Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi is without doubt the most saleable opposition leader at the moment. He does not elicit the kind of extreme ethnic hostility as President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto or Cord leader Raila Odinga.
Save for Ruto, who hates him to the hilt, Mudavadi enjoys a rapport with President Uhuru and Raila, but trusts the latter more than the former judging by the recent rapprochement between the two after parting ways in 2013.
His tolerance level is the peace ingredient Kenya needs to calm the rapidly building tempest as the country enters the 2017 elections homestretch, with too many unresolved economic political problems. Compared to the 2013 general election, this time round, Mudavadi better prospects of doing well in the polls, having learnt harshly lessons.
If public sentiments are any guide, he stands the chance to carry over 50 per cent of the vote in Kakamega, Busia, Bungoma, Vihiga and Trans Nzoia. The figure will be higher if he teamed up with Raila in 2017, a possibility President Uhuru and DP Ruto would not want to imagine.
When Mudavadi and Raila announced in Samburu that they were on the verge on forming an alliance, the news was greeted with excitement in the former Vice President’s strongholds in Western with excitement. The electorate has already come up with MusaRaila acronym in anticipation of Musalia-Raila ticket to taken on UhuRuto! They endorsed the National Super Alliance during Wiper Party's NDC on Tuesday.
Away from Western, huge bastions of Rift Valley, now indifferent to UhuRuto, are said to be warming up to the latest development. In Western, this is the best news the region has had since the times of Masinde Muliro and Kijana Wamalwa .
At the last general election, Mudavadi’s favourability was subdued due to perceptions that he was a President Uhuru’s project to deny Raila the presidency. This time round, he is a beneficiary of the thinking that the Western region has rallied solidly behind Raila in all the three times he has ran for President. It is therefore time for the opposition leader to return the favour by endorsing Mudavadi. From the look of things, it is highly possible.
The man nicknamed Phantom by his former Nairobi School rugby and football teammates — including Uhuru — for his prowess to pop up from the blues and score a try or unleash a thunderous bolt into goal.
As the sprint to next August’s presidential election gathers momentum, it behooves the ANC leader must be live to perennial factors that, at times, adversely affect his bid to outplay his rivals. In football, possession football is the most effective mode of defence if a team is ahead. If you are at par during a match or trailing, the most effective formation is attack, attack and attack. That component is lacking.
Instead, Team Mudavadi embarked on playing possession football as soon as he announced his candidature. The outcome is an apparent lack of strategy or one that is overly anonymous. He needs to engage the electorate more than he is doing.
ANC needs to weaken its opponents through force reason an argument, not violence. Violence is not Mudavadi’s forte; he has built his candidature on nguvu ya hoja (force of reason) rather empty rhetoric or violence, which are the hallmarks other opposition parties and Jubilee Party.
Other than the positive voter sentiments about the person of Mudavadi, fears still abound that his team is still playing unhelpful possession football at the expense of messages that resonate with specific audiences. Mudavadi must do a Donald Trump: Shed the “beggars” and extortionists around him and reconstitute a campaign team that will deliver him to State House. The “possession” mentality in his campaign team undermines his bid to build a solid base in Western and by extension the rest of the country.