Exactly two months ago, the Weekend Star correctly predicted that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Government Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi would decamp from ODM and head to the waiting arms United Democratic Forum (UDF) a party created by Nick Gatheru Wanjohi, University of Nairobi Professor of Political Science and a long time strategist for retired President Daniel arap Moi and now President Mwai Kibaki.
That is what happened two days ago, when Mudavadi publicly proclaimed that he had identified UDF as his party of choice, in which he would, now henceforth pursue his presidential ambitions, as the party practised internal democracy, unlike his former party, ODM. With that announcement, Musalia severed his links with a party that had salvaged and breathed life back into his political fortunes that had been, in 2002, crushed almost indefinitely. He also preempted his sacking from his ministerial portfolio, by resigning as a Minister for Local Government.
With his official announcement that finally cut the umbilical cord that tied him to ODM and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, it looks like the first phase of that stratagem is complete. Prof Wanjohi, according to impeccable sources who sought anonymity, had foreseen the rise of a Third Force in the emerging political landscape.
So what next for Musalia? After freeing himself from the clutches of ODM, Musalia’s first task was to have a working lunch with his new minders, the UDF mandarins at the Inter-Continental Hotel. About 25 politicians attended the strictly-by-invitation lunch that included the likes of Mark Too, Lee Kinyanjui, Abdikadir Mohamed, Najib Balala, Charles Kilonzo, Ndiritu Muriithi and Bonny Khalwale. The first assignment of the brief lunch, which took less than an hour, was to plan for the first UDF political meeting with Musalia in Nakuru town.
If the first phase was to remove DPM Musalia from ODM and settle him in a home that had already been prepared psychologically that he would be its undisputed presidential candidate, surely the second phase is to find a running mate for him. Sources intimated to the writer that after Musalia signalled that he was intent on leaving ODM, he met with both Peter Kenneth, the presidential aspirant of Kenya National Congress (KNC) and recently sacked Minister for Tourism, Najib Balala.
Of the two personalities that Musalia ostensibly met, the political radar zeroed more on Kenneth and less on Balala. Even though, the ever discreet Kenneth skipped Musalia’s public announcement of his new home, which Balala gladly attended.
Be that as it may, why would the latest presidential candidate entrant engage another presidential candidate, who had even announced his bid a while ago? According to a close confidante of Peter Kenneth, who was privy to these meetings, Kenneth, his presidential ambitions notwithstanding, “is currently, the best running mate to any presidential candidate worth his name.” He is non-confrontational; he has got no known political enemies; and he hails from the biggest ethnic community in the country - never mind his public political protestations that he is a Kenyan. His public service record in Gatanga is praiseworthy and lastly, he is attractive - whichever way you want to look at it.
That is why for the longest time, his name rightly or wrongly has been associated with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, as one of his possible running mates. Kenneth claims this “obnoxious” notion has been planted by his political detractors bent on poisoning the minds of the Kikuyu people that he is wants to “sell” the community’s birthright to the Luos.
Listening to Kenneth speak, one is left with no doubt he is intent on giving the presidency a stab and has said unequivocally and categorically that he is his own man, who in fact in the very near future will unveil his running mate. The crux of the matter is that Kenneth’s presidential bid has been tottering and is yet to taxi off. This is despite many assurances that it is just a matter of time, given to his eager supporters, some of whom are already frustrated with his apparent procrastination and indecisiveness.
The seemingly slow-paced presidential campaign by Peter Kenneth, which now may be eclipsed by the entry of Musalia Mudavadi, does not animate his supporters, many of who accuse him of lacking fire under his belly, which oftentimes has prevented him from seizing some political moments and running away with them. It has, for example, been disheartening to his core support base that he did not come out fully to empathise with the misfortunes of the Ocampo Six, now Ocampo Four, really Ocampo Two, which would have ensured that they do not view him as a political antagonist, but as a trusted comrade-in-arms.
