Musalia Mudavadi’s announcement of his party of choice to contest the presidency may have ended the anxiety for his supporters and the turbulence in ODM. But it has left many unanswered questions about his political style and leadership ethos that he will still have to deal with on the campaign trail.
Yes, Mudavadi has a right like anyone else to seek the presidency and the end may justify the means by which he gets there. But he has not convincingly explained his reason for ditching ODM. Everyone knows the party had acceded to his arbitrary demands – opening up the ODM presidential candidate to a fair and open, county-based nomination. Arbitrary because they violated the party’s statutes and were presented with threats designed to portray the party as autocratic.
The inevitable conclusion is that Mudavadi is and was scared of competition or facing off with Raila Odinga. He has behaved like a boxer who jogs around the ring menacingly but when the bell is sounded he tells the referee that he is underweight. The much-awaited bout only been postponed because Raila has earned a bye to the next round and the duel is surely coming.
With Mudavadi gone, ODM will abandon the exercise of amending its co to appease anyone and proceed to nominate the party leader to race for the presidency. Musalia has to shed the image of a coward who wants to ride free and prepare for the battle of his lifetime. His move to UDFP has definitely raised the stakes to equal Raila’s; now each of them desperately needs to win the presidency to prove a point.
Mudavadi’s move, however, raises serious questions about the integrity and democratic ethos of our political leaders. If Mudavadi’s main gripe and reason for quitting ODM is lack of democracy, what is democratic about moving to a party and being adopted as a candidate without competition? What is fresh about those MPs that paraded at the launch?
If he wants to look different, Mudavadi must also walk his talk. A new beginning cannot be achieved with old habits. Having declared his loyalty and membership to UDFP, he should proceed to resign from ODM, which he has accused of dictatorship, and seek re-election as required by the Political Parties Act.
He cannot stop at resigning as ODM deputy party leader and minister for Local Government and cling on to the position of DPM. That’s cruel deception of the public — the position of the Deputy Prime Minister of Kenya is ODM’s by express provision of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act. The holder is a nominee of the coalition partner and his appointment by the President is a formality contingent upon nomination by the party. Mudavadi should at least have some fidelity to the rule of law and stop gerrymandering if he expects to earn respect.
It is good that Mudavadi has stepped out early enough to enable the public judge the character of his leadership. The next six months will prove what he can offer. It has become routine for politicians to accuse leaders of parties from which they decamp of authoritarianism only for the same charges to dog them wherever they sojourn.
It did not take long for William Ruto to face the same accusations of dictatorship when he joined the UDM, and more recently URP. Meaning there is more to political leadership and party management that many politicians want us to believe. It takes more than gloves and tenderness to keep boisterous and ambitious politicians together. Hopefully, Mudavadi will steer the UDF in such an exemplary manner as to shame ODM and other parties he has accused of dictatorial tendencies, intrigue, divisive and polarising politics, so we can all troop to polling stations and make him president.
But I fear the road is unlikely to be that smooth. If a man is judged by the company he keeps, the galaxy of politicians that attended the launch is a fine narrative of where Mudavadi is going and what to expect. Political survivors, opportunists and curious, incredulous incumbents and aspirants unsure of their political future dominate the UDFP bus. They are desperate for a euphoric wave on which to ride back to parliament or revamp their dead political careers. Their common denominator is continuity of the status quo. There is no ideology or higher ideals here, rhetoric about change and democracy notwithstanding. Nor is there anything fresh or national about UDFP. Its rather an acrid mix of everything – Kanu, ODM, PNU and others.
But who cares? As Jeremiah Kioni unwittingly told Mudavadi “this party has very nice nomination rules that will make you win…” May be that’s all that matters at this point.
By David Makali: The writer is the director, The Media Institute