The reaction of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka to the loss of Azimio la Umoja coalition running mate position has baffled friend and foe.
However, when you see the world from his perspectives, the flip-flops he has so far unleashed should be viewed with some kindness and circumspection. Mr Musyoka deserves empathy and understanding as he nurses his political wounds and re-strategizes his future after the August General Election.
During the sunset years of President Daniel Moi’s long tenure, Mr Musyoka was introduced to Kenyans as one of the leading Kanu presidential aspirants to succeed him. When Moi declared Uhuru as his preferred successor, Mr Musyoka joined the Raila Odinga-led rebellion that culminated in Narc’s and Mwai Kibaki’s overwhelming victory in the December, 2002 General Election.
In 2007, Kalonzo vied for the presidency but only performed well in Kambaland. And so in 2013 and 2017, he was content with being Mr Odinga’s running mate because, as a Senior Counsel, he knows that under the 2010 Constitution, the presidential election is a team sport.
The point here is that for over two decades, all Kenyans have been aware that Mr Musyoka plays in the presidential league and so he has legitimate expectations that his political partners should take his presidential ambitions seriously.
In the current season of the presidential elections game, the least that Kalonzo expected was the position of running mate in the Azimio coalition. No doubt, Mr Musyoka needs to be convinced why he should remain with Azimio after missing out on the running mate position to Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua. Yet, however disappointed Mr Musyoka must be, destiny beckons him to make a strategic decision on his role in the elections knowing that he has limited legal and political options. Interestingly, there is a silver lining to the running mate tragedy that has struck Mr Musyoka.
Let us start with Mr Musyoka’s legal options. Even as Mr Musyoka explores the possibility of contesting the presidency on a Wiper ticket, he will have to grapple with the legal reality that the party is part of the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) which joined Azimio la Umoja to form the Azimio La Umoja – One Kenya coalition.
As a senior lawyer, Mr Musyoka knows the law does not permit him to approbate and reprobate on this issue: He cannot have his cake and eat it. As a basic legal issue the presidential candidate of Wiper in the August presidential race is Mr Odinga and the running mate is Martha Karua. For sure within the coming fortnight, Mr Musyoka has no time to prove otherwise before the High Court.
The second legal issue is related to the first one and it relates to the difficulty of quitting the Azimio coalition. Discounting the issue of time to prove the Azimio power agreement is not valid, Mr Musyoka is hesitant to say so because, unlike with Machakos and Kilifi governors Alfred Mutua and Amason Kingi, Kenyans and the High Court itself would be horrified if Kalonzo were to file a petition claiming he did not understand the Azimio agreement before signing it. How else would Mr Musyoka deserve to remain on the Roll of Senior Counsels?
The final legal complication stems from Article 138(4) of the Constitution which provides that the winning presidential candidate must receive at least 50 per cent plus one of the votes cast in the election and at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in at least 24 counties. Barely 100 days to the presidential election, Kalonzo surely knows that Wiper could lose its rights to play in the presidential league if he were to continue with a doomed bid for the presidency.
In short, only small parties and independent candidates are entitled to amuse themselves with a position on the presidential election ballot! On a more serious note, given the provisions of Article 138(4), I wonder whether the Kenyan presidency should be contested by all and sundry without a mechanism to determine that they can obtain votes of at least 5 per cent of the registered voters.
We now turn to political options and here the examples are galore. Unless your name is Abduba Dida, it does not help to submit a presidential bid that realistically cannot attract bona fide support of 1,000,000 voters. In all likelihood, by now Mr Musyokamust be aware that part of the reason why he lost the Azimio running mate ticket to Ms Karua is the reckoning that in the current state of division among the Akamba nation elite, one cannot guarantee that the Musyoka wing would bring more than a million votes on the table. Conversely, if William Ruto and Kenya Kwanza makes significant forced and unforced strategic mistakes, the candidature of Ms Karua could easily split the Mt Kenya votes resulting in at least three million votes for Azimio.
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Kamba elite’s backing
When Kalonzo contested the presidency in 2007, the overwhelming majority of the Kamba elite supported his bid and so he rallied the Akamba nation behind his ODM-K party. In 2013 and 2017, the Akamba nation voted for his joint ticket with Raila under Cord and Nasa and on both occasions, the Akamba elite supported them.
