By Barack Muluka
On August 8, the name Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi will for the first time in 28 years not appear on any ballot paper in Kenya’s General Elections. Mudavadi came to Kenya’s political scene in early 1989, following the death of his father, Moses Subston Budamba Mudavadi. The elder Mudavadi died as one of the most influential and powerful people in President Daniel Arap Moi’s Government, and Member of Parliament for Sabatia Constituency.
It came as no surprise that the senior Mudavadi’s eldest son, Wycliffe, should ascend to the Sabatia seat. The younger Mudavadi has since had an exciting political career with mixed blessings. He has served in several key State positions, including two months as Vice President under Moi and for five years as Deputy Prime Minister in the Mwai Kibaki Raila Odinga Grand Coalition Government. Throughout this time, he has participated in five General Elections and one by-election. He has been locked out twice. This time round, he has voluntarily stayed out of the race, to give “a better placed teammate the opportunity to score,” as he puts it.
That Mudavadi is the foremost political leader from the Luhya community is not in contention. He towers head and shoulder above everyone else in the land of Mulembe. What should his ceding of space to Raila Odinga mean for the doyen of one of Kenya’s foremost political families and certainly the most prominent politician among the Abaluhya?
Mudavadi is leading the ‘Raila for President’ campaign. In a country that sees everything through ethnic lenses, the populous Abaluhya can be said not to be in contention for anything big in this election. Yet is it possible that Mudavadi has made a tactful political retreat that could pay after the August polls, or at a later moment in 2022? Should he have insisted on being on the presidential ballot paper in the August poll? What would have been the wisdom?
At the height of the struggle for the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM)’s presidential ticket for the 2013 General Elections, then Mbita Member of Parliament, Gerald Otieno Kajwang, proclaimed that Raila Odinga and ODM were synonymous. Two others of Raila’s acolytes would soon echo the sentiments. Then MP for Gem, Jakoyo Midiwo, and his then Ugenya counterpart, James Orengo, told off those trying to run against Raila for the ticket, saying that they were daydreaming. These repellent remarks were hugely understood to have been aimed at Mudavadi, then serving as Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy ODM.
Mudavadi had actively demonstrated interest in the ODM ticket. He had gone a long way to mobilise significant following around the country. Raila’s men were concerned that the suave and affable senior politician from the populous Luhya community would upset the Odinga political applecart. Orengo, the foremost political legal mind around Raila, appeared to gerrymander with the party’s constitution and nomination rules to ensure that Raila, the party leader, would be the undisputed presidential flag bearer. And so it was that in mid 2012 Mudavadi left ODM in an acrimonious parting of political friends. It was a tragic moment for Raila. Despite his much-touted party ownership, one friend after the other had dropped him like a hot brick over a four-year period.
Five years later, the erstwhile friends turned political foes are back in the same stable. Raila Odinga is the National Super Alliance (NASA) presidential flag bearer and Mudavadi his foremost campaigner. Kalonzo Musyoka, a political outsider in the Raila-Mudavadi nexus during the 2012 events, is Raila’s running mate. The question many have asked is: where does this leave Mudavadi’s political future? At the gathering where Raila was crowned the NASA skipper, the Pentagon that also brings on board Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula announced futuristic positions that would seek to redistribute political power in the team. Within the proposed arrangement, Mudavadi would be a Chief Minister, while the Governor and Senator would each be Deputy Chief Minister.
Their detractors in Jubilee have laughed off the proposal, terming it unconstitutional. In a curious development, Jubilee operatives who have so far excluded all but two of Kenya’s communities in State appointments even dragged in an ethnic dimension. Deputy President, William Ruto, and his hatchet men, Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Garissa MP Aden Duale, told the Abaluhya that they had received a raw deal. They said the Mulembe people had been promised non-existent positions. Never mind that philosophically all promises are futuristic and therefore hypothetical, for a promise is just that – a promise. What is promised certainly does not exist in the present. The Jubilee taunting of NASA over possible future positions is therefore a philosophical non sequitur.
Conversely, Mudavadi’s keen supporters have sought to reaffirm his re-emergence and supremacy as the Luhya political kingpin and the man to watch in the post Jubilee dispensation. Lugari MP, Ayub Sabula, has wondered aloud how President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy could lament that the Abaluhya have been served a cold dish in the NASA deal when the Jubilee Government has all but marginalised this community, alongside the rest of the country. “They have the power and the positions today. But what have they given us? We are better off living on hope for a better future than relishing sympathy from those who have marginalised us,” Savula recently told a gathering in his home turf…
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