Mukalo Kwayera @kwayeram
Since the much-publicised March 9 Uhuru-Raila Handshake, circumstances seem to have conspired to bestow the Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi the mantle of chief government critic.
The former deputy Prime Minister has positioned himself as the top beneficiary of the political truce between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former premier Raila Odinga, coming out of the turn of events as the de facto Opposition leader, though accidental.
There has been a debate on whether following the handshake, Raila can effectively check the government as the Opposition leader. But just last Thursday in Kisumu, president Uhuru Kenyatta declared: “Raila is in the government and we consult every day.”
Consequently, Mudavadi seems to be waiting to reap from a possible fallout within the ruling Jubilee Party, where some sands have reportedly started shifting against Deputy President William Ruto’s political ambitions.
Mudavadi’s dalliance with Kanu national chairman Gideon Moi, who he joined at a funds drive in Western Kenya a fortnight ago, has further raised eyebrows within political circles with speculation mounting that the duo could be weaving a presidential ticket for the 2022 elections.
Raila and Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka have taken up continental assignments seconded by Uhuru’s government and Mudavadi has emerged, so far, as the remaining Opposition leader with realistic credentials to take on Ruto in the 2022 presidential contest. That is if both Raila and Kalonzo opt to stay away from that contest.
What remains to be known, however, are Mudavadi’s strategies. Speaking to People Daily, Mudavadi declared: “We have only one strategy: We want to reach out to all citizens of this country. Constitutionalism and the rule of law are the basis of our strategy and what will drive our agenda going forward.
When the time comes, we shall engage the civil society, the clergy, trade unions, women groups, professional societies and youths organisations to collectively chart out the future of our country.”
Described as too cautious not to antagonise the country’s social-political bases, Mudavadi’s critics claim whereas he has requisite ingredients to front a serious assault in the State House race, he still has a lot of ground to cover.
Malava MP Malulu Injendi is of the opinion that Mudavadi ought to weigh his options carefully in the wake of the Handshake, arguing that it could spell doom for him.
He challenges Mudavadi to look for an avenue to work with Ruto, owing to the possibility of Raila running for presidency in 2022.
“Mudavadi supported Raila in 2007 and 2013. Raila has never supported him or any Luhya leader and is not about to do so. Mudavadi must seriously consider his stand. Teaming up with Ruto could be his best option,” said Injendi.
But ANC secretary general Barrack Muluka has a different opinion. He posits that it is still “too early” to start talking of the war machinery of candidates.
“Now is not the time to campaign. We will cross that bridge when we reach it. Mudavadi’s way of doing things is not charaterised by shouting from rooftops and hurling insults. He is a decent politician. You will see more of his element when elections finally come,” he says.
Mudavadi’s mien and composure when addressing himself to national issues have lately perched him at the stature of a political hilltop.
However, like Injendi, former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale argues the case for Mudavadi to team up with Ruto to fuse a formidable political force.
Khalwale says that since Ruto is arguably already ahead of the pack, it would serve Mudavadi well to work with the DP.
Saying he firmly supports Ruto’s presidential bid, Khalwale said: “I have no problem at all with my brother Musalia. But the point I am making is, it is easier for Mudavadi to team up with a front-runner than one who has no chance. I have told Mudavadi there is a lot of wisdom in working with Ruto.”
In the recent past, a seemingly rebranded Mudavadi has courted national focus following his approach to the ballooning public debt and graft in public service.
People Daily established that Mudavadi has been hosting staggered delegations from central, Rift Valley, Coast and his western regions.
He is said to have had a series of private meetings with Uhuru’s confidante David Murathe, Laikipia Governor Nderitu Murithii, former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, nominated MP Maina Kamanda, Limuru MP Peter Mwathi, former Mukurwe-ini MP Mutahi Kagwe, Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu and Wafula Wamunyinyi of Kanduyi, among others. Asked why he had opted to operate behind the scenes, Mudavadi argued that politics need not always be loud.
“Yes, it is true I meet a lot of leaders from across the country to discuss matters of national interest. We do not have to be going public about it. There is a government in place that needs to be given time to execute its mandate. As I have said before, I want to redefine Opposition politics. Opposition should not be synonymous with violence,” he said.
Regarding his recent joint public rally with Gideon, Mudavadi said they are long-time family friends and no one should read more into it.
“There is nothing sinister between my meeting with Gideon. We have been friends from our childhood. As to whether we can work together in the next elections, only time will tell,” he added. Muluka sees his party leader in the prism of a challenger to reckon with.
“The country is increasingly getting disillusioned in the Jubilee leadership at the top. Kenya needs a unifying leader and one whom the business community can trust with the economy. Mudavadi’s experience with the Treasury makes him fit for the bill,” he observes.
Muluka pitches that Mudavadi is a less polarising figure and one who can be an agent of cohesion. “He is most acceptable across the tribes.”
However, Dr Emmanuel Chebii Manyasa offers a different view. He avers that whereas the unfolding political atmosphere could roll in Mudavadi’s favour, he has some house-cleaning to do to assume the saddle of a serious presidential contender.
The Uwezo Kenya country manager, says the former deputy PM must, of necessity, move fast to repackage himself as his own man and as a decisive and reformist leader ready to command his troops from the front lane.
“Mudavadi has not conducted himself well at very crucial moments in the past. He must re-assure his supporters he is a reliable commander and not one prone to floundering as was the case in 2002 and 2013. He must always stand with the people,” he says, adding: “He has to come out to prove that he is not indecisive as many people think of him. He also needs to move fast and rally his Western base for to have strong bargaining power.”
On his part, Muluka argues: “Today, Mudavadi is the best bet; he is ahead of the pack in many ways. His are a safe pair of hands.
Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka who too pitches for Ruto’s 2022 bid similarly vouches for a Ruto-Mudavadi partnership ahead of the next election.
“It is time Mudavadi comes back home to solidify his Western Kenya political base and join us in supporting Ruto.That will make it easier for him. Working with Raila has only spelled doom for his career and community,” he states.