Wiper Democratic Movement-Kenya leader Kalonzo Musyoka has hinted that he will contest the 2027 presidential election, saying it would not be an option for him to support Azimio leader Raila Odinga for a sixth attempt.
Mr Musyoka - who turned 70 on December 24 - said dropping his presidential ambitions again in favour of Mr Odinga, as he did in 2013, 2017 and 2022, would mean retiring from active politics because of his age.
In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with the Nation, Mr Musyoka exuded confidence that he has the support of the opposition brigade, including Mr Odinga, to unseat President William Ruto in the next election.
Mr Odinga had in October given the clearest indication yet that the opposition coalition would rally behind Mr Musyoka as its flagbearer. A day later, however, he retracted his endorsement of Mr Musyoka after his statement reportedly caused jitters in the camp. But some of Mr Odinga's close allies have since started aligning themselves with Mr Musyoka, giving credence to reports that Mr Odinga may be preparing to endorse the Wiper leader.
Mr Musyoka also appealed to some ODM politicians whom he accused of always pushing Mr Odinga to be on the ballot to win their seats, saying they could still win without the former Prime Minister on the ballot.
Mr Musyoka, who served as the late Mwai Kibaki's vice president between 2008 and 2013, revealed that the coalition would decide on its candidate early enough to avoid confusion that has marred similar processes in the past.
He expressed confidence in his candidature, saying the stars were aligned for his second attempt at the top seat after he contested the disputed 2007 General Election and came third.
Excerpt of the Interview:
Q: Do you think you did justice to Kenyans as the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO) in addressing the cost of living?
We did. As Azimio, we failed to make recommendations in accordance with what Kenya Kwanza wanted. On the cost of living, we made our position clear. We had insisted that they needed to reduce the fuel levy from a high of 16 per cent to eight per cent. This is a government that is not relying on its own muscle. They fail to recognise that when you are leading a nation, then you have to stand firm against even other people coming from all forms of interests. They are just following the script of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), they are told you don’t do this, and we won’t give you money. So it is an IMF-led government and therefore it has no consideration for its citizens. We did not have to go back to the subsidies for example but to bring down VAT down from 16 to eight per cent.
Q: Azimio went into the talks because of the cost of living. Why not reject it after failing to address your main issues?
No. If we abandon the process for example, then what will happen to the need to reconstitute the electoral commission? Are you going to tell me that Azimio should now allow Ruto and his team to form a new IEBC commission complete with the chairman? Of course not. There are those issues that at least we agreed and in fact on that (IEBC) we agreed on the principle of consultation with the leadership of our coalition. So William Ruto and Raila Odinga have to sit and agree on names of individuals to serve as commissioners. That was a very important achievement because as we speak, there are people who are waiting to elect an MP. There is a constituency, Banisa, which is still waiting to elect a member of parliament. If we abandoned the talks, we would not then have any hope.
Q: So what is the way forward in handling the cost of living?
Of course, Kenyans are at liberty if they so choose to go back to the streets. Because how do you handle it? If Kenyans choose to go back to the streets believe you me, they may not even need leaders.
They may do it by themselves. I know that Kenya Kwanza is saying that they will make sure there is money available (for CDF). They’d better make sure the money is available before the schools open because I am aware that Members of Parliament, all of them from across the board whether Kenya Kwanza or Azimio have been given out bursary forms to parents telling them when we get the money you will be able to take your kids to school and since June, I am told, no MP has received anything and you saw that, MPs in unison wanting to walk out of Parliament in protest. There is something happening; everybody is crying and we have tried to help them before and they don’t seem to understand.
Q: Are you saying Kenyans are on their own on the matter?
Let’s be a bit clear because there are those people saying that demonstrations are bad for business; these leaders in Azimio want to ruin businesses but those businesses have been ruined by high taxation. 6,000 companies have already shifted from Kenya to Tanzania and Uganda, and what does that mean? When you have 6000 companies crossing over our borders to invest in other countries That means that so many Kenyans employed by these companies are declared redundant, they are without hope.
Q: Is Azimio likely to call for protests again?
You know we need to consult. We are listening to the ground. We have other coalition partners. We consult every time because we must take into account the bigger and the better interests of the Kenyan people.
Q: Azimio is split because of the NADCO report for not addressing main issues.
There are no disagreements. What is there is disagreement over interpretation. Azimio is very solid. I know there are those naysayers who may want to listen to my brother Eugene Wamalwa or my sister Martha Karua. In Azimio, we believe in expressing differences in opinion, to find a common position.
Q: Have you discussed the NADCO report with Uhuru Kenyatta?
At the level when we were going on with the negotiations, twice I think, because President (retired) Uhuru Kenyatta is still the leader of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya. We have not appointed another leader. We kept on briefing everybody before we went to any important discussion.
Q: What is his take on the document? There are reports that he is opposed to it.
