Kalonzo completes Azimio juggernaut

Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka

Azimio presidential aspirant Raila Odinga (right) and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

I am reliably told the leading UDA blogger – who used to be a serious lawyer – was virtually reduced to tears when Wiper’s Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka trooped back to Azimio la Umoja.

There was a lot of teeth-gnashing and crude cursing up and down the UDA chain. For months, UDA presidential nominee William Ruto and his acolytes had tried all manner of skulduggery to browbeat Mr Musyoka and disrupt his membership in Azimio.

But it was all for naught. Their quixotic efforts came a cropper when recently Mr Musyoka “returned” home – to Azimio.

Mr Musyoka’s emphatic re-entry creates a juggernaut in Azimio and assures it of a clear first-round victory on August 9. Take it to the bank.

Mr Musyoka’s triumphant return has recreated the 2002 Narc moment. If you recall, 2002 was the most critical election in the country’s history.

Narc’s Mwai Kibaki, anchored by its indomitable captain Raila Odinga, won the election going away. Mr Kibaki missed the two-thirds mark by a whisker. And we sang in the streets and bars – “Yote Yawezekana Bila Moi” (“Everything is possible without Moi”).

After that historic election, Kenyans were rated the happiest people on planet Earth. Hope in the country and the state had been restored. We face a similar inflection moment this August. Mr Musyoka was on the winning side that time, and so he will be this time. Make no mistake about it.

Tethered to ‘kingpins’

The August 9 election – like the 2002 one – conjures up a contest of villains against liberators, of good against greed.

As then, I am sure Kenyans will not elect scoundrels. It’s only fair that Mr William Ruto, who was on the side opposite against Mr Odinga, is his main opponent today. It’s a match that Mr Ruto lost, and it’s a rematch he will lose again to Mr Odinga.

This is why Mr Musyoka is a critical and pivotal player. In the rough and tumble of Kenyan politics, ethnicity is one of the biggest factors in balloting. Different Kenyan nations, or sub-nations, if you will, are still tethered to their “kingpins”, even though that era is clearly rapidly ending.

However, Mr Musyoka still remains the most influential politician in Ukambani and its diaspora. It’s estimated that the total basket of Akamba voters is 2.5 million countrywide.

If so, then you can see why Mr Musyoka’s decision to back Azimio’s Mr Odinga is a big deal. This is why UDA is having sleepless nights, and has gone back to the drawing board. First, UDA tried to psyche out Azimio to choose Mr Musyoka as running mate.

This would have killed two birds with one stone – allow Mr Ruto to choose Amani’s Musalia Mudavadi as running mate while holding onto the Gema vote. Their plans were totally wrecked when Mr Odinga tapped Narc-Kenya’s Martha Wangari Karua as running mate.

Ms Karua is no shrinking violet. The woman from Gichugu is poised to become the first woman Deputy President when the stars align on August 9.

But more importantly, Ms Karua is the heir-apparent to the leadership of Gema. It doesn’t get any bigger than that, boys and girls. I have no doubt Ms Karua will bring north of 60 per cent of the Gema vote given the seismic shift she’s brought to the race.

The ‘Mountain’ has come to her and Azimio. This is the single most important development in the race. Mr Odinga will carry the Gema vote for the first time this year. Mr Ruto, who’s spent years cultivating that vote, will go home in tears.

Traditional strongholds

This is why. With Mr Musyoka’s return, the Akamba vote is now locked in for Mr Odinga. Mr Ruto has no magic key, or “kamuti” (Kamba magic) to open that door.

In the last two elections, the Akamba voted nearly 90 per cent for Mr Odinga. They know him. They trust him. They’ll vote for him again. Mr Odinga’s traditional strongholds of Western (Luhya), Coast, Nyanza (including the Abagusii) have held.

Mr Odinga will do extraordinarily well in the Mountain while Mr Ruto’s expected dividend there – where he’s camped for 10 years – will see him garner only about 40 per cent, if that much. Such a number will sound the death knell for his bid. That’s where his strategy has collapsed.

Mr Ruto can’t win the election without harvesting between 85-90 per cent of Gema with a turnout higher than 75 per cent. Both numbers are an impossibility.

No math genius can transform that bitter reality. None. In the Rift Valley, the Gema diaspora there will follow the lead of its kin and kith in the Mountain. Which means a huge setback for Mr Ruto.

Even the Kalenjin vote – unlike 2013 and 2017 – may not come home to Mr Ruto as he hopes. The region now doubts that Mr Ruto can win. Some are fleeing him already. There could be an exodus. This is why Mr Ruto needed Mr Musyoka to bolt from Azimio.

Welcome home, Stevo!


Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Margaret W. Wong Professor at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York. @makaumutua

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