As the National Super Alliance (NASA) prepares to take over the leadership of this country come the August of this year, only one man can be credited for the same; Amani national Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi. Indeed, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka at some point paid tribute and eulogized Mudavadi as the man who has “literally brought freshness into opposition”.
That “freshness” is acknowledgement that Mudavadi didn’t just cobble up a new outfit but painstakingly conceptualized NASA and marketed it among the people first. Before the political class got a whiff of it, it was too late to ignore NASA other than jump on board.
Always referred to as the gentleman of Kenyan politics, Mudavadi has come a long way in the political journey that has seen all manner of characters including journalists, political spin-masters and outright political foes offer their two-pence worth of opinion on him. But a quick look at the political history of Musalia Mudavadi paints a different picture all together. He was not only one of the youngest Cabinet Ministers ever appointed in Kenya, but also had a sterling career as Minister for Marketing and Supplies, Finance, Agriculture, Transport and Telecommunications, Vice President and Minister of Home Affairs and lastly Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Government.
After the 2002 general elections, many pundits saw it as the end to his political career when he chose to go against the grain by ignoring the NARC wave that swept him out of parliament. Had they won under KANU, Mudavadi would have been the Vice-President but seemingly lost everything. However, Mudavadi has explained his choice then as influenced partly by loyalty and pragmatism.
“I could not withhold support for then President Moi given long family history when he pleaded I support Uhuru Kenyatta. I also sensed that NARC was based on a fickle union of convenience that would breakup sooner. Contrary to propaganda then, I had neither prepared myself nor announced interest in the presidency”.
And as fate would have it, NARC could not hold together leading to the formation of the Orange movement, where he played a key role that saw him rise to the Deputy party leader position. It didn’t matter that both came from the western region, Mudavadi as running mate to Raila Odinga galvanized not only his Luhya community vote, but dug into his goodwill across ethnic lines to bring a windfall of votes to the stolen ODM victory in 2007.
In the 2013 election, Mudavadi emerged third trailing Raila and eventual winner Uhuru Kenyatta. The dismal performance was largely a result of the “borrowed” UDF party he led then and his late entry into the race. His candidature was also smeared badly by a failed agreement in which Uhuru stepped down as candidate only to renege on it. As that wasn’t enough, the then opposition coalition CORD, had a field day denting and painting his candidature as sponsored by the same Jubilee that had jinxed him.
However, unfazed with the result Mudavadi attributed the poor performance to CORD and Jubilee forces that ganged up against him. As explained by his private secretary and director of communications, “Mudavadi was pummeled by both sides. I know his votes were wantonly stolen to beef up both coalitions’ numbers. For instance, UDF agents were locked out in Jubilee areas while CORD made sure they bought off his agents to look the other way in some places”.
Kabatesi says Mudavadi may look harmless but he is made up of steel. “The saying ‘still waters run deep’ aptly describe Mudavadi’s resilience. He never lets a slip get in his way. While the motive of Uhuru reneging on the pact was meant to remove him from the race, he picked up the pieces and soldiered on. A weak cowardly individual would never have done that. He would have thrown in the towel”, recalls Kabatesi.
Anyhow many questions have been asked how then Mudavadi would after elections enter into a cooperation agreement with the duo of Uhuruto even after the monumental let down. Worse, the MPs he helped get elected turned on him with unprovoked venom.
“There were the first-time baby MPs led by Mumias East’s Ben Washiali, Navakholo’s Emannuel Wangwe and Ikolomani’s Ben Shinali who wanted a fast buck from Jubilee and got impenitent with his stalling, and finally relocated to Jubilee. Then there were the Bonny Khalwale-George Khaniri Senator twins who disparaged him despite participating in a vote for the cooperation”, says Kabatesi
Again, it speaks to Mudavadi’s perseverance and resilience in the face of monstrous adversity that he kept his cool, never confronting the Senate duo but focusing on how to detach him from the Jubilee smear. He founded Amani National Congress (ANC) Party under adversity but without as much as sulking after Jubilee had plotted to render him party less by instigating a dispute over his status in UDF. As with other political initiatives, ANC quickly became the talk of the town as it took on ODM in the western region and scooped MCAs, MPs, A Governor and Senator in the intervening amendment on party hoping last year that saw UDF fold.
Then came the signing of the NASA Coalition deal that yet again was a milestone in his political career. NASA is his brain child and convincing the then CORD partners in ODM, WIPER and FORD-K to join him wasn’t a walk in the park. First, they were reluctant by the mere fact that it was purely his idea and hence giving him all the credit for the opposition unity. Secondly, egos played a part in some leaders seeing NASA as an obstacle to their ambition to the presidency.
It is also worth noting that previously, some quarters have opined that Mudavadi has always had an easy go and not known to fight for anything. But his central role in the formation of NASA tells a different story of a different kind of politician. The man has since risen above the project tag that was put on his head in 2013 to play a central role in providing direction to a randerless opposition. CORD had grown stale and the country needed a rejuvenated opposition not just for show but with potential to win elections. Mudavadi’s injection into opposition provides the greatest opportunity for NASA to make history as the first outfit to defeat an incumbent and make him one-term president in Kenya.
As Prof Makau ones wrote, Mudavadi is what the opposition needed to eject Jubilee from power. He has the gravitas and the fortitude to be trusted. This has been evident in his on-spot criticism of the Jubilee government as incompetent and that it thrives on the currency of deceit and deception. This has since changed perception of many Kenyans about him and has seen the man become a darling of the opposition supporters.