Instructively, in 2013 Prof Kivutha Kibwana and Dr Mutua beat Mr Musyoka’s ODM-K candidates to win the gubernatorial seats of Makueni and Machakos, respectively. In 2017 Prof Kibwana was re-elected with the grudging support of Mr Musyoka but Wiper lost the governors seats in Machakos and Kitui. To some extent, Wiper does not have full control of the parliamentary and county assembly seats in Ukambani. The cumulative effect of these previous outcomes is that Kalonzo is a weak regional king-pin.
Incidentally, this gloomy picture comes with it Mr Musyoka’s silver line in future presidential elections now that he is reportedly obsessed with winning the seat in 2027. Now that Mr Musyoka will not shoulder the heavy burden of being Raila’s running mate, destiny has given him the rare chance to re-establish himself as the undoubted kingpin of Ukambani. There is only way to do that: Wiper must win all the three gubernatorial seats of Kitui, Makueni and Kitui and at least 80 per cent of the parliamentary and county assembly seats in that region.
In other words, the historical mission of Mr Musyoka in the August election is to suppress all pretenders to his throne like Johnson Muthama, Dr Mutua, Prof Kibwana and Charity Ngilu in the same way that Raila did to Senator James Orengo and Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o in mid-1990s and later on William Ruto did to Gideon Moi in 2003 – 2005.
The question arises: should Kalonzo validate his position as regional kingpin through Azimio or through a doomed presidential bid? In many ways, for purposes of national politics in the August election, serious politicians should be either in Azimio or Kenya Kwanza Alliance: any attempt as a third option will be pure political folly.
Whilst DP Ruto never loses an opportunity to implore Mr Musyoka – in his characteristic sarcasm – to leave Azimio and join him, the truth is that Kalonzo’s nemeses Muthama and Dr Mutua have taken whatever crumbs that Kenya Kwanza can realistically give the Kamba nation.
The compelling logic of the foregoing analysis is that Kalonzo must remain in Azimio and fight for his space. There are four main reasons for this. First, Azimio owes its long name to Kalonzo’s hard bargaining and so it would be cowardly for him to abandon Villa Azimio for the comfort of a personal hut.
Secondly, Mr Musyoka should take Azimio’s offer subject to all reasonable improvements. In this regard, Kalonzo is right to insist that he will only settle for a position recognised by the Constitution because it is obvious Musalia Mudavadi’s lawyers forgot to tell him that “President Ruto” will not have the power to establish and give him the position of Prime Cabinet Secretary which he has signed for.
Thirdly, Mr Musyoka owes his supporters the duty to get something for them in case Azimio wins the presidency. This is where Kalonzo’s hard-tactics will serve his people well in order to avoid the spectacle that Ruto has made of his Mt Kenya allies.
Mr Musyoka needs to prove that he is smarter than Moses Kuria of Chama Cha Kazi, William Kabogo of Wakenya Tujibebe Party and Mwangi Kiunjuri of The Service Party of Kenya who have been gloating all over about the Hustler Nation but in the end, they did not even sign the Kenya Kwanza deal let alone getting a mere principal secretary position for their people. Fourthly, Kalonzo should refrain from making strategic blunders comparable to DP Ruto’s as he decides his place in Azimio and his political future. Up and till a week ago, Ruto was the clear favourite to win any free and fair presidential election in August. However, he seems to have made two strategic blunders that in the end might easily cost him the presidency.
First for a presidential candidate who expects to get the majority of votes from Mt Kenya region, it was shocking that he signed a coalition agreement that gives those people nothing. Secondly, Ruto’s choice of Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua represents a rare failure of imagination on his part. Apart from Rigathi’s felonious reputation, two other things about him disturb all right-thinking Kikuyus. First, historical records portray Rigathi as a serial traitor against his community.
Secondly, a politician who recklessly assault the dignity of this people by saying all they expect from a Ruto presidency is “a wheel barrow of mchele na soda” cannot be expected to defend their vital interests. In short, it is not easy to envy Kalonzo’s limited options in or out of Azimio.
-The writer is a constitutional lawyer.