POLITICAL JOURNEYMAN

Mudavadi's political magic lies at Raila's feet

The next Luhya kingpin will be one who finds a working formula with Raila.

In Summary

• In his book,  Mudavadi describes his late father as “charismatic individual with a granite-like personality that did not succumb to undeserved criticism or intimidation".

•  Yet as heir to the Mululu throne, Mudavadi doesn’t appear enthusiastic to mirror that image of political steel.

ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and ODM's Raila Odinga at a Nasaally at Uhuru Park on April 27, 2017.
ONCE CLOSE: ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and ODM's Raila Odinga at a Nasaally at Uhuru Park on April 27, 2017.
Image: JACK OWUOR

Soon after the mourning of Kisumu West MP Joab Omino in early 2004, Raila Odinga’s Liberal Democratic Party quietly set about the process of picking a nominee for the by-election.

Early indications were that LDP was going for a strategic coup by intending to tap former Sabatia MP Musalia Mudavadi to carry its flag in the race.

Mudavadi was then out in the cold after being trounced in the Sabatia parliamentary election in 2002, and after declining a Kanu nomination to Parliament a short while later.

 

Because this seat was bang in Luo heartland, the wide consultations included sit-downs with community elders, who obviously must have been informed about the dynamics behind this move.

 

The community gave it a stamp of approval. Mudavadi asked to consult, and predictably returned with word that even though he was honoured by this, he wasn’t going to take it up. I’m often perplexed that this incident, given its huge political implications at that time, never gets its rightful mainstream mention.

The Luo community, having presented their own in two elections, and supported someone from a 'faraway tribe'in the third, ending in their betrayal, and still grappling with the 'unelectable' ethnic tag, were clearly using this moment to 'create' an alternative presidential candidate 'almost their own'.

The clarity of this would manifest itself just three years later when ODM delegates descended on the Kasarani Gymnasium on September 1, 2007, to pick their presidential candidate. Raila, having emerged out the 'unelectable' zone largely through a well-oiled mobilisation machine and through Mwai Kibaki’s unending gaffes, easily sailed through.

While accepting the nomination, Raila, the most spontaneous politician this side of the Atlantic, raised Musalia’s hand as his new deputy captain (and heir apparent).

The look on William Ruto’s face at that moment was priceless, and should have been a warning of things to come. Somehow, nobody noticed!

In the years subsequent to that, Mudavadi has somehow turned into a political journeyman, jumping into deals that basically make him a former Premier League player now plying his trade with the village heroes.

 

In seeking an alleged partnership with DP Ruto, or the rather hilarious one with fellow westerner Moses Wetang’ula, it strikes one as odd that having been Raila’s heir apparent for most of the past 15-year milestone seasons, he would jump from ome political bed to another, reinventing the wheel.

The ODM leader is 75, and heading into what the Jubilee vice chairman has called a “transitional election where Raila will usher in new blood".

MUDAVADI AS RAILA'S ALTERNATIVE

 

It easily takes one back to that 2004 moment when Mudavadi would have been the Raila base’s 'alternative presidential candidate'. With the loyal and dependable Raila base now looking ahead to this 'transitional phase', Mudavadi would have been a natural shoe-in.

In all political logic, it is easier to inherit the Raila support base with the latter’s support in the short period of political time ahead, rather than run around with a tiny party I like to call 'the Sabatia Basket, making deals with rabidly ambitious, but younger, players such as Ruto.

Two elections from now, with the Raila support base, Mudavadi would have a head start! Trouble for Mudavadi in his Western backyard comes from the fact that younger politicians in the neighbourhood have smelled blood. From his own ANC, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala and in-out-in secretary general, Geoffrey Osotsi now act like politicians going to fill the vacuum.

Across in ODM, there are indications that secretary general Edwin Sifuna and Saboti MP Caleb Hamisi don’t mind an invitation to the prime time show either.

They have indeed cranked up the volume with their Mulembe Youth Movement at a time when Mudavadi appears to be haemorrhaging support, if the two quick-fire resignations by his secretary general Barrack Muluka, and his proposed replacement Eliud Owalo, were anything to go by.

In his book, Soaring Above The Storms Of Passion, Mudavadi describes his late father, Moses Mudavadi, as a “charismatic individual with a granite-like personality that did not succumb to undeserved criticism or intimidation”.

He adds that he “knew how to exercise and how and when to distribute the benefits that came with power”.

Yet as heir to the Mululu throne, Mudavadi doesn’t appear enthusiastic to mirror that image of political steel.

By looking like he is yet to find his political feet, he allows himself to be a spectator again as the country prepares for possibly its most significant transition ever.

70 YEARS OF LUHYA UNITY CALLS

I like to point out to my Luhya friends that the concept of Luhya Unity was first mooted by the late Musa Amalemba in the 1950s. We are thus headed to the 70th anniversary of this long search!

In the absence of the siege mentality 'enjoyed' by communities that vote together such as the Luo and the Kalenjin, the Luhya may achieve this unity only AFTER one of their own rises to the presidency.

And given that the Luo and the Luhya are natural political allies, it occurs to me that the next Luhya kingpin, and possibly its first president, will be the one who finds a working formula with Raila, and subsequently places himself in a position to inherit that vote base.

Since Mudavadi has been there before, it makes more political sense for him to seduce this base and run away with it, than appear to work counter to its aspirations.

I am certain that if he doesn’t do this, a younger politician will emerge and take this away. It will add to Mudavadi’s catalogue of errors.

In many previous campaigns where the Luo and the Luhya have campaigned together, the words of the late religious leader Elijah Masinde have been thrown around — about power arriving in the Mulembe House from the direction of the lake.

I’m sure if these words ring true, then the alleged prophet didn’t really mean that power would arrive on its own without some form of hard work. It is time for Mudavadi to wake up and smell the coffee.

The writer comments on topical issues


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