associates. “Do not, by any chance, think that Musalia has been making tours to Mt Kenya region blindly. The tours have been organised and senior government officers and local politicians mobilised to facilitate the meetings,” a second-term MP from the region, who declined to be named for fear of political reprisal, confided in this writer.
But reached for comment, ANC party officials were evasive. However Musalia’s deputy in ANC, Lugari MP Ayub Savula, remains convinced that his party boss stands a better chance than competitors to get the mantle from Uhuru.
According to Savula, the former Vice President who is fondly referred to as Macharia – a corruption of his Musalia name – by his supporters in Mt Kenya region, is likely to attract a bigger following in the region than his colleagues within the One Kenya Alliance or Raila, who is considered as a would-be partner.
“And this is critical, considering that in the absence of Uhuru, the winner of the August presidential poll could well be decided by this vote-rich region. Because Mudavadi is a more acceptable candidate here, he is our best bet to deliver the presidency,” argues Savula.
The second-term legislator is however unable to qualify his claim of Musalia’s hold on the Mt Kenya voting bloc. Deputy President William Ruto currently enjoys favourable ratings in the region, if poll victory by his allies in recent by-elections in the region is anything to go by.
Other presidential hopefuls, including Raila, Kalonzo Musyoka and Gideon Moi, have similarly stepped up their forays in the region, not forgetting “local boy”, National Assembly’s Speaker, Justin Muturi, who has similarly announced his interest in the top seat. There is no denying, however, that Uhuru has a soft spot for Musalia, who is just one year his senior, and who was his presidential running mate in 2002 under the then ruling party, Kanu.
Eleven years later, Uhuru invited his friend to join a political outfit he and DP Ruto had founded, but which they were skeptical of spearheading owing to alleged crimes against humanity leveled against the duo at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, Netherlands, following the 2007/8 post-election violence.
A couple of days later, Uhuru disowned the agreement he had signed endorsing Musalia as presidential candidate of their political outfit. He claimed that he had been misled by demons to give up his political ambition for someone else.
A section of politicians allied to OKA have privately claimed that allies of the President were behind the formation of the outfit, in a similar fashion as they did the United Democratic Forum (UDF) in 2013, which served as Musalia’s vehicle for his presidential bid.
In fact during the March by-elections in Kabuchai and Matungu, rivals from the Orange and Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) claimed that Mudavadi’s party enjoyed support of government machinery, in pushing through their candidate, Peter Nabulindo. ODM Secretary General, Edwin Sifuna, attributed his sentiments to the alleged violence meted to opponents as well as officers of the electoral body rivals by ANC officials “in full view of security officers and under their protection”.
It is the kind of perceived bias that persuaded the likes of Senate Leader of Minority, James Orengo, and Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo to momentarily change tune on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), a product of the Uhuru-Raila Handshake. The two lawyers separately hinted to the possibility of Raila being shortchanged politically.
As the narrative gained currency, on April 1st this year Uhuru made a dramatic move to reach to Raila. The President was seen “inspecting development projects” in Nairobi, including the Green Park in the company of a frail-looking Raila, whose hoarse voice was inaudible. To some pundits, the former PM who was recovering from a Covid-19 infection was dragged out of his house to partly demonstrate to Kenyans that the political unity between the two “brothers” was still intact.
And the following day, Mudavadi’s spokesperson Kibisu Kabatesi appeared to pour cold water on the Uhuru-Raila re-union with a sarcastic post on social media,” who is fooling who on the April Fool’s Day?”
Political scientist, Prof Peter Wanyande, attributes Uhuru’s apparent mixed signals to political allies to three factors, one of which is that he is still engrossed in an ongoing assessment process to pick a stronger and friendlier candidate who can deliver resounding victory. Alternatively Uhuru is keen on securing his future after leaving office by nourishing friendship with all the serious aspirants or better still, Prof Wanyande thinks the President may be working towards holding his allies together.
And the biggest indicator that he may be building a team, according to the University of Nairobi lecturer, is Kanu party’s National Delegates’ Conference (NDC), attended by the host Moi, Raila, Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Ford-Kenya’s Dr Chris Wamalwa.
Prof Wanyande views the event, in which delegates endorsed the Baringo Senator as Kanu’s presidential nominee, as an indication that these leaders could be one political family by August 9th next year.
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