The changing faces of Musalia Mudavadi

ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi addressing leaders allied to Kenya Kwanza Alliance from Western at his home at Mululu village in Vihiga county on February 25, 2022. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

At this time last year, Musalia Mudavadi was a strong defender of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

So much so that the Amani National Congress (ANC) leader was a permanent fixture of Uhuru endorsing him.

His camaraderie with the President was exemplified by a joint press conference on February 25, 2021, to celebrate the success of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitutional amendment push at the county assemblies, which was also attended by party leaders Raila Odinga (ODM), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Gideon Moi (KANU), Moses Wetang'ula (Ford-K) and Charity Ngilu (Narc Kenya).

Mudavadi, with fellow One Kenya Alliance principals, would also meet the President several times, at different occasions, and photos of the meeting would flood their respective social media handles.

And courtesy of his closeness with the president, Mudavadi got under Deputy President William Ruto’s skin, who had fallen out with his boss.

“Those in opposition are pleading with the president to unite them,” Ruto chided them repeatedly.

And then the former Vice President and Deputy Prime Minister saw the light.

The president's supporter has now turned critic, who is unleashing constant attacks.

He is now embroiled in a scathing war of words against Uhuru and is no longer a pain in Ruto’s neck. 

From launching the Huduma Number in Kajiado in 2019, to claiming that Huduma Number would be used to rig this year's election in December last year claiming, Mudavadi has become an ace political acrobat and executed numerous U-turns.

Perhaps the sharpest U-turn was on his assertion that he would never work with Ruto, in whom he saw incurable ills.

“You are the source of Kenya’s debt problem, and now you say you want to solve it… now he is seeking my support, which implies that I should be part of this problem,” Mudavadi rebuffed Ruto’s overtures in October 2020, which he found irresistible in February.

He went further, accusing the DP of deceit by disowning the failures of the Jubilee administration while enjoying the trappings of power.

Since announcing his alliance with Ruto, Mudavadi has moved to exonerate the DP from the ills he accused him of being the architect.

“Mr President, you have a right to be disappointed with (in) me. But I want to tell you: Kenyans are even more disappointed in you. They are hungry, they are tired,” the ANC leader said during his party's NDC.

For the longest time, the former deputy prime minister has faulted the Jubilee administration’s appetite for debt.

His blame was collective, targeting Uhuru, his deputy and the Treasury for sinking Kenya to the lowest it has ever been, warning that the country ran the risk of auctioning.

While he has stepped up his attacks on the government’s soaring debt burden, he no longer believes that Ruto is to blame for whatever role he may have played in creating the situation Mudavadi wants to be remedied.

The deal-breakers for an alliance with Ruto did not end there. Before the former vice president declared that Ruto’s “hustlers” needed "pesa mfukoni” he could not stomach the “economic model” sold as the solution to achieving the same.

In July last year, he trashed Ruto’s ‘bottom-up’ model, terming it one meant to aid him “gobble up” public coffers.

“Mtu anameza kila kitu na mwananchi atabaki na nini (What will the mwananchi get if they gobble up everything?)”

Mudavadi, gesturing with a bottle of water, struck at the DP, questioning how he planned to finance the model.

Ruto would respond, accusing him of harbouring an obsession for “drinking competitions.”

Raila, associated with the trickle-down formula, was not spared. Mudavadi accused both leaders of empty sloganeering, selling his ‘pesa mfukoni’ as a realistic alternative.

As he announced his change of heart, the ANC leader praised Ruto and the bottom-up ideology, claiming that they were the only ones who had focused their messaging on reviving the economy.

Besides his fight with Uhuru, Mudavadi has his eyes set on Raila, too. At the heart of their beef is his belief that the ODM leader is a project of the State.

On several occasions, the ANC has lamented that some shadowy figures have insisted that he should shelve his presidential ambitions for Raila, hinting that the Mt Kenya Foundation (MKF,) a group of tycoons, could be part of those pushing him to support Raila.

The ‘project’ tag that he places on Raila, in some ways, is a result of the backing he secured from the MKF.

Ironically, Mudavadi also went through the same ‘vetting’ as Raila’s by the MKF, which has him referring to the former premier as a project.

But his U-turns did not begin there. Before last year’s joint press conference, in which he was among those celebrating the BBI’s success, Mudavadi had blown hot and cold over the controversial Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

For months he held back on supporting the BBI. That was until he showed up at a Kakamega BBI rally convened by Raila in January 2020.

In the intervening months, he would maintain his lukewarm stance on the Bill, despite attending BBI rallies.

He would rally his allies to support the Bill in the bicameral Parliament, securing a landslide victory.

But he would celebrate the Bill’s ill fate at the Court of Appeal in August last year.

“Leaders must listen to each other. It should never have been a one-man choir,” Mudavadi said.

More recently, he has accused Uhuru and Raila of planning to destroy the Constitution through the BBI.?