By David Wanjala
With the benefit of State resources at his/her disposal, dislodging an incumbent in the developing world, especially Africa, is as hard as, to paraphrase former President Mwai Kibaki, bringing down a Mugumo Tree (a revered sacred shrine in the Kikuyu culture), using a razor blade. Kibaki used the analogy in the late 80s at the height of the clamour for political pluralism against President Daniel Moi’s regime in which he served as vice president.
For the sake of history, I must hasten to add that, indeed, the Opposition-orchestrated onslaught against Moi eventually carried the day. Moi yielded to the pressure to repeal Section 2A of the Constitution in 1991, allowing back multiparty democracy. Kibaki, the super opportunist, bolted from the ruling party KANU where he had since fallen out of favour, and formed his own opposition party, the Democratic Party of Kenya (DP). He was to play Opposition politics for 10 years, until 2002 when, in coalition with other parties under the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), he won the General Election and dislodged the independence party Kanu from power. He ruled for the maximum two five-year terms until August 2013.
True, there are one or two examples on the African Continent where opposition candidates have lately gone against the grain and dislodged incumbents after they had served only one term in office. In Ghana last year, for instance, former foreign minister, Nana Akufo Addo of the Opposition New Patriotic Party beat President John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress. In 2015, Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan lost to General Muhammadu Buhari after only one term in office. Those however, are the exceptions on a continent of 54 independent countries.
With the General Election around the corner and the National Super Alliance (NASA) stalking power, a lot of these factors and statistics must have come into play, especially in the sticky negotiations that eventually yielded the line up of the five principles, Raila Odinga as flag bearer, Kalonzo Musyoka as running mate and then Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetangula and Isaac Ruto in that order, that formed the main Opposition outfit. But who played their cards best in this line up? Who are the winners and losers?
On the face of it, Raila Odinga is, obviously, the biggest winner. As Deputy President William Ruto, Raila’s former ally turned foe has always chided, Mr Odinga, at 72 and with three prior stabs at the presidency, is a one-bullet soldier in the coming elections. Having been given a chance to lead NASA into the August General Election as a flag bearer, he finally got his, most possibly last bite at the cherry. It could not be any sweeter for the doyen of Opposition politics.
Looking at it deeply, however, it is Musalia Mudavadi who carried the day in the NASA negotiations. With the fact that incumbents in Africa hardly lose elections, Mudavadi cleverly prepared the ground for himself for 2022 when the elections will be free with no incumbent to beat. Tersely put, he played the kingmaker, to his advantage, charming up Raila’s constituency what will, should NASA lose, be orphaned in August, as well as excited the disenfranchised Luhya nation that has, over the years, eluded his grip.
Come August 10, should Mr Odinga lose, Mudavadi will become the de facto leader of the Western Kenya brigade in NASA heading into 2022, including the Luhya and the Luo. Having squandered his opportunities in 2013 when President Kibaki’s State House exploited his gullibility and lured him from mainstream opposition with the promise of supporting his presidential candidature only to leave him at the mercy of the duo of Uhuru and Ruto, who savagely played him. Mudavadi resurfaced in the run up to the formation of NASA as a man with a mission – to have his vengeance, but also with focus on the future.
He began by drumming up support for the formation of the alliance long before anyone else in the Opposition did. As such, whether true or false, the impression out there is that Nasa is his brainchild. When the concept picked up and began resonating with the masses, Mudavadi again played a central role in calling for the Cord coalition to join in. During the negotiations for the line up, he remained cool, unlike his Wiper Party counterpart who made it clear that it was to be either him or no Nasa, almost rocking the boat when the masses were so full of hope for opposition unity.
But the best of Mudavadi was to come during the announcement of the alliance’s line up. He negotiated for a central role at the event that elevated him to a kingmaker. He was rejuvenated, reborn in fact. The energy, enthusiasm and eloquence he oozed were such that had never been known of him. In his speech at Uhuru Park while unveiling Raila as flag bearer, Mudavadi made it known that NASA was his idea, that he was very much for Odinga as president and Kalonzo Musyoka as running mate, even where he came a distant third in the pecking order. He displayed team spirit that so endeared him to the electorate across all the opposition strongholds. From then henceforth, the masses have known Mudavadi as they had never know him before. He is strong, committed and hopeful… in charge.
Again, moving forward from unveiling the NASA line up, he has cleverly taken on another central role – chief campaigner of the NASA ticket. Mudavadi has, by design, I persuaded to believe, re-enacted Raila Odinga’s “Kibaki tosha” script in the NARC campaigns of 2002. Besides his famous declaration at Uhuru Park that sealed the presidential flag bearer issue that threatened to rock the opposition and extend KANU’s plunder, Raila also took over the presidential campaigns after Kibaki was slowed down by an accident. He ran a well-coordinated campaign to victory.
It is a win-win scenario for the former MP for Sabatia. Should NASA win and form Government, the leader of Amani National Congress will play a central and pivotal role in the new government. Should Raila lose, the journey for 2022, with Raila’s blessings and with good chances to win, there being no incumbent in Nasa, begins. If Mudavadi has ever been the Barcelona forward, Lionel Messi, he fondly idolizes, it is now.
It is also fair play for Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetangula. If Raila wins, big things wait for him in the new government. If he loses, he comes back as Senator, either by nomination or election and plans for 2022. It was a big gamble for Chama Cha Mashinani’s Isaac Ruto. He might even lose in the governor’s race in his county. He has, however, cut himself a niche for the future especially should the marriage between DP Ruto and President Kenyatta go wrong, as it surely will after August, whether Jubilee wins or loses.
The biggest loser in the NASA negotiations is Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka. He squandered the chance to be a kingmaker. His persistent whining for the NASA ticket to the last day of the coalition’s unveiling of its presidential flag bearer did not stand him in good stead on the national stage. The growing turmoil in his backyard does not help him either, whether NASA wins or not. Should NASA lose, he has not played good politics to propel him to the national stage for the 2022 stab.