Musalia Mudavadi has more Clout than Eugene Wamalwa in Kenya
By Maurice N. Amutabi
Presidential aspirations of former Vice President and current Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi and Minister of Justice and Cohesion Eugene Wamalwa have generated all manner of excitement and interest in Western Kenya. This is because Western Kenya has always been a hunting ground for presidential aspirants from other parts of the country because it has never had a strong contender from its backyard. This is the reason there has been a lot of interest in the activities of these two politicians in Western Kenya. Although the region has about ten people who have declared interest to run for the presidency, only Musalia Mudavadi and Eugene Wamalwa have polled above 1% since last year in national opinion polls.
Musalia Mudavadi’s stature as a national leader is big. Mudavadi has been featuring in the polls even though he had not a declared aspirant until less than three onths ago. Despite having declared interest to run for the presidency for over two years beginning with Simama Kenya, then Ford Kenya and finally New Ford Kenya and G7, Eugene Wamalwa has generated a lot of interest on the political scene. The lacklustre showing by Wamalwa in national polls and support in Western Kenya could partly be attributed to what are regarded as wrong crowds that he has been hanging out with.
The other aspirants such as Moses Wetangula and Sylvester Bifwoli Wekoli have not attracted a lot of interest and attention. Moses Wetangula has always seemed like he can work with Mudavadi, while Bifwoi Wekoli is regarded by many as a nuisance candidate, running because of the fun it generates on his part. Although he declared that he is running about two years ago, Bifwoli has remained a caricature and spectacle on Kenya’s political scene, providing comic relief to the people. Many observers have regarded Wamalwa’s dalliance with G7 as a mechanism being used to scuttle the support for Raila Odinga among the Luhya in the next general election.
Political pundits have been quick to draw comparison between former Vice President and current Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi and Minister of Justice and Cohesion Eugene Wamalwa because the two men seem to have generated a lot of interest in Western Kenya. There are those who argue that both men have uque charisma, with Mudavadi coming across as serious and focussed while Eugene Wamalwa has great eloquence and articulation in the way he speaks both English and Kiswahili. Winning elections, however, is about perception and sometimes good luck. No election is won on being serious and focussed, on linguistic eloquence. If these are good reasons, people like Moi and Kibabi would never have ruled Kenya, because they are both bad public speakers, where Moi constantly stammered and just rumbled in his speeches, while Kibaki has a terrible drawl that makes it hard to pick out what he is saying.
Mudavadi is an experienced politician with national clout, and has been an MP for over twenty years while Eugene Wamalwa is a political greenhorn, serving just his first term in parliament. But the two cannot be compared in many ways, such as their intellectual gravitas and capacity to mobilize their respective constancies. They are bright minds and political strategists in their own right. Unconfirmed rumours have intimated that Mudavadi and Wamalwa are creation of anti-Raila forces which are trying to scuttle his former support among the Luhya, Kenya’s second most populous ethnic group.
Musalia Mudavadi has seemed and acted presidential in the minds of many Kenyans, and is the reason why in 2002 he was looked upon by the opposition as a compromise candidate but former President Daniel Moi pulled a quick one on them by appointing him Vice President. The qualities that attracted leaders such as Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, William Ruto, Najib Balala, Joe Nyangah and others to regard Mudavadi as a unifying forces are still there. They liked the fact that his approach to politics is sober. They liked his mature and measured manner in which he relates to his colleagues, without any condescending and presumptions. He looked presidential then and now.
The rise of Musalia Mudavadi to 10% in the opinion polls has sent alarm signals to his political opponents across the nation. On the other hand, the highest opinion polls percentage that Eugene Wamalwa received was 3%, at a time when he the only Luhya politician to have declared interest in the presidency. It is possible as the only aspirant from Western Kenya, Wamalwa may have been a beneficiary of a leadership vacuum. Wamalwa’s fortunes have dropped drastically. The rise of Musalia Mudavadi’s numbers has been caused by many factors. First, Mudavadi is responding to a call by some Luhya who believe that they do not need to run for Vice President since Musalia Mudavadi, Michael Wamalwa Kijana and Moody Awuori have held the position before. Those holding this view argue that the Luhya have in the past been used in the past by others to climb higher and it is about time they had one of their own seeking high office.
