He came around when the Cord trio of Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula had been running around the country for four years galvanizing support for the Opposition and badly needed to be re-energised. Mr Musalia Mudavadi willingly joined them, giving the team fresh impetus, and now his backers want him to fly Nasa’s presidential ticket.
In Mr Musyoka’s very own words: “We have worked hard all this while and have been progressing just fine. But we appreciate the arrival of our brother Mudavadi, whom we realise has actually been the missing link in our efforts. We now feel energised.”
And Mr Mudavadi did not join the opposition outfit empty-handed. He did so with a team of political lieutenants, a crowd of supporters from his Amani National Congress and to crown it all, an additional new umbrella outfit — Nasa.
“The very fact that Nasa is his brain child means he starts off on the negotiation table ahead of the pack. But it is more than that. By eating humble pie after falling out with his opposition colleagues in the last poll, Mudavadi has demonstrated leadership and maturity,” observes Ms Angela Ambitho, a political analyst and CEO of Infotrack pollster.
This gesture notwithstanding, some of the Cord co-principals did not receive Mr Mudavadi with open arms, as demonstrated in their first public appearance during the unveiling of Nasa at the Bomas of Kenya in January. The get-together was tense and punctuated by protocol hitches.
NO MENTION OF NASA
Mr Mudavadi spoke first at the event and when Mr Musyoka and Mr Wetang’ula rose to speak, they made no mention of Nasa. Clearly, the two Cord leaders were neither enthusiastic about the entry of Mr Mudavadi, who was bound to crowd them out, nor his new Nasa outfit.
The rather unreceptive experience did not persuade the Amani leader to turn his back on the Cord trio. Instead he stuck in there and eventually won the trust of Mr Odinga, Mr Musyoka and Mr Wetang’ula, who might have initially suspected Mr Mudavadi was luring them into a trap by asking them to discard their Cord outfit and embrace his new one. And therein lie some of Mudavadi’s key political strengths — tolerance, determination and trustworthiness.
MOST TRUSTED POLITICIAN
Former Forestry and Wildlife minister Noah Wekesa, who has for long worked with Mr Mudavadi in previous governments, singles him out as the most trusted and straightforward politician of the four Nasa presidential hopefuls.
“Although I belong to the rival Jubilee political formation and it is not in my interest to advise Nasa on their best bet, I am certain they cannot go wrong with Mudavadi. He is relatively cleaner than his competitors and he stands out on account of integrity,” observes Dr Wekesa, who served as co-chair of the Jubilee National Steering Committee that executed the merger process of parties friendly to President Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, late last year.
VALUABLE TEAM PLAYER
Mr Mudavadi’s deputy at ANC, Kipruto arap Kirwa, separately points to the one-time Vice-President’s “rare capacity for accommodation of other players,” as a major advantage that should easily propel him to the leadership of Nasa.
“Unlike some of the presidential aspirants, Mudavadi does not scare away some of the extreme elements within the rival camps,” argues Mr Kirwa, a former Agriculture minister and MP for Cherengany.
According to the ANC deputy party leader, Mr Mudavadi is quite acceptable outside his Luhya community and can penetrate the perceived Jubilee strongholds with ease.
Separately, Ms Ambitho observes that Mr Mudavadi is a valuable team player, who is unlikely to fuel internal rifts and therefore rock the Nasa boat from within: “He has projected himself as a member of the team willing to play the compromise role. And we have not seen him, like other aspirants, angling hard to be given the ticket or publicly asking others to step aside for him.”