By Oscar Okwaro
Our political landscape has undergone immense metamorphosis – from an overwhelming sense of patriotic citizenship imbued with nationalism and the commitment to curb illiteracy, poverty and diseases, to a country of systemic ethnic divisions that only find amity at election time.
Whereas the patriotism of yesteryears is embedded in the likes of Musalia, they miss out big when critical discourses of national significance are shaped, often on ethnic considerations. The puzzle remains: must leaders convert to ethnic politics to ascend to the presidency?
Kenya needs a unifier to usher this nation into a “new dawn”. But who is the leader to actualise this? Employing deconstructionist, structuralist and psychoanalytic appraisal tools of political analysis reveal why ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi may be such a man.
The first – and arguably the most crucial – of these tools is the “fatigue component”. Something dramatic is quietly happening in Kenya. The ground is shifting. There is every indication that Kenyans are fed up with “mouthful leaders”.
A recent opinion poll indicates that Kenyans are amongst the most depressed persons globally. Such depression is caused by a leadership sold to “noisy” politics, which does not inspire the citizenry. Constant bickering, graft and slander are sickening; worse are the cravings of bigger than life egos that don’t give a hoot about Wanjiku. Kenyans “fatigued” with such politics view politicians as anchors around their necks.
Political fatigue remains a “yellow card” for presidential contenders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and social media candidate Dr Ekuru Aukot. Deputy President William Ruto is unlikely to get any significant vote outside Rift Valley, but this remains a topic for a different occasion.
The burning question is whether someone like Musalia can effectively exploit this malaise and quickly turn this “yellow card” to “red card” all his competitors. His rivals are captive to a dysfunctional State and must take the blame alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta for frustrating the citizenry. In particular, the combined support by Kalonzo and Odinga for the petroleum tax considerably dims their prospects.
The current economic hardship being experienced by Kenyans under Uhuru’s handshake with Raila that could make Mudavadi the plausible “outsider” and therefore “saviour” that the electorate could embrace. A Mudavadi choice would be Kenya’s way of “internalising” re-emerging tribal protests.
The second reason could be on account of a tribal “rebound” factor, the first of which could come from Nyanza and Mt Kenya.
The polarising Kikuyu-Luo handshake has the potential of jettisoning the Kalenjin from the Kikuyu-Kalenjin marriage. This testy threesome means neither community is likely to embrace the other easily when it comes to voting. If on rebound from a bad marriage, each of these communities will have to look for a new suitor.
Meanwhile, the rest of Kenya may resent the dogged attempt by the Kikuyu/Luo pro status quo elite to impose Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga on the country as premier and president respectively.
Their Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and its projected referendum is the culprit that could accelerate the rest of Kenya to resort to a non-combative Mudavadi, who comes across as a leader whose only constituency is Kenya. If it happened, it would be “poetic justice” by Kenyans who would have opted for a confident, non-combative politician.
Mudavadi’s own persona as a cosmopolitan leader could be the weapon in the hands of Kenyans out to teach the traditional tribal chauvinists a lasting political lesson, and oust political ethnic marriages of convenience from the political scene.
Having tested the fruits of freedom after overthrowing the yoke of constitutional oppression in passing a new constitution in 2010, the citizenry may be emboldened enough to disown political conveniences that shackle them economically.
This is especially seductive because Mudavadi is arguably the most consistent moderate amongst all contenders. History instructs us that in times when countries are threatened with political fragmentation and economic meltdown, successful countries are those that choose leaders who inspire national cohesion and have demonstrated experience, firm leadership credentials.
Sometimes it all boils down to fate. Elections are about perception and sometimes good luck. When it happens, it is a “natural conspiracy” no human being can stop. Specifically, the ‘Handshake Alliance’ could crumble, and the next election might turn into a contest of issues not ethnic prowess and arithmetic.
Mudavadi has maintained an issue-based tempo by constructively engaging both the government and opposition forces in equal measure. There are hordes of economic elites who view Mudavadi as “a pair of safe hands” with which to entrust their economic wellbeing.
A significant portion of NASA supporters are smarting from Raila’s “defection” to Jubilee, who might find solace in Mudavadi as a standalone opposition politician. His anti-corruption, nationalist, and reform image is quite appealing. This trait would be decisive at the next competition. Where a Raila candidacy of Raila, having mounted the corrupt Jubilee stage, elicits mixed reactions of mild passion and divided opinion, Mudavadi’s sober, reserved mien portray him an asset the country desperately needs.
Lastly, Mudavadi’s public pronouncements reveal someone who does not think the public is too dumb to digest difficult concepts, and treats it like the intelligent machine it is. Other leaders like his mature and measured manner of relating with them, without being condescending or presumptuous. He has been presidential and continues to be. (
– Writer is an analyst with Gravio Africa