Untold story of Cord’s search for the ideal 2017 candidate
After five years in the Opposition, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka feels his political career has reached a defining moment that calls for a critical decision.
People close to the former Vice- President say that although Mr Musyoka subscribes to the Opposition Cord agreement to choose the presidential flag bearer from the three co-principals in the coalition, he is convinced that for him to stay relevant in Kenya’s politics after next year’s polls, his name has to be on the ballot.
We understand that despite the public show of an indivisible unit, Mr Musyoka’s senior advisers are telling him he’s better off running for president even if he does not win. They say that is the only way to be relevant should Cord not beat President Uhuru Kenyatta who is seeking a second term in office.
The disquiet among a section of lawmakers from his Ukambani backyard has got him worried about rooting for a different ticket other than his with the MPs giving an ultimatum that unless he is going for the ultimate prize, they will rally behind a different person from the region and thereby isolate him.
His ally Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr says Mr Musyoka has an option of running as a Wiper candidate but chances of attaining the constitutional threshold while going it alone are slim.
“The options he has are limited to the extent that if he wanted to join Jubilee, he must contend with the fact that Jubilee is a full house that is overflowing. His upward mobility is only in Cord. His options of going as an individual are available to him to take him so far. If he decides to go it alone and therefore end up in a post-election coalition arrangement his options are still in Cord.”
The Senator says his stature as a former Vice-President cannot allow him to settle for a position less than this.
Mr Musyoka’s fears have brought to the fore the fears that the Cord principals — Mr Musyoka, Mr Raila Odinga and Mr Moses Wetang’ula — are battling over where each of them will be in the post-election period should they fail to unseat President Uhuru Kenyatta, a revelation the Sunday Nationhas learnt could overshadow their quest to remain united until the polls.
Such prospects have sparked fears in Mr Odinga’s camp as the move, which takes away about one million votes, would send him back to the drawing board.
At the same time, there are twin pushes to not only keep the coalition intact but also admit in more members to improve chances of defeating Mr Kenyatta.
The first initiative is fronted by Cord which is keen to rope in the likes of Narc-K leader Martha Karua, ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi, Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto and Kanu chairman Gideon Moi.
The other push, involving the same players with a view to forming a super alliance, is being driven by a group of civil society groups who want Mr Odinga to play the kingmaker role.
It is understood that in the event this works out, the organisations will fund the campaigns to a tune of Sh10 billion. They had initially toyed with the idea of fronting retired Chief Justice Willy Mutunga but the idea was dropped after it turned out that selling him would be hard.
Like Mr Musyoka, ODM leader Mr Odinga cannot afford another deferred dream of leading the country. He is under immense pressure from his lieutenants, who he cannot afford to disappoint, to throw his hat in the ring either as Cord or ODM.
The “one bullet” phrase variously used within Cord to mean he will make a last stab at the presidency next year is informed by the fact that he is the oldest of the contenders at 71. Unless he runs, he will retire with the tag of a former prime minister. His ardent supporters like ODM’s director of elections Junet Mohamed say his contribution in the country’s democratic journey must be crowned by the presidency.
“When Mandela (the late South African President Nelson Mandela) was released from prison after 27 years some younger members of the African National Congress felt he had become too old to be president but it took the bravery and wisdom of fellow liberation hero Walter Sisulu to insist that with the kind of sacrifice he had made for South Africa, his value system and conviction could only be crowned by the presidency. This is how their country began on the right footing,” Mr Mohamed says.
He says as Cord, they are faced with a situation like the one ANC had some 22 years ago and, in their case, the presidency is the ultimate goal.
“Raila is our Mandela and this does not mean Kalonzo and Wetang’ula are less qualified.”
Mr Musyoka finds himself in a dilemma and, with the saying that power hates a vacuum in his mind, he is said to be weighing his options carefully.
Already, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua is threatening to run away with the title of regional kingpin.
But again there are those who say if his exit from Cord is acrimonious, the community would still listen to him. He would invoke his victimhood to still direct them where he wants with those daring to oppose him being swept to the shores.
In the event he runs, we have established his game plan is to target at least 10 governors, 10 senators, 80 MPs out of which 30 should come from his Ukambani stronghold and a host of members of the county assembly.
This would give him the platform to negotiate for Cabinet slots and other plum positions in the government of whoever wins the presidency. Rift Valley and Kisii would be some of the regions he will be betting big on.
“I am popular in the Rift Valley. This was my most important stronghold before William Ruto (Deputy President) declared interest in the presidency when he did not mean it. The last genuine poll conducted by Steadman showed I was leading in the Rift Valley with 37 per cent support,” he told theSunday Nation.
His declaration that he was tired of being in the “cold” before accusing some within the rank and file of the party of using his name for material gain from Jubilee has been seen as implying that he is ready to work with anyone in whose camp he’s guaranteed to be in the next government.
Commanding the fourth largest homogenous voting bloc excluding the more fragmented Luhya constituency, any move by Mr Musyoka will, without a doubt, tilt the balance of power that no serious presidential contender can ignore.
If he chooses to run, he will have thwarted Jubilee’s strategy of carving for itself at least 40 per cent of the region’s presidential votes to try and help Mr Kenyatta win against next year.
In an interview on his presidential bid, Mr Musyoka likened Cord to an infantry facing the enemy’s intense firepower and which must keep their formation intact or go separate ways and be hanged at the battlefield.
“Just like ODM and Ford-K, Wiper cannot go it alone and win. We will be handing Jubilee an early Christmas next year should each one of us run.”
University of Nairobi political scientist Joshua Kivuva says the ideal for Mr Musyoka is to be Cord’s candidate.
“But this needs a miracle to happen. Raila and those around him will not allow him. And so if he wants to be relevant in post 2017 he should consider running alone as president or pair with someone else. He’s better off running for Kitui governor which he will not struggle much to win,” he says.
Mr Wetang’ula’s major fear, it is understood, is the possible entry of Mr Mudavadi with whom they share the same constituency. Those close to him say he fears being overshadowed by the former deputy prime minister who is believed to command more following in the western region.
His allies are concerned about his ability to champion his own political path were he to cut links with Cord or what the move to drop him by his partners would mean given his constituency is the smallest of the three.
One thing that must also give him a headache is the fact that his rival, Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka, has already secured a seat in Jubilee. It would mean he must be ready to play second fiddle if he chose to join Jubilee. But the senator says of all the options he may have, Jubilee is not one of them.
Mr Mudavadi’s spokesman Kibisu Kabatesi says the guiding point in crafting the “super alliance” should be victory and not who becomes the candidate. “Mudavadi brings comparative advantage and widens the network of votes,” he says.