You need to look out for Uhuru Kenyatta because I think there are people in this country who are so scared by that name. When you mention Uhuru Kenyatta then some of them in Kenya Kwanza talk of state capture. They are themselves involved in state capture right now. State capture of the state institutions and the legislature and the judiciary and they are blaming a president who left office one year ago. We will all convene when it is necessary and when we convene, Uhuru Kenyatta will be there. So it should not be looked at as an excuse because those people who always want to run away from responsibility always quote Uhuru Kenyatta. He is entitled as a Kenyan citizen to hold political opinions. Uhuru Kenyatta cannot scuttle something I am handling. He may have expressed his displeasure at several things as a Kenyan but again let us not make Uhuru Kenyatta the subject of these deliberations.
Q: Some of the recommendations by NADCO have been termed by some people as BBI dressed in UDA colours?
If that is the case then, the people who opposed the BBI are the ones who brought these things as agenda items. Azimio did not bring an agenda asking for the establishment of the office of the official opposition leader, or having the prime minister. Our position has let us look each other in the eye and ask ourselves what did the original Bomas recommend. It is about time the country asks its several questions. Do we go pure parliamentary or pure presidential or hybrid? If we go hybrid, then there may be a need to have a Prime Minister who is answerable to parliament.
Q: Will you run for president in 2027?
I believe in consultation. I have said publicly that mapema ndio best. Even during the campaigns, I said that if there is one thing I learned from William Ruto, it is that he set his eyes on 2022 and he started campaigning. Poor Uhuru Kenyatta could not handle him. I will be consulting with Kenyans very effectively on this matter.
Q: You are not clear about your 2027 ambition?
Please don’t overpush this issue. It will shock you. I was ready to be president in 2002 when we said Kibaki Tosha and we allowed Kibaki. I was ready in 2013 to move from being vice president to president of the republic. So at the right time, I am going to make an announcement because I believe we have to create this so that Kenyans can see an alternative. They are crying for an alternative. They can’t breathe. So that time will come and as I said I was ready in 2002, I was ready in 2013, what makes you think I won’t be ready in 2027? When in fact the country seems to be speaking almost in unison. William Ruto himself announced my candidature in Homa Bay, do you remember? Completely unsolicited. William Ruto may end up giving me a vote, he announced. The right time has come for this country to recognise a leader they have always wanted. Remember in the Bible, that stone the builders kept on rejecting. Of course it was Jesus Christ in this case. Just imagine how many names have we been called and haven’t we been given in terms of sacrifice. In 2022 I said to my brother Raila Odinga and my sister Martha Karua, I will support you. Completely selfless, by the way these things, my friend, are completely painful. You feel like pain in the bone marrow when you give your all and end up being stolen. It is very painful. I have said it is not about me, I am just a chombo (a vessel). Some people call me David, we may not have stolen billions but Kenyans will give money to save themselves and save the country.
It is a matter of full consultation because again Kalonzo Musyoka cannot win alone, this is a fact. You know there are people who depend on my candidature to win their constituency seats, gubernatorial seats, MCA seats but I was able to prove to Kenyans you don’t need to be on the ballot to get people winning.
I wasn’t on the ballot and Wiper emerged stronger than ever before. I want to tell people who rely on my brother Raila and cling to him because he must be on the ballot so that they can win. I want to tell them they can win minus my brother Raila being on the ballot but on the other hand, we must give full respect, recognition and support to Raila Odinga.
Q: Raila has given indication that he may run again. In fact, he recanted a statement that appeared like an endorsement for you?
I was there when Raila spoke very kindly about me for which I was very grateful. In fact, he started by saying one of us here (will run) he didn’t say Kalonzo. And let me tell you, Raila is a very astute leader, I know Raila Odinga. He knows me, we can go the same route with Raila unless some devil intervenes you never know. Because this relationship is tested.
Q: Will you go the same route with him if it means backing him again?
Giving up my presidential ambition would actually mean I go home. It is as simple as that. Think about that. That means that is not an option. What it means is that giving up my presidential ambition is not an option. That is basically what I am telling you.
Q: You are confirming you will be on the ballot come what may?
The country is saying so, believe you me we will take William Ruto’s position. This time he’d better be ready. But you cannot say what may come. You don’t talk in absolute terms. Remember there is God in heaven who is listening and probably the author of this conversation. Don’t talk in absolute terms because you will fall into a category of people I call extremists. I have talked about consultation and I am going to move all over the country in 2024. So 2024 is a watershed year for democracy in this country. And it is going to be a total approach to democracy. So you should be prepared for a lot of action in 2024. Political action and also citizen action. Citizens in this country will act either guided by their leaders or on their own volition.
Q: It is not the first time you are making such an ambitious declaration?
There are reasons. When the stars are aligned you can’t. The stars are aligned. Even if you were to be sincere with me in your own mind the stars are aligned.
Q: Your co-principal Martha Karua may feel she is the one to run on Azimio by virtue of being the running in 2022?
Nothing stops Martha from Running. It does not affect her. She can run. Eugene can also run. Who told you before 2027 others will not feel the pressure? But remember that was Raila Odinga’s position. Raila would run regardless, some would drop out. The thing is to take a position now and run. We have to save the nation.
Q: You have been accused of leading the Kamba nation to opposition in successive elections?
Listen, the Kamba nation is part and parcel of Kenya. People I am very proud of. So I don’t lead them, we consult. So if we end up in opposition then so what, inclusivity is an issue whether in government or in opposition. Luos have been in opposition since independence, do they blame Raila? No. They are proud of him.