Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi is walking a tightrope after the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) technical committee reportedly settled on Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka as the best bet to fly the coalition’s flag in the August election.
Impeccable sources within the OKA technical team confided to the Nation that following a critical analysis of various scenarios, Mr Musyoka emerged the best candidate to face off with Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga, who are considered the front runners in the coming elections.
The committee, Nation learnt, agreed that Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi were the best to fly the OKA flag, analysed past election statistics, especially in 2007 and 2013 when the two ran for president respectively, and the Wiper leader emerged with the upper hand.
“We found out that in 2007 when Kalonzo ran for president against Kibaki and Raila, he managed to marshal his backyard as a bloc to vote for him against Mr Mudavadi, whom Raila beat hands down in 2013 election.”
“So with Raila again on the ballot, the committee was convinced that fronting Mudavadi would not bear much fruit as Raila has a good footing in his (Mudavadi’s) western backyard,” a member of the OKA technical team told Nation.Africa
Mr Mudavadi skipped the Friday Naivasha meeting, raising eyebrows from the other principals.
Flirting with ‘Handshake’ team
“Kalonzo, for instance, was of the opinion that Mudavadi ought to have given the crucial meeting even a minute of his time before resuming with the plans for his party’s NDC (National Delegates Convention), which he claimed was the reason he did not turn up in Naivasha,” the official said.
An insider in ANC told Nation.Africa that Mr Mudavadi did not go to Naivasha on the belief that his co principals – particularly Mr Musyoka and Kanu Chairman Gideon Moi were flirting with the ‘Handshake’ team led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
“He argues that some of his co-principals are Azimio apologists remotely controlled by ‘Handshake’,” the source said, referring to the handshake between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga in 2018 -- the truce that ended their political rivalry.
Mr Mudavadi has promised an ‘earth-shaking’ political announcement on January 23, the day of his party’s NDC at the Bomas of Kenya.
The ANC leader, according to multiple interviews with various political players, has at least four options; leaving OKA and running alone, sticking to OKA regardless of who the flag bearer is, join DP Ruto’s camp or team up with Mr Odinga, his preferred candidate in the 2017 elections.
In an interview with Nation yesterday, the ANC leader asked Kenyans to be patient until Sunday when he will make his big announcement.
On claims that the technical committee had settled on Mr Musyoka as the OKA flag bearer, the ANC leader said the deliberations were going on, and that the committee’s chairman, Mr Sammy Karanja’s statement on the matter was clear.
Mr Mudavadi also denied allegations that there were cracks in the alliance following parallel meetings by Wiper and ANC on Sunday.
On Sunday, Mr Musyoka led his brigade to Meru, while Mr Mudavadi camped in Nyamira for campaigns.
“He (Kalonzo) had a function, I had a function, and we cannot be at every function together. Surely, we cannot be in every function, every day, every time together,” Mr Mudavadi said.
Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat said that whereas they were giving Mr Mudavadi the benefit of the doubt over claims he was leaning towards Dr Ruto, “we have seen who the weak link is in this OKA organisation”.
“Of course we give him the benefit of doubt because most of this is based on (Cleophas) Malala attending two of the DP’s functions in Mumias and Eldoret, but let’s wait for Mudavadi to say which direction he will take because everything right now is speculation.
“However, one thing I can tell you, try going it alone, you cannot succeed, you can only succeed if you go as a team and that’s what Kanu is up to,” said Mr Salat.
Dr Ruto is, however, said to have reached out to Mr Mudavadi with an offer for a possible coalition in the August elections.
The two, the Nation has learnt, have been holding secret talks on how their parties can work together and form an alliance in the upcoming elections.
The talks are highly guarded, with the lieutenants of the two leaders not involved, although some of those from the DP’s side are aware of what is going on, albeit with scanty detail.
According to sources who spoke to the Nation, Dr Ruto has met the ANC boss and has also had a phone conversation with him on how to handle the August elections together.
A reliable source in Mr Mudavadi's inner circle told the Nation that the DP met his party leader on Monday last week until 2am.
Allies of the two leaders said that while the negotiations were still in the early stages, the DP has reached out to the ANC leader on multiple occasions, including through lengthy phone conversations where the two have discussed ways in which they can partner to win the elections.
In the talks, the DP is said to have expressed his interest in joining forces with Mr Mudavadi with the aim of upsetting Mr Odinga by eating up his support base, including in Western Kenya where he enjoys substantial support.
Mr Mudavadi on the other hand, is said to be keen on finding a formula that would guarantee him a win for the presidency, or positions in the next government at the very least. He also wants the DP not to field his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) candidates in his stronghold.
“Yes talks are going on between Ruto and Mudavadi, no one else is involved. They have been meeting and one thing we cannot allow is zoning of the region. Let everyone be allowed to field candidates,” Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, an ally of Dr Ruto, told Nation.
