How family bond, threats kept Musalia with Uhuru

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019 00:00 |
Musalia Mudavadi with wife Tessie (left) at the Kanu Presidential candidate nomination ahead of the 2002 General Election. Photo/PD/FILE

Emeka-Mayaka Gekara

Family ties, threats and intimidation forced Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi to return to Kanu a few days after resigning from the party in protest against President Daniel Moi’s choice of Uhuru Kenyatta as the party flag-bearer for the 2002 poll.

Mudavadi had ditched the party alongside other Kanu  stalwarts led by Raila Odinga, then vice-president George Saitoti, Moody Awori, Kalonzo Musyoka, Katana Ngala and William Ntimama.

However, Mudavadi made what he thinks was a politically-costly retreat to Kanu together with Ngala. President Moi would then appoint him vice-president, a position in which he served for only three months.

Mudavadi then joined Uhuru as running mate and the two not only lost the presidential contest to Mwai Kibaki, but Musalia lost his Sabatia Parliamentary seat to Moses Akaranga.

In a fairly reflective autobiography;  Musalia Mudavadi: Soaring Above the Storms of Passion, the former Sabatia MP thinks his move was “a miscalculation and mistake.” 

He reveals that long-standing relationship between the Mudavadi and Moi families influenced his decision.

“I must admit that Mzee Moi was very much like a father to me,” he writes.

According to Mudavadi, it was a way of paying back to a person who had mentored him, his guardian. 

“If Moi had made me a politician as he had indeed made others I would pay back my debt by standing with him at the risk of losing the election.”

Impossible task

He reveals that Kanu went to the election fully aware that it was an impossible task, but decided to fight on anyway.  And on Moi realising that the party’s support was fast waning in Western Kenya against a formidable onslaught by the Kibaki’s National Rainbow Alliance, Moi decided to appoint him VP to replace Saitoti. However, Mudavadi says it was a “little too late.”

“I don’t know the details that surrounded Noah Katana Ngala at this time but on 7 August, he dropped out of the rebellion squad to lend lukewarm support to Uhuru. I have never had the occasion to discuss what exactly happened,’’ he writes.

“Political miscalculation and mistakes were made. Ngala made his and I would make mine a few days later, for which mistakes our constituents punished us amply by rejecting us in the subsequent election.”

After the loss, Mudavadi declined an offer by Kanu to nominate him to Parliament, a decision he thinks he will still make today if found in similar circumstances.

It would be remembered that it was his father, Substone Moses Mudavadi, who implored Moi to join politics.

Mudavadi senior was a district education officer Baringo at the time at Moi was a teacher there. Moi taught at Tambach Elementary School also known as Upper Primary School in the late 1940s and early 1950s before joining politics.

Mudavadi criss-crossed the region in a battered Land Rover to inspect schools dressed in khaki shorts.

That was how he met Daniel arap Moi, a teetotaler teacher, was chosen to replace the ever drunk Dr John ole Tameno as the representative of the Rift Valley in the colonial Legislative Council (Legco).

Moi was at first reluctant to plunge into politics for fear of losing the election and his teaching job.

However, Mudavadi assured that his job would be intact. Mzee Moi bought a Land Rover similar to Mudavadi’s and drove to Nairobi in 1952 on joining politics.

Senior Mudavadi would later quit his job and join Moi under whom he would serve as powerful minister for Local Government in the Moi regime until his death in 1989.

‘King of Mululu’

During his time in politics, senior Mudavadi remained close to President Moi and could even correct him, something a few politicians could do. So powerful was he that he was dubbed the ‘King of Mululu’.

His Mululu home in Vihiga County was like a mini-State House often playing host to delegations from all over the country with petitions for him forward to President Moi.

 Evidence of Mudavadi’s power around the Moi presidency was the fact that he, Mudavadi senior, was the only politician besides the President to whom local and regional goodwill political delegations would pay homage to at his residence without fear of retribution.

Following the death of the Mudavadi senior, President Moi picked his son Wycliffe, then a 29-year-old fresh graduate from University of Nairobi to inherit his father’s seat.

Appointed minister

President Moi then appointed him Minister for Supplies and Marketing and later Finance and Local Government.

This is the bond that young Mudavadi decided to protect by not appearing to abandon Moi in 2002. 

But he says there were also “assorted threats, intimidation and even persuasion.

His “mistake” threw him into the political cold and assured players in the Western bloc, his backyard.

He says out of the decision he was painted as a coward and blames some of his party members of funding his opponents to have him humiliated in the 2002 poll.

Battered after the humiliating defeat, Musalia decided to travel to Nairobi by road to reflect on the outcome and chart the way forward.

First, he visited Moi at State House to bid him farewell. The former President informed him that he was ready to hand over of power to President-elect Kibaki, but the planning of the event was chaotic.

Though he regrets the 2002 miscalculation, the book paints a picture of a man who was wronged by Moi for failure to endorse him for the presidency given his loyalty and family bond.   “This was the stolen moment but I shall return on my own moments someday,” he thought.

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