An artless poser

Musalia inherited a throne; all he knows is how to sit on it

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By David Onjili

In a liberal democracy, an Opposition exists to shadow government and provide alternative programme for official policy. For the past decade and half, this is what Raila Odinga has done, save for crafting a shadow government. But no more.

For Raila, whose current job as the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa, keeps him busy with not just national but also international affairs, it is a welcome break from the trenches.

Besides the job, his new found camaraderie with President Kenyatta under the ‘Building Bridges Initiative’ has left the country without an opposition leader.

It is a position Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi claims to have taken. But, has he, really? And does his docile style provide a workable shift from the abrasive nature to which we are accustomed?

For starters, let’s all agree that no politician has exhibited the smarts to replace Raila, should he officially announce he is no longer in opposition. Ekuru Aukot is a rocking chair politician of sorts. The man is full of himself, lacks lustre and cannot marshal people around any imaginable goal. He is a joke that has been taken too far.

Moses Wetangula is just not smart. Besides getting basic facts wrong, he lacks the capacity to read and adapt to moods, and that is just about it about him. Everyone else just isn’t interested.

Kalonzo Musyoka wrote off himself very aptly very recently when he offered to become Kenyatta’s “errand boy”. It was an apt ending to a career that had never taken off.

Today, social media – with its associated recklessness – is almost all that holds government to account. Mismanagement, graft and bad governance are highlighted online; it is the only avenue left. But, at the end of the day, social media is just that – it does not craft policy of run for office.

Civil society, once objective and incorruptible, especially in the days of Maina Kiai, Willy Mutunga and their ilk, has today been co-opted, through threats and intimidation, as well as with goodies.

What about Mudavadi?
Where he is a gentleman to some, he is a tactical wind vane to others; his interest in national affairs lasts the length of their mention. Born to royalty, he has, in the three decades he has been in politics, done his best to portray himself as the face of reason in a divisive political landscape, and largely succeeded, probably because all he knows is to play along.

A shift from abrasive opposition politics
Martin Shikuku, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, James Orengo and Raila Odinga are symbolize our abrasive nature of opposition politics. The Reverend Thomas Njoya, a victim of the highhandedness of the Nyayo era, is a manifestation of the relationship between opposition and government. Is it time for reason and debate alone?

Musalia father, Moses Mudavadi, was a powerful minister in the Moi administration. Upon death, his son, 29 year old Musalia inherited his position as Member of Parliament for Sabatia Constituency in 1989. Since then, he has been a minister, vice president, deputy prime minister and running mate for both Kenyatta and Odinga.

Now, he reckons, he can lead the opposition then the country.
In a system where charged political rallies and violent protests characterise the game, he wants to talk and appeal to reason. For this reason, he has created a situation where calling him a ‘coward’ or ‘voice of reason’ is fair game.

The main marker for political clout is the ability to organise crowd-pulling rallies. In a landscape as unpredictable as Kenya’s is, this is a feat very few men are capable of. It is something none of the claimants to the throne – for that is what opposition politics is – wants to try. It is probably because none of the people mentioned here can pull it off.

Pragmatist?
To understand Mudavadi is to appreciate his faith as a Quaker. Quakers are all about their Christian faith, guided by a belief in social justice, equality for all, peace, freedom of conscience and communal life. As a social liberalist, his trademark is a gentle mien.

Political observers term him as a patient but calculating man, who sees the bigger picture. It is why he supported Uhuru in 2002 and Raila in 2007. He “had it figured out both times, and again in 2017, when he did not run for any political seat, so he could propel the NASA engine. His heart “is in the right place.”

What has he done so far?
When Raila shook hands with Kenyatta to bury the hatchet, Mudavadi, along with Kalonzo Musyoka and Wetangula, was said to have been trying to negotiate his own truce. Raila’s play took the wind out of his sails.

Recently he has taken to directly bashing Deputy President William Ruto for his perceived financial excesses, but only because some ‘brave pioneers’ have done it long enough for it to be safe to do so. He is the perfect human wind vane.

Many are still hung up on Raila’s disruptive form of politics. But, until someone comes along to fit his shoes, he is the only one to talk about.

Is it fair to compare Musalia personality with Odinga’s established behemoth? As long as he wants to take up his mantle, it is fair to; he has been around long enough to know what he is getting himself into, and what standard he will be judged against.

For the moment, he can keep squeaking while his protégés learn to cluck. What the country badly needs is someone who can bark and bite, but Musalia inherited a throne, and all he knows is to sit on it.

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