“Discussions are currently going on between DP Ruto and Musalia. It is premature to say what UDA is offering the ANC,” said Bumula MP Mwambu Mabongah.
In an interview with the Nation, Mr Mudavadi played down the claims, saying that even Mr Odinga had hinted at working with him.
Indications of the negotiations began about two weeks ago, after Mr Malala, the Kakamega senator, raised speculation over his associations with Dr Ruto, including last weekend’s attendance of the UDA rally in Eldoret.
Mr Malala said that he had the blessings of the Luhya nation to establish political friendship with the Kalenjin community moving into the August elections.
“If you see Malala speaking, just know that it is the Mulembe nation speaking. If you see me here, I have not come here for my personal interest, I have come here as a representative of the Luhya community to request friendship so that we can work together,” he said.
This comes after UDA Secretary General Veronica Maina said that now that it was in the public domain that the DP has invited both Mr Mudavadi and his Ford Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang'ula, both One Kenya Alliance (OKA) principals, for talks on how to approach the elections, the party was waiting for their response.
“As to how we will work, we do not dictate too much to people, we discuss with people. We are a people-centered party. If it reaches a point that the offer has been accepted then we would tell them how we would like to work it out and they tell us how they want it,” said Ms Maina.
Although ANC national chairman Kelvin Lunani said he was not aware of any invitation from Dr Ruto’s side for talks, the party would be willing and ready only if the DP is ready to endorse Mr Mudavadi.
“We are ready to have talks with them under one condition. Let them rally behind Musalia’s presidency,” he told the Nation.
ANC’s demand to Dr Ruto’s party is set to complicate talks between the two camps, with UDA chairman Johnston Muthama disclosing that UDA would only listen to ideas supporting the party’s presidential ambition, and not power sharing.
“Talking to other like-minded parties does not mean they come for a coalition. It might mean that they join a big movement if you feel that your movement does not make any impact. Secondly, the formation of a coalition is not about sharing positions but coming together to serve Kenyans,” said Mr Muthama.
The former Machakos senator said the party’s focus was not only on Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula, but all Kenyans who are willing to support their State House bid.
Lurambi MP Titus Khamala, a confidant of Mr Mudavadi, said the decision on who ANC will work with in the elections will not be determined by an individual, but all supporters of the party.
“That decision will not be of just a person. We have millions of followers who will have to sit down. There is also a meeting of NDC to pass such resolutions, therefore, Mudavadi is intact in the race at the moment. Even those who have defected to Azimio, they have not ditched ANC,” said Mr Khamala in an interview.
But the talks are already causing friction and divisions within ANC, with others terming an alliance with UDA as political suicide for the ANC party.
Yet others have argued that an alliance with Dr Ruto would give Mr Mudavadi a better chance at winning the presidency.
“People have been criminalising anyone that is seen talking to William Ruto. But what they fail to understand is that it is our democratic right to have political friends. We are in a season of political transfers and when the right time comes, we will engage with everyone else, including William Ruto,” Mr Malala said.
The Kakamega senator added that while Mr Mudavadi remained ANC’s preference for the presidency, they would not rule out embracing UDA, should the One Kenya Alliance fail to come up with a presidential candidate next month.
“Our current position is that we are in OKA and we have given them up until next month to tell us who our presidential candidate will be. The political reality right now is that Mudavadi is the most suited and the ideal candidate for the presidency. But be that as it may, we are also open to talks with other leaders, including the Deputy President,” Mr Malala said.
But others, like ANC Secretary-general Simon Kamau, are of the opinion that backing Mr Mudavadi for the presidency is the only sure bet for the party.
“ANC is ready to initiate talks with Ruto’s camp as long as they are willing to support Mudavadi for presidency,” Mr Kamau said.
In case Mr Mudavadi joins DP Ruto’s camp, allies of the country’s second-in-command are likely to rescind their initial position on his running mate.
According to Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, who is also former Majority Whip in the National Assembly, it remains an uphill task for the DP’s allies from Western region to demand a running mate position when they are not coming on board as a bloc.
He says that if the ANC boss and Mr Wetang’ula join them, it could be an advantage for Western over other regions.
“People who have let us down here are Musalia and Wetang’ula because of their political level. We thought they could come to work with us so that we can push for this position,” he had told the Nation in an earlier interview.
“Given the kind of support the DP is having, he will definitely succeed President Kenyatta. if we do not come up with big numbers to support him, it will not count. I do not think that we will reach a point where a few of us will force him to pick one of us to deputise him. Again, it is a game of numbers, if we are not counting in terms of numbers, how we will push for running mate. It will be unfair,” Mr Washiali added.