Kalonzo: Shifted goalposts several times, even the president can't help

Kalonzo Musyoka addressing journalists in Karen, Nairobi on May 16, 2022 when he unveiled Andrew Sunkuli as his running mate. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka is on the record saying he is a misunderstood man.

He often describes himself as a principled, well-meaning and straight-shooting politician. He could be all that, but several political observers don’t think so.

Prof. Macharia Munene of the United States International University-Africa (USIU) describes Musyoka as a “politically-insecure man”, while Prof. Gitile Naituli says the Wiper Party leader “lacks leadership”.

Herman Manyora says Kalonzo’s decisions smack of confusion.

But why has Kalonzo drawn so much scrutiny into his character in politics?

In October 2021, he stated that he was best-suited to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta, urging the Head of State and his handshake partner, Raila Odinga, to retire from active politics post-August 9, 2022 General Election.

“My thinking is that President Kenyatta should go home with Raila. If you look at the ages of all the others who want to contest for the presidency, Raila is way ahead of us,” he told Emoo FM on October 13, 2021.

Before that, in June 2021, he said that it would be stupid of him to support Raila Odinga for presidency.

The quote became so famous, that both allies and opponents, for a moment, believed that Musyoka had finally made up his mind – concretely so – on his political future.

On October 7, 2021, again, Musyoka reiterated his remarks – that he was the best option to succeed Kenyatta, going ahead to claim that the president owed him support in the 2022 presidential election.

“I was the one who convinced [Kenya’s third President Mwai] Kibaki to appoint Uhuru [Kenyatta] as Deputy Prime Minister in the grand coalition government,” Musyoka said during a meeting with the Mt. Kenya Foundation.

To shore up his chances of realising his presidential dream, Musyoka teamed up with Gideon Moi of KANU, Martha Karua of Narc-Kenya Musalia Mudavadi of ANC, Moses Wetangula of Ford-Kenya and Cyrus Jirongo of United Democratic Party (UDP) to form the One Kenya Alliance (OKA).

OKA was formed sometime in April 2021, but by March 2022, the affiliate parties had gone separate ways.

What remained was the name of the alliance, but the different parties had either teamed with DP William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza coalition or Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja.

When Raila Odinga was being unveiled as the Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate on March 12, 2022, Kalonzo pledged to support Odinga’s candidature, albeit after intense lobbying by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The convincing took several hours, delaying the ceremony at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC).

However, after Raila Odinga was crowned, Musyoka started blowing hot and cold, appearing with the ODM boss during some political rallies, and skipping others.

Then came the running mate talk, the straw that appears to have broken the camel’s back. Kalonzo Musyoka and Raila Odinga are now going separate ways, with Musyoka saying his key condition for supporting Raila Odinga was that he (Raila) picks him as his running mate.

That did not happen, as Raila opted for Martha Karua after a panel interview ranked the former Gichugu MP as the most suitable candidate for the job.

Musyoka now says he will be on the ballot as a presidential candidate on Wiper Party ticket, with Andrew Sunkuli as his running mate.

Clearly, the Wiper boss has shifted goalposts several times, and it’s this pattern that made Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua to accuse him of “auctioning the Kamba community to the highest bidder”.

“We are a region whereby every election people pretend to be running for presidency so that they can wager, sell the community and make money,” Mutua told Capital FM on October 23, 2021.

Political observers describe Musyoka as an indecisive politician.

Prof. Macharia Munene on Tuesday, May 17 told The Standard: “Kalonzo Musyoka is a politically-insecure man.”

The History professor further described the Wiper chief as “politically short-sighted”.

“The short-sightedness in politics makes one frustrated when things don’t go as per their expectations. In the last six months or so, Kalonzo has flip-flopped to a point that he can’t be trusted anymore. I’d say that his announcement that he will run for president is an act of desperation. Shifting goalposts in a very short period gives the impression that one is insecure, and shouldn’t be trusted,” said Munene.

On what could be Kalonzo’s game-plan, Munene said: “He has almost zero chance of winning the presidency, and he knows it. However, he should stick to his decision this time around to save the little trust that people have in him. If he abandons the wagon midway, he’ll never salvage his reputation.”

Prof. Gitile Naituli says Musyoka’s “flip-flopping” is an indicator of a man “who lacks leadership”.

“Leadership is about making decisions. If you flip-flop too much, it communicates that you are yet to mature as a leader. Look at Martha Karua, she decided from the word go that she’d oppose the BBI, and she went all the way in rejecting it. Indecisiveness, as exhibited by Kalonzo’s political pattern, shows that he cannot lead. The Wiper leader has zero chance of winning the presidency,” said Naituli.

“I think Kalonzo believes he’ll be in a position to force a run-off in the presidential election. However, that could be a big gamble on his side.”

Herman Manyora, on his part, said Kalonzo’s shift of goalposts smacks of a man who is “confused”.

“I’d say Kalonzo lacks the knowledge, skill and instinct to swim in the murky political waters. As a politician, you must have the instinct to know who you can trust, the knowledge to make calculated moves, and the skill to reinvent yourself.

“The Wiper leader has failed to read between the lines. The president and Raila Odinga had made up their mind that they’d walk together, and nothing was going to change that. Instincts ought to have told him (Kalonzo) that ‘this is a Uhuru-Raila deal, and they’re not willing to have anyone stand in their way’. In that situation, he should have accepted to play second fiddle and remain relevant using the two leaders’ influence,” said Manyora.

Just like professors Munene and Naituli, Manyora doesn’t believe that Musyoka stands a chance of victory in the August 9 polls.

The Standard understands that on Sunday night, May 15, a few hours to Raila Odinga naming his running mate, the ODM boss drove to Musyoka’s Karen home to convince him to remain in Azimio after the coalition settled on Martha Karua, but the Wiper chief stuck to his guns – that it was either him as running mate, or nothing.

Even the president’s calls to Musyoka couldn’t help much.

While announcing his candidature on Monday, May 16, Musyoka said he left Azimio la Umoja because the “good faith” that he’d offered wasn’t being reciprocated.

“I know people would go out there, do whatever they want to do, call us names, but we will remain very firm; very, very firm. I think a majority of Kenyans want an alternative between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja," he said.

"That’s now the fact. What I have said in regard to my candidature is in absolute good faith. In fact, the terms of engagement under this grand-coalition agreement, is based on utmost good faith, and where there is no good faith, you can’t do business. Some of us have suffered the consequences of bad faith for far too long.

"For how long do people expect one Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka to be the one always sacrificing? And then after sacrificing, they mess up the country. We will not allow this to continue," said Musyoka.