Mudavadi Not Up To Speed In Top Job Race
It is now four months since former deputy captain Musalia Mudavadi pompously quit the Orange Democratic Movement in a huff for the United Democratic Forum to press on his bid for the presidency. At the two feisty events that defined that migration — a meeting of Luhya cheerleaders and notables whom he told he was going to join a national party, and the subsequent fanfare at KICC to unveil his new home — Mudavadi proclaimed himself free at last from hesitation and dithering.
He would not look back, ever, he told excited supporters and curious guests. He was going all the way to the ballot box. Indeed nothing has changed except the media buzz and predicted seismic waves his defection was expected to elicit in the political arena. Mudavadi’s political gamble, engineered by State functionaries, is proving dicey.
The biggest achievement for MM, as he is commonly known, is that he has marginally improved his rating as a prospective president although it remains in the single digit zone. He is a moving spirit and much-talked about “factor” in the Kibaki succession. But that’s about it. The rest, as they say, is work in progress.
MM’s sprint has been plagued by a plethora of factors, including questions about the motivation behind his bid and the mystery surrounding the formation and ownership of the UDF party. He has done poorly in clearing the swirl of stories about the source of funds for his campaign, which have allegedly dried up after the cover was blown amid the onslaught by political foes.
Since launching his campaign at KICC, MM has travelled a mostly lonely road. The wave that was expected to draw swarms of supporters to him has not materialized and appears unlikely. As many people are fleeing his company as are joining, which is odd for a man who was billed to be the game changer in this election before he crossed over. I disagreed.
The party is yet to live up to its motto, “Tuko Freshi”, and the promise of a clean break from whatever characterizes other parties is yet to be felt if speeches in his entourage are anything to go by. The man who styled himself as the skilled footballer Messi just arrived to displace tired Pele (Raila) on the political arena is yet to score big. Well, the game, as they say, is still young but there is emerging evidence that things might be getting messier than merrier in the supposedly united democratic forum.
First, evidence points to a simmering contest between MM and the founders for control of the party’s reigns. Unlike Uhuru Kenyatta who moved in and took over the National Alliance complete with his new team of officials, MM was apparently offered the face of the party, but its owners retained the stock and cutlery.
And not just at the national office but across the branches. MM’s attempt to re-order the party in his favour has met with reluctance, even resistance. His associates who were to assume key positions are yet to do so and there is evident strain in relations, even as reports of the finances declining.
Surprisingly, while MM has attracted the support of a cabal of MPs from his county or neighborhood eager to ride on his bid, there have been no significant gains from other parties, or even follow up defections from ODM. Some of the earlier promoters of the party – youthful MPs like Abdikadir Mohammed, Kabando wa Kabando et al – have receded to the background, quietly left or become reticent about their political stands vis a vis Mudavadi’s bid.
But perhaps the most unsettling turn of events has been the cold shoulder from Uhuru Kenyatta, who was expected to play ball as part of the bigger Kibaki succession project. Now, it seems, Uhuru has his own ideas of whom he will turn his support to should he decide not to run. That’s a prospect that MM’s did not imagine.
If Uhuru parries off pressure by MM’s promoters to adopt him as the central Kenya candidate, it is unlikely that MM will have any serious impact in the coming election. His failure to excite euphoric support in his western Kenya backyard, still torn between ODM’s Raila Odinga and New Ford Kenya’s Eugene Wamalwa, will make it harder for him to bargain for support from Uhuru, William Ruto, Kalonzo Musyoka or any other candidate in an increasingly ethnicised political contest.
In the end, and to achieve their respect, MM may be snared into a primary nomination contest he can’t win, thereby ending his stab at the top job with average results. That might still be an honorable finish for the race than chickening out or backing someone else, which he promised his supporters he would not do. Clearly, MM is the man of the moment not because he is in sprint mode, but because he has many equations and circumstances that could propel or devour his quest for presidency.