All eyes are on ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi as he announces his presidential bid today with his supporters hoping that he will live up to the promise of causing an “earthquake” in the political landscape ahead of the August elections.
The Nation understands that the agreement within the party, as voiced by the likes of Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, is that whether running under the auspices of One Kenya Alliance (OKA) or not, Mr Mudavadi will declare that he is firmly in the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta, and this may cause an implosion within the alliance, according to the other partners.
After being unveiled as the party flagbearer, Mr Mudavadi is expected to kick off a whirlwind tour of western Kenya in a mission that is designed to consolidate his support in a region assumed to be his home base.
Although no dates have been provided, his handlers say the tour will start in Trans Nzoia County, into Bungoma, Busia, Vihiga and culminate with a major rally at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega County in which the pro-Mudavadi group will seek to undo the gains of Bukhungu II rally in which the ANC leader was stripped off his mantle as the Luhya spokesman on the ground that he had abdicated duty.
Mr Malala has been quoted saying that the OKA technical committee will not be supported if the ANC leader is not fronted as the alliance's presidential candidate.
"The only formula we shall accept is that which fronts Mudavadi as the presidential candidate," Mr Malala declared, in remarks that are perceived to explain the ANC boss personal feelings.
But some of his partners in OKA are already warning him against taking an extreme position as that may prove counter-productive in the long run with questions emerging if his will be a credible ticket or a spoiler hoisted by other forces to force a particular poll outcome.
“We have received the invitations. Several of our members will attend. OKA was created by them (the principals). If they want to break it, it is up to them. However, the consequences of shaking the earth too much are obvious – you can easily be swallowed by earth,” Mr Kalonzo Musyoka’s close ally and Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior said.
There had been indications that DP Ruto would be attending today’s fete but his press secretary Emmanuel Talam Saturday said his boss had no such intentions.
“Musalia is his opponent in the coming elections. How can he attend the rival’s event?” Mr Talam posed.
In a reciprocal move, some of Ruto’s allies are expected at the event in what may confirm the talk that the two politicians have a pact. What the Nation is yet to establish is whether it is a post or pre- election agreement, what could trigger the disintegration of OKA.
In a well-choreographed pattern, Dr Ruto attended a soccer tournament organised by Mr Malala in Mumias on New Year’s Eve. Mr Malala would in turn attend the DP’s political rally in Eldoret and suggested he was there with the permission of Mr Mudavadi.
On whether the party had sent out an invite to the deputy president or his allies as had been reported elsewhere, ANC Secretary-General Simon Gikuru was non-committal, only saying that all friends of the party had been invited to the event.
“We have invited all Kenyans who believe in an equitable society and we will be persuading them that there is a better option in Musalia Mudavadi who believes in the young people and the aspirations of all Kenyans,” said Mr Gikuru, who was in the company of Mr Malala and other party officials.
Mr Gikuru said that the party had invited 6,000 delegates to today’s national delegates’ conference.
Both Mr Mudavadi and his co-principal in OKA, Moses Wetang’ula, prefer teaming up with the Deputy President as opposed to ODM leader Raila Odinga whom they accuse of betrayal.
“What Raila and his team did to me in the Senate was so humiliating and definitely, it did not hurt me a lot but it hurt many people because I represent many people. There is considerable reluctance among my party’s rank and file in walking the same path of betrayals and humiliations before” Mr Wetang’ula said.
Even though both Mr Odinga and DP Ruto have opened unassailable lead going by pollsters, Mr Mudavadi’s late entry into the race cannot be ignored.
Mr Odinga’s base is the most worried even as his handlers appear to dismiss Mr Musalia’s bid as inconsequential. Most of the votes Mr Mudavadi could attract will be peeled from the regions that Mr Odinga has traditionally enjoyed massive support, which could complicate the numbers for the presidential and even parliamentary seats. While he may not win the presidency given the current trends, his ticket, especially if supported by the rest of OKA principals, may deny either Dr Ruto or Mr Odinga an outright win in the process forcing a run off.
A key Ruto ally told the Nation that their leader would be richer if Mr Mudavadi can manage to deny Mr Odinga’s at least 30 per cent of the Luhya vote. To that extent, he argues, they will accord the ANC leader any support he needs even without his express consent, even if it means not attacking him in their quest for votes.