Thus, although he has relentlessly sought to brand himself as a Kenyan - just the other day he reminded people in Kisii that “you cannot even tell what tribe I am from by my two names” - the truth of the matter is that the majority of his people, the Kikuyu have unfortunately branded him otherwise. Just for the record, the Kikuyu community command the largest voter block in the country and no politician hoping to be president, can pretend not to notice this fact. Or indeed, when the community develops a political cold shoulder towards a presidential aspirant, that particular presidential contender should pose to ask why the people are antagonistic to him or her.
Inexorably, like his counterpart Martha Karua, who also hails from the greater Central region and who is also seeking the presidency, Kenneth in the eyes of the Kikuyu people, should not even be thinking of running for presidency - not when his “fraternity” political brother Uhuru, is undergoing the tragedy of facing a life-threatening criminal case in a faraway land in the cold wintry Europe.
By and large, the Kikuyu people, in a manner of speaking, find Kenneth then unsympathetic to Uhuru’s predicament. It could be an ill-informed perception, but then that is why it is remains a perception. The other reason could be just a case of bad timing. If the unspoken feeling of many Kenyans is that it would be politically unwise for another Kikuyu to assume presidency after President Kibaki, then Kenneth’s bid for all intent and purposes is headed to naught.
It is therefore because of possibly these reasons that close friends and confidantes have been encouraging and urging Kenneth to accept to be Musalia’s running mate and bide his time, if he truly desires to be the president of Kenya one day. The proposition for Kenneth to be Musalia’s running mate has also come in the nick of good time for Kenneth. First, he has, according to close friends, been wondering how to shake-off the false assertion that he will finally end up as Raila Odinga’s running mate. By accepting to meet Musalia, Kenneth was ostensibly sending very clear signals that he has nothing to do with the Prime Minister and possibly everything to do with his increasing legion of enemies.
If it ends up that Kenneth will be the running mate of Musalia Mudavadi, he will be in good company. Musalia’s newest home is run by one of Kenneth’s good friend - Abdikadir Hussein Mohamed - the youthful Mandera Central MP. Kenneth and Abdikadir go along way before 2007 General Elections, where they belonged to a group of youthful candidates who were gunning for MP slots countrywide and whose other ambition was to influence the running of the affairs of the state once in parliament.
Yet, as close friends seek to convince Kenneth to suspend his presidential ambitions and join forces with Musalia, so as to defeat Raila Odinga, immediate difficulties and paradoxes arise: Can Peter Kenneth abandon his party KNC, which he worked extra hard to ensure that it is compliant with the Political Parties Act and which he is currently busy popularising all over the country to join UDF?
That aside, the test of Kenneth’s friendship with Abdikadir will be fundamentally tested if what the political grapevine is currently peddling is true - that the Mandera Central MP is equally up to the task of being a running mate to any credible and serious candidate.
Abdikadir is a central cog in the wheels of UDF. Unlike Kenneth, he has not publicly declared his interest in the presidential race. Yet like Kenneth, he has an enviable public image of an amiable, youthful MP with an attractive look that endears him to a section of cross-cultural Kenyans, who want to prove that Kenyans can indeed vote for a politician who is cut above the rest, when it comes to ethnicity and religion.
Abdikadir’s biggest selling point so far, is that here is a guy you can trust with the country’s constitution. He considers himself a Kenyan. He is from a minority group - therefore political affirmative action would easily sell to rest of the Kenyan communities. He is a youthful, intelligent fellow, who is ready to be a nationalist.
So, if he also stakes his claim as a legitimate running mate contender to Musalia, he possibly will be up against a person who has been his political friend for several years now. But who says politicians must always remain friends in their pursuit of power and influence?
By The Star: Prof Nick Wanjohi, the founder of United Democratic Forum and a long-time strategist of former President Moi and now President Kibaki had foreseen the rise of a Third Force in the emerging political landscape.