Musalia Mudavadi, the darling of presidents

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi during an interview at his offices in riverside in Nairobi on January 19, 2023. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Unassuming but a master political strategist, Musalia Mudavadi has carefully established his path in four regimes that have ruled Kenya.

Mudavadi came into the political scene after he won a by-election following the death of his father then Sabatia MP Moses Mudavadi and since then he has enjoyed trappings of power.

Notably, in 1989, Mzee Moi plucked Mudavadi from the private sector at the age of 29 and was appointed to Cabinet making him the youngest minister.

By the time Moi retired in 2002, he had picked mudavadi as the transition Vice President albeit for a brief period after the then Vice President George Saitoti resigned and ditched Kanu in the months to the 2002 General Election.

Mudavadi served for 14 years in the Kanu government as Minister for Supplies and Marketing, Finance and Transport and Communication.

Following Kanu's defeat in the 2002 General Election, that saw Mwai Kibaki take over as the third president of Kenya, Mudavadi was in the political cold for five years having lost the Sabatia parliamentary seat until 2007 when he made a comeback.

Notably, during the grand coalition government formed after the Koffi Annan-led Serena talks following the 2007/2008 post-election violence, Mudavadi who had backed Raila Odinga’s presidential bid, was appointed Deputy Prime Minister.

Kibaki maintained a close working relationship with him and towards the end of his term though not covertly, backed Mudavadi to succeed him in the 2013 General Election.

In 2012, Mudavadi fell out with Raila over the picking of ODM presidential flag bearer.

He ditched the party in April 2012 and joined the United Democratic Front, (UDF) before leaving for Amani National Congress in 2015.

Former Mandera Senator Hassan Osman who worked closely with Kibaki and Mudavadi said the former President actually wanted the Prime Cabinet Secretary to succeed him.

"Kibaki believed that Mudavadi was a gentleman who was trusted, loyal, bright and humble and could lead the country when he left," said Osman who was UDF chairman.

He said the formation of UDF was meant to prepare the way for Mudavadi to take over from Kibaki.

"The late Kibaki believed that Mudavadi could take the country forward from where he had left," said Osman.

In the run up to 2013 General Election, former President Uhuru Kenyatta, uncertain of his candidature, signed a document with Mudavadi pledging to support him in the 2013 presidential election.

When former Vice President Moody Awori, ODM's Raila odinga, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and Wipers Kalonzo Musyoka had a conversation after a national event. [File, Standard]

Uhuru under pressure from his then TNA party would renege on the document blaming the devil for his decision.

During the sunset years of his presidency, Uhuru appeared to have been fronting Mudavadi which saw the One Kenya Alliance formed but the plans to unite the opposition to face off with President Wiliam Ruto in the August 2022 General Election collapsed after the UDA wave started sweeping across all regions in the country.

Soon Mudavadi fell for Ruto's charm and crossed over to Kenya Kwanza Alliance where they took over power and he was appointed Prime Cabinet Secretary.

As the Kenya Kwanza government enters the second year, Mudavadi has emerged as the blue eyed boy of President Ruto periodically entrusted with representing him at functions locally and abroad.

Cerrently the third in command in the Executive pecking order, Mudavadi will next week represent the President at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, (UNHCR) 74th session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioners Programme in Geneva, Switzerland.

Mudavadi has represented Ruto at seven international events in the United Kingdom, Burundi, Angola Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

In September, he represented the President during the inauguration of Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa as he assumed his second term.

In May, the Prime Cabinet Secretary had also represented President Ruto during the inauguration of Nigeria President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Abuja.

Mudavadi led the Kenyan delegation to Bujumbura, Burundi for a meeting of signatory countries of the framework agreement for peace, security and cooperation for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region bringing together Heads of State from the Great Lakes region. 

On the international front, a few months after he was sworn in, Ruto send Mudavadi to represent him at the Commonwealth Trade and Investment Summit in London.

Sources in the circles of power told The Standard that the President regards Mudavadi highly and therefore is much at ease sending him to key international events.

"It is about the confidence the President has on him, he feels comfortable having to be represented by Mudavadi, the two have a very cordial working relationship, a respectful one," said the source in State House who sought anonymity.

The Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua appears to also support his boss in having Mudavadi represent the Kenya Kwanza government at international events.

President William Ruto, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and a host of Cabinet Secretaries during a Cabinet Meeting held at State House Nairobi. [PCS]

Recently, Gachagua said that he had asked the Head of State to allow him handle the internal matters.

“I have heard people saying that Mudavadi is doing my job. That he is the one going to Nigeria while I have been handed the ordinary jobs of fighting alcohol and drug abuse," he told faithfuls during a church service in June.

The DP said the only trip he prefers going for resource mobilisation trips. "If I go to see a new President being sworn in, what do I bring back? I do not need it,"  Gachagua said.

Political analyst Javas Bigambo, said Mudavadi has cultivated an aura of a trustworthy, dependable politician, technically having characteristics that are rare of Kenyan politicians.

Bigambo noted that Mudavadi is not divisive, has not aggravated volatile ethnic politics and always seems ready to be guided.

"And because he has not come out a man with raw ambitions so it is easy to have him side by side. He portrays a picture that he is not thirsty for power," he said.

So Moi, Kibaki, Uhuru and now Ruto have been easy with Mudavadi all because of the characteristic that he does not exude the raw ambition of being a person who can challenge the status quo.

However, Bigambo said his glorious character has also been his doom because he has been put to scale that did not make a strong showing because he has not personally ventured to make network across the country.

"His glory and his doom are twinned and he will need to create a split between his groly and doom for him to rise to the presidency in future," said Bigambo.

At 62, Mudavadi is the one of the longest-serving politicians to be appointed to President Ruto’s Cabinet.