OKA is split almost midway, one faction led by Mr Musyoka and the other by Mr Mudavadi and its fate will be decided by what he says today. In private, Mr Mudavadi complains that OKA suffers from state capture with some of his colleagues being too close to the president to an extent they can’t discuss or plan anything without Kenyatta being briefed about it.
Mr Cyrus Jirongo, another principal, told us that while he does not know what Mr Mudavadi will say, he will attend but went ahead to warn that, “He has put himself in a corner with this earthquake talk. He has to come up with something that’s amiable, something that does not show bitterness.”
Former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende, who has lately been attending OKA meetings, has warned Mr Mudavadi against working with DP Ruto, terming his track record as wanting and that the western region is not receptive to Ruto’s presidency.
“That luxury of being undecided is not there. We are not giving him that option as a community and as western leaders. I have advised Mudavadi against working with the Deputy President and if he insists on doing so, he will be alone because the region is not pro-Ruto,’’ Mr Marende, who is rooting for an alliance with Mr Odinga said.
Both Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto have been courting Mr Mudavadi to back up their presidential bid ahead of the election.
The Bukhungu II rally, which was organised by Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli on the eve of the New Year, also hoisted Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya as the community’s spokesman besides endorsing ODM leader Raila Odinga as the region’s choice for the 2022 presidential race.
The developments have rubbed the Mudavadi team the wrong way. He is hoping to use the tour to undo all that happened on that day in the hope it will help sway the locals to his side and possibly support his bid for the presidency, the second time after the unsuccessful attempt in 2013.
“We want to consolidate the western Kenya voting block before looking out,” said a member of ANC who spoke on condition that he is not named.
However, Mr Atwoli laughed off the plan to hold a rally at Bukhungu, describing it as an afterthought and one that has little value in the already established political trajectory the region has taken.
“He can’t sway the public sentiments in western Kenya,” Mr Atwoli said rather dismissively, pointing out that they have in the past piled pressure on the ANC leader to consolidate the Luhya vote to no avail.
If he elects to disregard OKA and go it alone, it will not be the first time the ANC leader will be pulling such a move.
Observers say that while going alone could effectively kill OKA, it will place the former deputy prime minister in sharp political eye and rekindle the memories of his past political fluffs that have reduced to an object of politically derision.
Critics believe that the announcement is coming too little too late, at a time when his own backyard appears to lack confidence in his bid for the presidency after the 2013 experiment.
At least five ANC MPs have quit the party and joined Mr Odinga’s Azimio movement, portending the impending trouble for Mr Mudavadi as he prepares to contest the presidency. They accuse him of taking too long to make up his mind or give them direction.
Apart from Lugari MP Ayub Savula, MPs Oku Kaunya (Teso North), Oscar Nabulindo (Matungu), Chris Aseka (Khwisero) and Omboko Milemba (Emuhaya) appear to be openly drifting away.
Mr Savula had no kind words for today’s meeting at Bomas, declaring that he will not attend.
“I cannot be party to an event that will take to political oblivion. I am tired of the opposition,” he said, claiming that by insisting on being on the ballot Mr Mudavadi’s is being motivated by anger that could prove fatal.
In 2012, Mudavadi abandoned ODM on ground that it was “not democratic”.
He went on to join the United Democratic Front (UDF), contested the 2013 presidential election in which he ended up distant third with 483,981 votes, translating into 4 per cent of the total votes cast.
He would then form his own ANC in 2015 after a spat with the founders of UDF, only to direct his support to the National Super Alliance (Nasa) led by Mr Odinga.
He abandoned in 2020 Nasa because of what he described as a “trust deficit.”
He then joined OKA and committed to support whoever will be chosen to be the best qualified person to carry its flag but when he recently realised that the technical committee formed to help identify the suitable candidate appeared to favour Mr Musyoka at least going by sources from within the committee, Mr Mudavadi skipped the meeting where the committee report was to be handed over to OKA leaders and declared himself as the only “qualified person” carry the flag.
Additional reporting by Silas Apollo