Why Amani National Congress leader Mudavadi is a politician at a crossroads
Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi appears to be walking a tightrope, as he resists immense pressure from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s allies to drop his presidential bid in favour of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Although Mudavadi has insisted nothing will cut short his State House journey in 2022, reports indicate that he has been under intense pressure from some forces within government to drop out of the race and throw his weight behind Raila.
Though no agreement has been arrived at, several closed-door meetings have been held in the last three months geared towards convincing him to team up with Raila so as to defeat Deputy President William Ruto in next year’s polls.
However, political pundits and Mudavadi’s allies are warning that “any about-turn” by the former Vice President would destroy his political career.
“It would be quite a suicidal move for Mudavadi to take. That could be the end of his political career should he decide to play second fiddle to Raila.
He must go all the way to the ballot and pray that in the event he doesn’t win the race, there would be a run-off to enable him to enter into negotiations with either the first runners-up or the second runners-up,” says Prof Macharia Munene, a political analyst and a former lecturer at USIU-Africa.
Munene believes that should Mudavadi decide to bow out of the race, that would weaken him politically, reduce his bargaining power and erode the trust he has created among his followers.
“He is a man at a crossroads. Does he give in to the pressure from the President, whom he trusts and respects very much, or does he ignore him and soldier on?
But again, does he have the political mettle, resources and numbers to enable him to do that?” Munene questioned.
Mudavadi has been the most visible and arguably most formidable OKA leader with pundits ranking him as a possible flag-bearer of the nascent political outfit that was created after the collapse of the National Super Alliance (Nasa).
Other OKA members are Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetangula (Ford Kenya) and Gideon Moi of Kanu.
But amid pressure from President Kenyatta’s allies, Mudavadi has stood his ground and insisted he will go all the way to the ballot unless OKA members decide otherwise.
Yesterday, Mudavadi said he will not join any coalition that would weaken him ahead of the General Election, reiterating a position he held on Sunday while addressing meetings in Kiambu county, that his journey to State House had just began.
“After my candidature in 2013 where I was position three, so many people accused me of not being a team player and that I am not supportive.
I gave them a chance in 2017, but we are still in the opposition,” Mudavadi said.
“We shall stand strong to wither all the hurdles being placed on our way. Let nobody think that we shall stand down for anybody. We are in this till the end. We can no longer afford to be swayed around. ”
And last evening, OKA issued a statement, denying claims that Uhuru had tried to influence or force them into supporting any candidate.
“That at no time has His Excellency the President attempted to influence or derail the OKA campaigns directly, through proxies or otherwise.
The OKA Secretariat is fully in charge of the OKA campaign strategies and is not working under any undue or external influence,” read the statement.
They insisted that all meetings with the President have been voluntary and held in the “most congenial and positive circumstances, with the interest and good of the country as the primary consideration”.
But on Sunday, Mudavadi appeared to confess to reports that he has been under pressure to drop out of the race.
“It is only you (the people) who have the power to decide who be will your leader. We should stop the propaganda of trying to force us that it must be this person or that.
I said that while I was in Kakamega, I will repeat the same here and I will repeat it everywhere,” the ANC leader told a crowd in Thika.
A visibly agitated Mudavadi said: “Leadership comes from the people and the people must decide.
So register as voters as you are the ones to decide who will be the leader of this country, not a few leaders seated somewhere and imagining that they shall decide who shall be Kenya’s leader.”
On Saturday, OKA leaders were forced to cancel a series of meetings in western Kenya after they were reportedly summoned to State House, Nairobi, for a meeting with Uhuru.
Though details of the meeting were scanty, sources intimated to People Daily that the President is said to have expressed his concern to the OKA leaders that his advice for them to unite with Raila had been largely ignored.
Uhuru is reported to have implored them to heed his advice to drop their State House bid and support Raila who is allegedly being touted to serve for only one term.
The meeting was the fourth of its kind after the first one in Nairobi and the other two in Mombasa in August.
Sources say the meetings are aimed at ensuring that the OKA leaders agree on how to streamline their personal interests in anticipation of crafting a joint mega coalition that would include Raila.
It is said that those pushing for a Raila presidency believe he could serve for one term, before hanging up his boots for either Mudavadi or Kalonzo.
The President, who left the country for the climate talks in the UK after the meeting with OKA leaders, is said to have warned the former Nasa co-principals that they are likely to perform disastrously in their 2017 and 2013 strongholds if they continued to campaign independently.
Raila was, however, absent from the Saturday meeting as he is on a foreign trip to Dubai while Moi was campaigning in Ngong for his presidential bid.
ANC deputy party leader and Lugari MP Ayub Savula yesterday confirmed that pressure has been mounting on Mudavadi to step down in favour of Raila.
“The target has mainly been Mudavadi whom they want to leave the seat for Raila.
But we are against taking that route because we know the consequences on Mudavadi’s political career,” Savula told People Daily.
ODM chairman John Mbadi while acknowledging that they are ready to work with Mudavadi, said the ANC leader can only join Raila as a running mate or “any other member of the 2022 winning team”.
“Yes we are ready to work with him, but the question is whether he has the numbers to convince us to support him for the top seat.
Can he mount a formidable campaign? What does he have that is different from 2013 if he has failed to marshal his Luhya backyard behind him?” Mbadi questioned.
Mbadi denied reports that Raila had already settled on nominating an individual from Mt Kenya region as his running mate.
Political scientist Joseph Simekha, warned that Mudavadi risks denting his political future should he drop his bid to play second fiddle to Raila.
“He should know that it is near impossible for Raila to nominate him as his running mate because they come from the same western region.
If OKA was to fold up to join Raila, Kalonzo would laugh all the way to the bank because he stands higher chances of being the running mate,” Simemkha said.
This arrangement, Dr Simekha says, would force Mudavadi to either settle for a ministerial position or a speaker of one of the Houses.
He warns that Mudavadi’s withdrawal from the race would portray him as a weak and indecisive leader.
“Whichever way one looks at it, Mudavadi would be the major casualty in the event OKA folds up to join Raila.
Kalonzo can still bolt out and join Ruto and be appointed a Deputy President,” he argued.
Simekha believes that the fall of the Building Bridges Initiative has returned to haunt Mudavadi because had its proposals been implemented through a referendum, they would have addressed some of the dilemma that he finds himself in.
“BBI had aimed at creating more positions in government to make it more inclusive.
This would have addressed the dilemma of where to accommodate him in the event of his joining Raila,” he states.