Why Mudavadi might run against Raila and win in 2022

His reserved mien and uncanny sober caution portray him as a man to promote national cohesion

In Summary

• With the Mulembe nation merger beckoning under Nasa, Mudavadi has a pivotal platform to reach for his 2022 candidacy. It could be Musalia vs Raila.

• He has the makings of mature cohesive leadership, qualities he holds in store for a progressive nation as opposed to his rivals. 

Musalia Mudavadi after the launch of his book.
UNLIKELY PRESIDENT: Musalia Mudavadi after the launch of his book.

It is widely expected that the 2022 presidential race will be a contest between Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

I, however, advance the hypothesis that it will narrow down to Musalia Mudavadi against Raila.

This country is politically polarised because of three tribes – the Kalenjin, the Kikuyu and the Luo. This means none of the communities is likely to embrace the others easily when it comes to voting come 2022.

It is also unlikely that other communities would vote for another person from Central Kenya or the Rift Valley.

It is made worse for Ruto by the political elites, especially from Mt Kenya region, who want him to retire with President Uhuru Kenyatta. Ruto also shares the incumbency and wants to succeed Uhuru.

The presidency is composed of two holders — the president and the deputy president.

Prof Edward Kisiangani of Kenyatta University says, "The  collective responsibility theory will haunt Ruto’s candidature gravely. The analyst teaches history and politics.

The Uhuru regime has been accused of grand graft, mismanagement of the economy and heavy borrowing, which will burden Ruto in his campaign.

This then leaves Raila and Mudavadi, who are not in the Jubilee government.

While I believe pollsters would predict Raila as the obvious winner in a race with Mudavadi, I will draw a scenario whereby the latter will emerge as the next president based on his his perceived neutrality.

If the former premier will be on the ballot, two things might happen — either a falling out or the tyranny of numbers will play against him over claims he is selfish and greedy for the top seat.

That gives Musalia a plus.

From the ICC to Mau Forest evictions, the Kalenjin and the Kikuyu elites have convinced the electorate that their tribulations are a result Raila, an emotive tag and allegation that he will not manage to counter easily.

When the race eventually narrows down to Raila and Mudavadi, the most likely scenario is that the latter will inherit a large chunk of the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin votes.

Political analyst Martin Oloo says that in scenario of a Raila-Musalia face-off in 2022, the ANC leader stands a chance to inherit a big chunk of Mt Kenya, the Rift Valley and Eastern vote - but only if Kalonzo Musyoka will back him

“But to win, his politics cannot be business as usual. He must assemble an astute team of strategists because Raila is one of the best grassroots mobilisers,” Oloo says.

Mudavadi  could inherit the Kikuyu vote because of his neutrality and working with President Mwai Kibaki without fighting him, despite being from the ODM wing. This cannot be said of Raila.

This situation elevates Mudavadi to a 'prince of peace' who can unite the Kikuyu, the Luo and the Kalenjin. In the event that he chooses his running mate from the Kalenjin or from Eastern, then portends a catastrophe for Raila and ODM.

And even if Mudavadi might not emerge victorious in the first ballot, the 'natural law of selection' could favour him to crush Jubilee-ODM in the second round. Additionally, in our tribally charged and divisive politics, some sections feel Mudavadi offers this country an opportunity to break the 'Big Families' chokehold on power.

His reserved mien and uncanny sober caution portray him and the ANC party as a boost to national cohesion. He is perceived as an alternative competent leader.

The impact on the national psyche of such a choice might help us defang tribalism while working towards national healing and cohesion.

At this point in history, Kenya requires a likeable leader who epitomises 'peace' and 'stability'. His spokesman Kibisu Kabatesi, with three decades experience in presidential campaigns, says the belief that the presidency will come after the Luo preceded the Luhya to the throne was a political gimmick  crafted in the 2007 campaigns to draw support for Raila Odinga.

“He was a very unpopular figure and difficult to sell in Western after the falling out with Kijana Wamalwa in the 1990s. We had to resuscitate a myth for the hard sell,” Kabatesi says.

With Mulembe nation merger beckoning under Nasa, Mudavadi has a pivotal platform to reach for his 2022 candidacy. He has the makings of mature cohesive leadership, qualities he holds in store for a progressive nation, as opposed to his rivals.

In many established democracies, heads of states are chosen from a cadre of leaders with exemplary track records where being a 'career politician' is not deemed the best evidence for national leadership.

Perhaps that is why westerners vote for retired military personnel and corporate CEOs instead of politicians. Logically, the argument is that managing the Treasury is equivalent to managing a 'mini-state'. Mudavadi has proved his worth as an economic steward to the 'commanding heights' of the Kenyan economy as Finance minister.

For our economy to compare with those of the Asian tigers such as Singapore and Malaysia – nations that were behind us in the 1970s – Kenyans must write the epitaphs of contenders who 'make news' and cannot 'write news' in our history. Mudavadi’s presidency promises a paradigm shift from a polarised course to a cohesive and optimistic nation that offers equal opportunity for all.

Oscar Plato Okwaro is an analyst with Gravio Africa. The views are his own.