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November 21, 2018

Kalonzo has come of age

Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka./FILE
Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka./FILE

One of the things that will haunt ODM forever is the MoU that was signed in Cord in 2013. (Incidentally and unknown to most, this agreement was actually signed several days after Cord was officially launched at the KICC, at the Serena Hotel; after a week of high drama and under great pressure because Kalonzo was threatening to go public and say that he was not part of Cord, despite the hand-holding at the KICC).

I was at Serena during those discussions. The Wiper team was led by Mutula Kilonzo while the ODM team was led by Orengo. The discussions started the day after Cord was launched at the KICC and ran for close to a week. ODM needed Wiper’s help to buttress their numbers, especially in Nairobi and at the Coast.

Wiper understood that they had no chance of staying nationally relevant, if they ran alone. However Wiper insisted that whatever agreement was presented must state that Raila would support Kalonzo in 2017 – even if he did not win in 2013. ODM’s response was that since there was no way Cord would lose, this clause was not necessary. Wiper insisted that it was, as it is what they would use to explain why Kalonzo was supporting Raila to their support base.

ODM was initially adamant that the ‘no-win’ clause should not be part of the formal agreement. They insisted that the reality of the matter was in the very unlikely event that Raila lost in 2013, his age meant he would have to resign from politics and support Kalonzo, moving forward. But Wiper would not have it. They wanted this clause in the agreement. They wanted it stated formally that Raila would support Kalonzo in 2017, even if he did not win in 2013.

On more than one occasion, the discussions collapsed around this single issue, and Raila and Kalonzo would go to the side and try to work things out. I remember one scene after such collapse where Kalonzo is standing with his hands in his pockets while Raila is holding his shoulders with both hands, pleading with him to allow the agreement to be signed without the clause. Kalonzo stuck to his guns and insisted that since ODM was sure Cord would win, the clause was just for Wiper’s comfort. Ultimately ODM signed.

When NASA was formed I laughed. I immediately understood what Raila was doing. For as long as Cord existed he was bound by his agreement with Kalonzo and Wiper. The emergence of NASA meant that Cord had died, and with it any agreements formed within it. What I could never understand was why Kalonzo and Wiper allowed Cord to be killed without saying anything about what its demise meant to their 2013 agreement.

Today I finally get it. Kalonzo and Wiper have very effectively forced NASA into a corner. ODM will have to accept that they had an agreement with Wiper, or Wiper will walk away from NASA as the wronged party. Meanwhile, Kalonzo has a platform to present himself as a victim, which is the one thing that Raila always beat him at. Today, Kalonzo is the victim whilst Raila has turned into the villain.

Kalonzo has been extremely astute on this Cord/NASA issue. He knows Uhuru is too strong to beat in 2017. Taking the victim route allows him to transition into a formidable leader of opposition during Uhuru’s second and final term; and being opposition leader is how both Kibaki and Uhuru made it to the presidency.

It also gives him a way out from being under Raila, who is now left looking at the real possibility of reliving his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s political journey after the collapse of Ford - where he will only be relevant in Nyanza. Meanwhile, Kalonzo redefines himself and stays nationally relevant all the way up to 2022, when he can make a more realistic run for President.

Clearly, Kalonzo has come of age.

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