With the 2017 General Election less than eight months away, Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka finds himself in almost the same situation he faced heading into the last two general elections.
As in 2007 and 2013, Mr Musyoka is unsure whether or not he will be on the presidential ballot come August 8 next year.
With eight months to the 2007 General Election, Mr Musyoka found himself in strikingly similar circumstances as today. Then, he was a key member of the Orange movement which, save for current Deputy President William Ruto, brought together the same players as the ones coalescing under the yet to be formed National Super Alliance – Cord leader Raila Odinga and his Amani National Congress (ANC) counterpart Musalia Mudavadi.
The only exception then was that Cord’s third principal, Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula was on the other side of the political divide.
It was not until August 2007 that Mr Musyoka bolted out of the movement and decided to go it alone, on the ticket of the breakaway Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya (ODM-K) ticket following irreconcilable differences with his colleagues.
Mr Odinga on the other hand clinched the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket to run for the presidency after edging out Mr Mudavadi, Mr Ruto and former cabinet minister Joseph Nyagah during the party’s primaries held at the Kasarani stadium on September 1, 2007.
Mr Musyoka, enjoying a solid Kamba vote managed to garner a decent 879,899 votes to finish behind Mr Odinga’s 4,352,860 votes and Mr Kibaki’s 4,578,034 votes.
He promptly teamed up with Mr Kibaki to form the government and was appointed Vice President even as the country burnt following protests from Mr Odinga’s supporters that his victory had been stolen.
Fast forward to 2013 and Mr Musyoka finds himself in almost similar circumstances barely four months to the March 4 General Election.
Last time around, Mr Musyoka was banking his hopes on then President Kibaki’s endorsement and the goodwill of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to hand him the ticket.
Things would dramatically change barely four months to the General Election when Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto elbowed him out of the alliance.
Isolated, Mr Musyoka had no choice but to enter into a marriage of convenience with Mr Odinga and Mr Wetang’ula, the Wiper leader as the running mate to the former Prime Minister.
Ahead of the next election, Mr Musyoka’s supporters are convinced that their man stands his best chance to ascend to the country’s leadership as the united opposition’s presidential flagbearer, thanks to a combination of factors.
According to Wiper Secretary-General and Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar, Mr Musyoka is far better prepared to take a stab at the presidency than during the last two general election.
“Kalonzo remains a factor in 2017 whichever way you look at Kenya’s politics. And unlike in 2007 and in 2013, this time round, Kalonzo is better prepared,” says Mr Omar. In contrast to 2013 when he relied on the good conscience of retired President Mwai Kibaki or endorsement from Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto, this time he is not taking anything for granted, says Mr Omar.
“That is why Kalonzo has gone around the country marketing himself and even sought endorsement from the Wiper Party to run for the presidency. Today, he has a much bigger national appeal than ever witnessed before and has set up a much better and energised campaign machinery,” he says.
Kakamega senator and Ford Kenya Deputy Party Leader Boni Khalwale agrees.
“Kalonzo is a bigger factor today than he was in 2007 and 2013 because today, he has managed to consolidate support in his community unlike in the past when he would plead with Kambas to support him,” says Dr Khalwale.
“We have seen situations where Kalonzo is reading the riot act to politicians who he feels are not toeing the line and we have seen them humiliated in broad daylight so the guy is much stronger than he has ever been. That is why he remains a very big factor in Kenya’s politics going into the next General Election. You ignore him at your own peril,” he said.
But Machakos Town MP Victor Munyaka, a former ally turned foe, maintains that Mr Musyoka’s fortunes depend on the choices he makes ahead of the elections.
“Kalonzo will still be a factor in the next elections whether in the Opposition or on the Jubilee side. If he remains in the Opposition and goes as a running mate to any of the other leaders such as Raila, Mudavadi or even Wetang’ula, he will be lucky to garner 50 per cent of the Kamba vote because Kambas are headed to Jubilee,” Dr Munyaka argues.
“But if he ditches the Opposition and joins UhuRuto, even as a very junior partner, he will deliver the entire Ukambani vote because that is where the community is headed anyway. Those are the scenarios so he has a choice to make,” he adds. Aware of the fight for space in the emerging opposition alliance dubbed National Super Alliance, Mr Musyoka is fashioning his bid for the presidential ticket around the “sacrifices” he has made in the past.
Speaking at the Safaricom Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi when his Wiper Party gave him the go ahead to run for the presidency in 2017 only last Wednesday, an unusually abrasive Mr Musyoka stated: “I do not want to be called watermelon again. It used to be said that I can’t sacrifice my candidature but I have proved that wrong. I’m not saying that I can’t sacrifice anymore but we cannot stop what God has purposed.”
He went on: “This time is for change and I am the face of that change.”
With barely eight months to the General Election, it remains to be seen whether or not Mr Musyoka will finally get his chance to fly the Opposition’s flag or bolt out and go it alone once again.