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Cleophas Malala, Ayub Savula – assets or liabilities to Mudavadi?

By Oscar Obonyo | Dec 19th 2021 | 6 min read

ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Lugari MP Ayub Savula, and Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala. [File, Standard]

No doubt, they are presently the most vocal legislators from Amani National Congress (ANC), and they have the party leader Musalia Mudavadi’s ear.

However, there are fears the political enthusiasm and rivalry between Kakamega Senator, Cleophas Malala and Lugari MP, Ayub Savula, may be hurting more than building the party.   

Except for their push for a Mudavadi presidency, Malala and Savula differ on almost everything, including the strategy to clinch the top seat, how to fight off the ANC leader’s key rivals outside the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) outfit – Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader, Raila Odinga, not to mention their bruising battle on who between them should  succeed Wycliffe Oparanya as governor of Kakamega.

Savula, however, dismisses talk of political rivalry with Malala whom he claims is a political novice “who is running down Mudavadi’s presidential campaign with unworthy experiments”.

The quarrelling pair is however credited for filling the void of aggressiveness and hard political ball that appears to lack in the party of the man regarded as “the gentleman of Kenya’s politics.”

Indeed out of the 12 Members of Parliament allied to ANC, nine in the National Assembly and three in the Senate – two elected and one Nominated – Savula and Malala are arguably the most vocal and hard bargainers.  

In the OKA arrangement, the two are said to be fierce lobbyists for Mudavadi’s nomination as OKA’s presidential nominee, ahead of counterparts, Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper Democratic Movement), Gideon Moi (Kanu) and Moses Wetangula (Ford-Kenya).

Through their bullish approach and hard-hitting public pronouncements, politicians allied to other OKA member-parties confided to this writer that the Savula-Malala duo had indeed done a good job in marketing their candidate.

“Going by the number of our MPs and the seniority of our party leader, ideally Kalonzo Musyoka should be our (OKA) flag bearer. But because of the noise by just two people from ANC this is no longer automatic,” observes Makueni MP, Dan Maanzo.    

“The two are too loud and anyone venturing into our affairs would think ANC is the most active party with majority MPs within OKA,” says Maanzo, whose Wiper party has 23 MPs in the National Assembly and four in the Senate – three elected and one nominated.  

And perhaps because they enjoy the backing of their party leader, Savula and Malala are very assertive, sometimes issuing controversial statements on behalf of the party boss. In some cases, they have been forced to eat humble pie after the party distancing itself from their utterances.

In September, for instance, Savula accompanied Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru during her appearance at  EACC Nairobi’s Integrity Centre. Speaking to the press, Savula claimed Waiguru’s woes were politically motivated, and assured the Governor that ANC would support her.

“We know it is because of politics. As ANC, we are going to stand in solidarity with her and we are courting her to be one of our political kingpins in Central Kenya,” Savula said. Mudavadi later dismissed the sentiments by the MP as personal opinion.

ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi with Women League leader Beatrice Adagala and Lugari MP Ayub Savula. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Malala’s brazen attacks on Raila a fortnight ago at a rally in Bungoma county similarly drew the ire of Mudavadi’s co-principal, Kalonzo, who openly reprimanded the Senator for undoing his party leader’s mission, and indeed the OKA fraternity, of promoting unity in the country. 

Terming the senator as one  “who doesn't understand what bringing together a country entails," the Wiper party leader wondered loudly whether the vocal politician had been sent by “the wheelbarrow guys,” meaning the Ruto’s team.

Their steadfastness and loyalty to the party leader notwithstanding, Malala and Savula are a source of discomfort to some within the party and have separately been criticized for isolating the party leader for selfish reasons and promoting unpopular campaign strategies.

According to ANC Nominated MP, Geoffrey Ososti, a good number of MPs from western Kenya are allied to Ruto. The MP claims the legislators, who include Malala, are hirelings of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) leader, who repeatedly attack Raila but are mum about the DP.

The Orange allied legislator further alleges that Savula and Malala’s push for Mudavadi to vie for presidency is a gimmick aimed at helping them achieving selfish political goals by riding on their party leader’s back.

Maanzo supports Ososti’s view: “Their insistence that Mudavadi must be on the ballot (as presidential candidate) is rather greedy and could hurt their party boss by isolating him politically. Mudavadi needs to work with us.”  

While both the DP and the former PM are Mudavadi’s main challengers, the duo – especially Malala – hardly make mention of Ruto, a factor that enhances the perception that they are DP’s political associates.  

“Raila and Ruto are very influential politicians who, combined, probably enjoy a support base of about 70 per cent nationally. So strategically, one cannot fight the two simultaneously otherwise one risks running out of gas and losing out,” says Malala.

In which case, the Senator says, Raila is his current target because “he occupies our grassroots political space.” Ruto, says Malala, is not ANC’s threat and hence the reason why Raila must be elbowed aside.

Accusing Malala of leaning towards the DP, Savula opines that the most realistic strategy of realizing a Mudavadi presidency lies in the regrouping of the old National Super Alliance (NASA) principals: “If we can reclaim our 2017 votes, add to that basket a fraction of votes from President Uhuru’s backyard and from Gideon Moi’s Kanu, then we are home and dry. Then once assembled we can fight for the flag bearer slot,” argues the second-term MP.

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala (left) flanked by ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi during a past presser at Hermosa Garden Hotel, Karen, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Kakamega senator however explains he has nothing personal against Raila, except for our political interests as a community: “Raila has supported me politically right from 2013 when I vied and was elected as an MCA on his party ticket. He further helped me to rise to the position of deputy Speaker of Kakamega County Assembly. And when I joined the Senate he rewarded me with the position of deputy Majority Whip. While I appreciate the support, this is about politics and our interests are this time around different.”

Malala’s relationship with Mudavadi has not been rosy all through. In fact he weaved his way into the ANC leader’s kitchen cabinet only 16 months ago after a series of bitter exchanges. In fact by June 2020, Malala was suspended by ANC on grounds of “gross misconduct”. 

Malala’s troubles with Mudavadi heightened when in 2019 he openly campaigned for ODM’s candidate Imram Okoth, in the Kibra by-election, despite ANC fronting the candidature of Eliud Owalo, who has since defected to Ruto’s UDA.

“He rode to the Senate on ANC ticket and it is unfortunate when he (Malala) starts hurling insults at our party leader, disparaging the party and working with our competitors,” said Barack Muluka, then the party’s Secretary General.

In the meantime, Malala is encouraging Mudavadi “not to fear to lose an election” because it is the way of the game and that he will not be the first or last: “I am not pushing Mudavadi to the political gallows for personal or egocentric reasons. We are doing it as a protest move so that our numbers as Luhyas can count.”

Savula separately notes that Mudavadi has previously been accused of being cowardly by supporting other candidates. This time around the second-term MP claims the ANC leader’s credibility and the political support he enjoys in his rural backyard may dissipate if he is not on the ballot.

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