Second, many Luhya elite has watched as Musalia Mudavadi fought to vie for the ODM ticket and were surprised by the way he was treated by Luo politicians in ODM such as Peter Anyang Nyong’o and James Orengo. They presented him as not capable of having his own political life outside ODM. They made it appear as if Raila Odinga was the presumptive president of Kenya even before the ballots were cast. Of course the Luo leaders were ignorant of the fact that Raila Odinga’s national standing was by and large created by the alliance he had created in ODM, with Musalia Mudavadi counting very high. There are many Luhya who polled in favour of ODM and Raila Odinga because they saw Musalia Mudavadi as his presumptive running mate.
There are moves to bring Musalia Mudavadi and Eugene Wamalwa together. There are those who see Wamalwa, and who is in his late 30s and a presidential candidate of the future, and Musalia Mudavadi at 51 as the presidential material for now and the biggest hope for the Luhya. Wamalwa felt shunned when supporters of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto attended the launch of his presidential drive under UDF ticket. The defeat of Raila Odinga’s nominees to the East African Legislative Assembly in Arusha by forces put together by Musalia Mudavadi, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto is very strong showing for supporters of Mudavadi.
In the past motnths since Musalia Mudavadi left ODM for UDF, the leading lights of ODM have held five meetings in Western. There was no similar concentration of activities in the region when Wamalwa was the main presidential aspirant. The new energy and campaigns in ODM is meant to counter Mudavadi and UDF’s rise in the region. There is a saying that people do not bother about a dead dog. They will pass by and go by their activities. However, a live dog presents new challenges and dilemma to passerby’s who have to worry about its potential to bite them or being friendly to it. The new renewed interest in Western Kenya by Odinga Odinga and ODM in Western Kenya cannot beat the June 2 meeting in Muliro Gardens in Kakamega, reputed as the biggest in the area ever.
The rally confirmed that Mudavadi has the numbers and this causing a lot of concern in the ODM camp which has used greenhorns like Ababu Namwamba, Wilbur Otichilo, Paul Otuoma and Wycliffe Oparanya Ambetsa to undermine Mudavadi in the region. Oparanya and Otuoma are ministers and want to retain the flags, while the likes of Namwamba and Otichilo are clearly interested in the local government cabinet position that was recently vacated by Mudavadi. There are many from Western who remains in ODM because they want the cabinet position. Raila Odinga has seen this and is the reason he gave Fred Gumo the mandate to run this portfolio because if he have it to any one of the backbencher greenhorns, others will run away. Raila Odinga would e advised to hold the position under Fred Gumo in order to lure the neophytes in his camp.
On June 2, 2012 at Nyayo National Stadium, Mudvadi found himself plunged into national limelight when he was called upon to invite President Mwai Kibaki to address the nation. Many observers expected the DPM to take advantage of the situation and campaign for himself and even attack his detractors. Instead, as expected, Mudavadi focussed on the issue of the day – introducing the president – and did not say a single word to campaign. Such is the maturity and focus that makes him attractive to majority, who regard him as a young Kibaki. Eugene Wamalwa had a similar opportunity about two weeks ago when he was the chief speaker at the launch of The National Alliance (TNA) party. He steered clear of controversy.
The late Michael Wamalwa was perhaps the only leader who succeeded in bringing the Luhya together. The magic he held seems to have moved to Mudavadi. There is a lot in the air to suggest that the Luhya unity is in the offing through the Luhya council of elders. There is likelihood that forces supporting Mudavadi and those supporting Wamalwa will eventually join together. They will come together for purposes of political survival. Their fates are now tied since they are both wary of Raila Odinga. New Ford Kenya’s Mukhisa Kituyi who is former minister of Trade is constantly on the side of Mudavadi, and is known to enjoy close relations with Eugene Wamalwa. Eugene Wamalwa regards Mukhisa Kituyi as one of the most formidable political strategists and seeks his counsel always. It is the Luhya council of elders and people like Mukhisa Kituyi who will act as the glue that brings the Luhya back together.
Prof. Amutabi teaches Political Science at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA).