Is Mudavadi now a Ruto vassal?

Musalia Mudavadi

From Left: Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang'ula, Deputy President William Ruto, ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi and Jibebe Party leader William Kabogo at Bomas of Kenya on January 23, 2022 during ANC's National Delegates Conference.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • A Mudavadi-Ruto alliance would shake things up and give the Azimio la Amani grouping food for thought. 
  • The presidential campaign launch was expected to elevate Mr Mudavadi from also-ran to a serious challenger.

After all the hype — and the social media memes crafted at his expense by the subversively inventive KOT (Kenyans-On-Twitter) brigade — Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi would have approached his party delegates conference on Sunday somewhat apprehensive that he might deliver a damp squib instead of the promised ‘earthquake’. 

In the end, there was a significant political development in the presence of Deputy President William Ruto at the Bomas of Kenya. The jury is still out, however, on whether the hint of a new alliance amounts to the ‘earthquake’ that catapults Mr Mudavadi to the top of the political totem pole. 

No doubt, a Mudavadi-Ruto alliance would shake things up and give the Azimio la Umoja grouping led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga food for thought. 

The big question, though, is that the presidential campaign launch was expected to elevate Mr Mudavadi from also-ran to a serious challenger in what has so far been seen as a two-horse race between Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga.

Instead, his crowning moment was overshadowed by the presence of the DP and the tantalising prospect of an impending alliance. Apart from naming him the party presidential candidate, the Amani delegates also authorised Mr Mudavadi to negotiate coalitions.

In his speech, Mr Mudavadi made it clear that any dalliance with the Odinga campaign was out of the question, leaving Dr Ruto as the only potential suitor. If that is the intention, Mr Mudavadi’s supporters were left rather confused as there was no clear direction on his role in a new equation. 

Merely a ‘spoiler’

If anything, the most enthusiasm was seen from Dr Ruto’s troops at Bomas, who took the view that it was Mr Mudavadi coming in to support the ‘Hustler Nation’ campaign.

The thing with an electoral pact is that it can have only one presidential flag-bearer, and Dr Ruto’s supporters cannot countenance the thought of his standing down for anybody else.

If after all the hoopla around his campaign launch Mr Mudavadi meekly shelves his ambition to join Dr Ruto as a junior partner, he will not only deflate his base but also amount to political hari-kari.

The other alternative is that Mr Mudavadi stays in the race to the end on the understanding that he will enter a post-election coalition with Dr Ruto. 

The problem with such an arrangement is that Mr Mudavadi then has to work extra hard to convince sceptics that he is, indeed, a serious presidential candidate, not merely a ‘spoiler’ fronted to keep the populous western Kenya vote from Mr Odinga’s clutches.

In either scenario, it would seem that the real beneficiary would be Dr Ruto, with Mr Mudavadi reduced to just part of the supporting cast. In that case, what came out of Bomas would, for Mr Mudavadi, be an implosion rather than an earthquake. It would negate any bump in the opinion polls he would have expected from the presidential campaign launch, and the hard work he has put in to debunk perceptions that he is a weak and indecisive leader.

Stopping Raila Odinga

That Mr Mudavadi is, indeed, coming out to portray firmness and resolve was seen in masterful delivery of an acceptance speech that played to his strengths as an honest, trustworthy, tried and tested leader with a keen grip on economic policy.

The speech, though rather too long and, at times, disjointed, set out to demonstrate an understanding of Kenya’s economic woes and offer solutions. But unusually for Mr Mudavadi, it also went into bare-knuckle politics that aimed jabs directly at President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.

One problem here is that it came out as if he is motivated more by the need to stop Mr Odinga than the desire to succeed President Kenyatta and fix the Jubilee mess.

Indeed, if the only thing that brings Mr Mudavadi and Dr Ruto together is common antipathy to Mr Odinga— beyond the coincidence of similar economic policy slogans — the former will have to step back and consider what the projected alliance holds for him.

Already, it has served to hasten the predictable collapse of the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) as co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper party and Gideon Moi of Kanu stormed out of Bomas. They complained that Mr Mudavadi had been less than honest on Dr Ruto’s ‘starring’ role.

The two — who are also declared presidential aspirants — will most likely end up with Mr Odinga. That might as well present opportunity for Mr Mudavadi to package himself as the ‘Last Man Standing’ in OKA, but not if he cannot counter impressions that he is just a Ruto vassal. 

[email protected] www.gaitho.co.ke @MachariaGaitho

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