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…
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