Why Kalonzo Isn’t Charming Suitors
If you have been watching the drama surrounding the presidential campaigns carefully, there is one odd thing you can hardly have missed. And this is that the Vice President, Kalonzo Musyoka, seems to be treated by all the other top candidates in this race as though he were a very doubtful asset. It is not that anybody of significance insults him, or speaks of him with scorn. But amidst all the talk of various strategies for demolishing the commanding lead that the Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, still retains in the opinion polls, you do not find the VP occupying a central place in these schemes. There is instead, a distinct lack of enthusiasm for working with Kalonzo.
Partly, no doubt, this has to do with his polling numbers, which are admittedly not great. But even allowing for this, the questions still remain: Why is it that virtually all the other key political players are so lukewarm in their attitude towards Kalonzo? And if indeed Kalonzo does not become a part of something bigger than himself; if he is not part of a greater political alliance; what chance can he possibly have of winning?
On the surface of it, Kalonzo’s 25-year career in politics should make him a great candidate. Up to 2007 when he ran for president, he had never lost an election. And there is nothing shameful in losing when you first offer yourself as a presidential candidate. Indeed an initial defeat in this race, is more or less the prerequisite for eventual victory.
Well, prior to 2007, Kalonzo not only kept on winning, but steadily rose within the ranks of the political elite, and eventually became one of the small group of leaders who, by virtue of their conspicuous success at repeatedly getting reelected, earn their place at the very top of the political hierarchy. And by any measure, even if Kalonzo were not the VP at this point in his political career, he would qualify as a “senior politician”. So why is it that no substantial candidate seems to be desperate to join hands with him; to bring him in as part of what they hope will be a winning team? The only true answer to this would be that nobody knows for sure. But that should not stop us from speculating.
One way of explaining it is that there can be no doubt that Kalonzo fully intends to have his name on that presidential ballot when the next General Election finally comes around. And that he is not willing to yield ground to any other aspirant. In brief, that the only way that Kalonzo’s dream of being the fourth president of Kenya will end, is through defeat at the ballot box.
This is something that can only be said of two candidates: Kalonzo Musyoka and Raila Odinga. For the rest of the top-tier candidates – though they may not openly admit it – the likelihood of skipping the next election and running later on, is a very real one. The Deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta, for example, certainly seems to be seriously resolved to run for president. But will he really get the opportunity to run, given the as-yet-unresolved issues pertaining to the International Criminal Court and grave the accusations he faces there?
The same can be said about William Ruto: there can be no doubting his seriousness of intent. But events beyond his control may yet prevent him from running. Then there is other Deputy PM, Musalia Mudavadi: few can have forgotten that “just the other day” (as we Kenyans love to say) he was firmly fixed in most minds, as a man who was yet biding his time, and would likely run for president in 2017 or even later. So he has a great deal of work ahead of him, if he is to convince the public that this is really a do-or-die effort for him.
In any case, speculations still persist that the secret plan is for him to be Uhuru Kenyatta’s running mate, bringing to fulfillment a scheme initially hatched by former president Daniel Moi back in 2002. But you cannot say that Kalonzo is really just waiting for the right opportunity to declare that he is some other candidate’s running mate. And there are no legal obstacles that might effectively block his candidature. So he really has no choice but to ignore his depressing ratings in the opinion polls, and do his best to win: no matter how remote that possibility may seem.