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How Musalia Mudavadi dug himself into a political ditch as elections near

ANC Party leader Musalia Mudavadi during Democratic Party of Kenya (DP) party leader Justin Muturi signing a coalition agreement with Kenya kwanza alliance at the Hermosa Gardens in Karen on 9th April 2022. [David Gichuru, Standard]

The uncharacteristic rough political tone that announced his entry into Kenya Kwanza Alliance appears to have faded. A softer, more persuasive tone has taken over as political realities begin to dawn ahead of the much-anticipated August 9 General Election.

With the electoral dynamics hardening, the play-it-cool ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi who has cut the image of a noble and humble politician, is at a crossroads, if the current developments are anything to go by.

From the Western region, he is now the only leader, apart from Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, banking his hopes on Deputy President William Ruto’s win for political survival after his ally, Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula, opted to defend his Senate seat.

But that, too, has the expensive price tag of delivering 70 per cent of the Western Kenya vote to Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza to guarantee him a slot in DP’s government. In an area where his former political-ally-turned-nemesis Raila Odinga also controls significant support, all eyes are on how the voting patterns will pan out.

On the national front, Mudavadi has to appease his allies in Kenya Kwanza that he has what it takes to deliver the Western Kenya vote while back at home, his ANC party is facing a tough battle for political survival as opponents dig in.

Not even his allies in UDA have spared him the burden and have fielded candidates to compete his candidates in the region, including in his Vihiga backyard where zoning plans flopped.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition affiliated parties led by Democratic Action Party (DAP-K) and Raila Odinga’s ODM party are also on his neck as they seek to maintain their dominance in the region.

Observers say that the hardening political dynamics have put the ANC boss in a tight spot and an election loss for Ruto would spell doom for his political career which is hanging by a thread.

His ANC party is hoping to recapture seats by fielding new entrants after five MPs his party sponsored in 2017 all joined Raila’s Azimio camp.

And for the first time, the developments have pushed Mudavadi to recast himself and adopt a more persuasive tone as he seeks to save his political career and his ANC party.

The friendly fire between Kenya Kwanza’s ANC and UDA in Vihiga has brought Mudavadi on his knees, begging his home constituents to “please save me from the embarrassment of forming a government without foot soldiers”.

Mudavadi has on some occasions been forced to retort to his Kimaragoli Luhya dialect, pleading with the constituents to vote out Ruto’s UDA candidates, even if they belong in the same political alliance.

“I learnt it the hard way in NASA where I was treated badly in the coalition because my backyard had a number of Raila Odinga’s ODM candidates win key seats in Vihiga, even governor, rather than my party,” he said at a past rally in Chavakali town.

“My brothers, how will I appear in Ruto’s government without foot soldiers? Do you think Ruto’s home constituency can vote an ANC candidate anywhere? Save me from embarrassment,” he said.

UDA candidates in the region led by Jackeline Mwenesi (UDA Women Rep candidate in Vihiga) and former Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale have insisted they will not give his ANC party an easy ride and will battle them tooth and nail for the seats.

Ruto’s UDA allies in the region insists that the competition with Musalia’s ANC is democratic.

“My brother Clement Sloya, all the best in Sabatia parliamentary race, you will deliver,” said Khalwale to encourage the UDA candidate who is contesting against Musalia’s Dr Ayodi Lusigi for the Sabatia seat.

Khalwale at the same time said they had not put Mudavadi under undue friendly fire, welcoming his (Mudavadi) sentiments as he campaigned for ANC candidates in his home turf as “democratic, persuasive and fair”.

“I also do the same when scouting for votes for UDA candidates in Kakamega. Mudavadi will obviously change to another style of campaign while outside Vihiga and that’s politics for you,” he said.

Ms Mwenesi said there was no way Mudavadi could escape the pending embarrassment after “messing” his own party’s primaries.

“He sensed defeat when most of his strong candidates moved to UDA after being sidelined. It is a sorry state but the embarrassment must come,” said the nominated ANC MCA, who is vying to unseat Vihiga Woman rep Beatrice Adagala of ANC.

Mwenesi said they had weighed their side (UDA) and feel the odds to get the Sabatia, Vihiga, Luanda, Woman Rep and senate seats are promising.

ANC chairman Kelvin Lunani has, however, downplayed the friendly fire, saying the party was set to deliver an avalanche of seats against UDA’s.

“A sure thing is that we had clean and competitive party primaries and will win the majority of the seats in August courtesy of that. Vihiga listens to Mudavadi and they know the interests of ANC in Kenya Kwanza and I believe they will do their best to have ANC felt not only in Vihiga but across Western and Kenya at large,” said Lunani, who is also vying for Butula MP seat.

Political analyst Martin Andati attributes Mudavadi’s situation to lack of strategy, saying were he a good listener and strategist, he couldn’t have “sunk that low pleading in his perceived stronghold”.

“When Musalia entered a deal with Ruto we were told they had zoned out western exclusively for him and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula. It is now turning out otherwise,” said Andati.