POLITICAL VACUUM I

Can Mudavadi fill Raila's shoes as de facto opposition leader?

With Kalonzo joining Raila to push the government agenda, only Nasa co-principals, Mudavadi and Wetang'ula have remained notable opposition figures

In Summary

• Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi has rejected the offer and instead, he will now up his role of keeping the government in check.

• The big question is: Can the former Deputy Prime Minister in the Grand Coalition government successfully oversight the new alliance of Jubilee, Kanu, ODM  and Wiper single-handedly?

ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi.
OPPOSITION BOSS? ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi.
Image: FILE

After the handshake, Opposition chief Raila Odinga of e opposition boss only on paper these days as he's virtually part of government.

Vocal critics and alternative voices in civil society and the church have largely gone silent.

That leaves the opposition space wide open.

As opposition parties rush for a slice of the anticipated pie of a national unity government, Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi has rejected the offer to join the establishment.

Instead, he will up his role of keeping the government in check.

The big question: Can the former Deputy Prime Minister in the Grand Coalition government successfully oversight the new alliance of Jubilee, Kanu, ODM  and Wiper single-handedly?

Wiper and ODM account for 90 per cent of the opposition strength in the two Houses of Parliament and with some ANC legislators leaning towards Raila, this scenario complicates matters for Mudavadi.

The ANC boss is, however, likely to take solace in about 150 Jubilee MPs in the National Assembly and another 21 senators allied to Deputy President William Ruto. Despite being in the ruling party, they have now found themselves on opposition benches after the falling out between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

Mudavadi insists that despite his fellow leaders in the opposition outfit Nasa abandoning their oversight role in exchange for plum state positions, he "has what it takes to keep the government on its toes".

“We are the opposition and have to play our part in questioning the government and hold it answerable and accountable to the general public. We as the opposition are equally accountable in upholding the paramount interests of the citizens of the nation,” Musalia told the Star.

Since the March 9, 2018, handshake between President Kenyatta and Raila  — who was the Nasa candidate — the Executive has operated with ease.

And with Wiper's Kalonzo Musyoka joining  Raila to push the government agenda,  their remaining Nasa co-principals - Mudavadi and  Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula - have remained the notable opposition figures. Wetang'ula leads the Ford Kenya party. 

Soon after the handshake, former critics of the Jubilee administration took the lead in praise and worship.

On two occasions, leadership of the opposition parties in Parliament rallied their troops behind the government agenda, despite a huge outcry from Kenyans.

For instance, opposition MPs last year defied public pressure to support the Jubilee government's move to raise the debt ceiling to Sh9 trillion.

The legislators also made a 180-degree turn from their previous hardline position against new tax laws despite a public uproar.

As Parliament's watchdog committees apparently run out of steam to ensure robust government oversight, Musalia has recently been a lone voice in the compliant wilderness.

The ANC leader has shone a spotlight on the Judiciary, Education, Foreign Affairs, debt and the post-Covid-19 economic stimulus. By highlighting government action or inaction, Mudavadi is carving out a space for himself as the de facto opposition leader.

Early in the week, the former long-term Finance minister in the Moi government l argued that unless the government focussed on getting out of crushing debt, Kenyans would be saddled with a perpetual burden.

"We must think out of the box, the debt issue is one of our weakest links to economic growth. When we are bogged down with debt, it diminishes any other penny for investment to better the country," Mudavadi said.

Political analyst Isaac Wabuge said the position adopted by the former Sabatia lawmaker is strategic and “might pay off”.

“Mudavadi has all along been branded as soft and indecisive and here is an opportunity for him to prove he is his own man. While his colleagues are running for the carrot being dangled by Uhuru, he wants to be on the side of many Kenyans,” he told the Star.

Wabuge said considering the so-called dynasties are assembling their own team for the 2022 succession by forming a government of the national unity, Mudavadi does not want to be labelled along with them.

He also said Mudavadi is strategically running away from “Jubilee’s poor development record and mega corruption”.

Despite being a lone ranger, his weekly State of the Nation addresses are effective, Wabuge said.

“Uhuru’s record is very pathetic, he has a poor development record across the country and formation of the so-called national government of unity is an attempt to cover up his poor record. Any politician who has an eye on the 2022 election cannot be part of such arrangement,” he said.

“Mudavadi has a slogan that he is a safe pair of hands, so joining the government that is already tainted would mean that his trust would be at stake,” the analyst said.

Lugari MP Ayub Savula described Mudavadi as a “robust and effective opposition leader whom the country should listen to”.

In a phone interview, Savula who chairs the ANC parliamentary caucus, said while Mudavadi is oversighting the government from outside, he is leading his team of legislators in Parliament to check the Jubilee administration.

“There has been a notion in this country that there is no opposition without Raila. That is wrong. Raila is now deeply involved in government matters by virtue of the handshake and he will not be able to oversight the government,” he said.

“Raila was senior most in the hierarchy of Nasa followed by Kalonzo, then Mudavadi. Now that the two are in government, the best person to take up the role of the official opposition is none other than Mudavadi. He has done a commendable  job so far,” Savula said.