IS IT TIME?

Musalia mere shadow of King of Mululu

In Summary
  • He has not stamped his authority as the Western Kenya kingpin; not fully exploited his father’s fame and influence to capture the region
  • He has no national profile. He is comfortable as a Luhya politician. Most people around him are his tribesmen
ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi when he hosted a delegation of over 500 Western Kenya elders at his home in Mululu on February 20.
ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi when he hosted a delegation of over 500 Western Kenya elders at his home in Mululu on February 20.
Image: HANDOUT

“Okonkwo was popularly called the ‘Roaring Flame.’ As he looked into the log fire he recalled the name. He was a flaming fire. How then could he have begotten a son like Nwoye, degenerate and effeminate?” Chinua Achebe writes in Things Fall Apart.

"Nwoye, his eldest son, had joined the Christian missionaries Okonkwo hated. “He sighed heavily, and as if in sympathy the smoldering log also sighed. And immediately Okonkwo’s eyes were opened and he saw the whole matter clearly. Living fire begets cold, impotent ash. He sighed again, deeply.”

The year is 1989. The ruling party Kanu’s secretary general, Sabatia MP and Cabinet minister Moses Mudavadi, a longtime Moi confidant and Western Kenya supremo, is seriously ill in hospital. His political protégé Moody Awori visits him.

“Moses Mudavadi was very close to President Moi from way back before Moi ventured into politics. Among all the leaders in Kenya at the time, only these two enjoyed the glory of having delegations from anywhere in the country visiting them at their homes. Mudavadi’s home was in a village called Mululu. He was popularly known as the King of Mululu,” the former Vice President writes in his memoir, Riding on a Tiger.

The King of Mululu appeared to know he was dying when Awori visited him. “He asked me to link up with his great friend and personal assistant Ellon Lumwaji and Andrew Ligale to help his son Musalia ‘to come up’. He did not say what he meant by ‘to come up’. He died later that day in February 1989.”

Although Musalia has held high-profile political posts since his initiation into politics at a tender age, he has spectacularly failed to be his own man. He has not stamped his authority as the Western Kenya kingpin; not fully exploited his father’s fame and influence to capture the region

With the help of Awori and the region’s other heavyweights, Musalia was elected MP for Sabatia unopposed in the ensuing by-election. Moi immediately appointed him to the Cabinet. He was in his twenties.

Fast forward to 2002. Moi is retiring. He unilaterally anoints Uhuru Kenyatta as his successor, causing a mighty rebellion within Kanu. Ruling party honchos who had hoped for Moi’s endorsement quit the party and Cabinet in a huff.

Raila Odinga (Kanu secretary general), Vice President George Saitoti, Kalonzo Musyoka (vice chairman), Awori, Musalia and others regroup under the Liberal Democratic Party. They begin consultations with the united Opposition NAK led by Mwai Kibaki to crush Uhuru, Moi’s “project”. But Musalia starts to skip LDP meetings, giving excuses. The rest of the group is worried. Awori makes an appointment to see him in his Nairobi home. Musalia hides.

“When I arrived at his residence, I was shocked to find Joshua Kulei, then President Moi’s private secretary. We engaged in small talk but Musalia was nowhere to be seen,” Awori recalls.

“A week later, it was announced that Musalia had been named by President Moi as Vice President”. He was the country’s shortest-serving VP, in office for less than two months.

He would later become Deputy Prime Minister under the grand coalition government from 2008 to 2012.

Although Musalia has held high-profile political posts since his initiation into politics at a tender age, he has spectacularly failed to be his own man. He has not stamped his authority as the Western Kenya kingpin; not fully exploited his father’s fame and influence to capture the region.

He talks a lot of sound economics, is non-combative and often touted by his admirers as a safe pair of hands to run the country. But these same qualities cast him as a weakling in Kenya’s aggressive, ‘kaa ngumu’ politics

In Kenya’s politics, a solid tribal base is essential for one to take a stab at the presidency. Western is divided in every election. Any presidential contender gets votes there.

No doubt in the next election Musalia will have to battle it out with DP Ruto, Raila (or whoever the ODM candidate will be) and even Mukhisa Kituyi for the Luhya vote.

Secondly, Musalia has no national profile. He is comfortable as a Luhya politician. Most people around him are his tribesmen. He has done little to win the backing of politicians from other regions to craft the image of a national leader.

Except for diaspora Luhyas, how will Musalia get presidential votes in Rift Valley, Nyanza, Eastern, Northeastern, Coast or Mt Kenya?

He talks a lot of sound economics, is non-combative and often touted by his admirers as a safe pair of hands to run the country. But these same qualities cast him as a weakling in Kenya’s aggressive, ‘kaa ngumu’ politics.

Unlike his father, the King of Mululu, Musalia doesn’t come across as a strong character, presidential. He is dull and timid, always seems to be in need of someone to help him “to come up”.

Musalia is Nwoye.