Monday, March 12, 2012



Musalia Mudavadi and Raila Odinga

By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
March 5, 2012

I like Musalia Mudavadi.  He is our modern day gentleman of politics. He hardly ruffles feathers unnecessarily. But he also doesn’t smile generously.

Of late, the son of Vihiga has exhibited a rare side of him that many Kenyans may never have seen before.  He has been generally defiant of late. And there is nothing wrong with being rebellious in politics. It is the stuff Kenyan politics is made of. Easy going politicians have never gotten anywhere. If you doubt me, ask George Saitoti who wasted 12 great years serving Moi in the hope that Daniel would hand him the reins of power.

However, the question many Kenyans must be asking is this: Where has Mudavadi gotten the guts to ruffle feathers in his own ODM party? Is it really in his character to cause rumbles in a political party? Did he have any dissenting opinion all the years he served under Moi?

For the six to seven years that Mudavadi has been in ODM,   he has been the steadiest, most consistent and loyal supporter of his party leader. He stood by Raila Odinga when the 2007 elections went terribly wrong. Like Joe Nyagah, Najib Balala and William Ruto, he remained firm in ODM even after the split in the original ODMK. He never bolted to run his own show like Stephen Kalonzo. He never jumped ship to join Kibaki like Uhuru Kenyatta did. He remained to fight for the ODM flag and when he came a distant second to Raila Odinga at the National Delegates Conference at Kasarani, he like the gentle man he is, conceded defeat and accepted the position of running mate. Had things worked their way, he would today be a serving Vice President of the Republic of Kenya.

The reason ODM is at a loss about Musalia’s decision to challenge his party leader is because the ODM constitution as it is now does not envisage such a situation. Our political culture doesn’t either. Moreover, his campaign would not have raised a lot of dust had he in the same vain not sought to amend the ODM constitution in his favour. More tellingly, he appears to be succumbing to pressure from non- ODM members in his quest for the ODM ticket.

Whereas the ODM constitution is clear that only the NDC can have the power to nominate its flag bearer, Musalia feels that this process is undemocratic. He feels that voting at the county level would be more secure, transparent and democratic.

I have tried to figure out why Mudavadi chose to think that nominations at the county level would not be manipulated. I want to put it to my friend Musalia that masters of the game can rig elections at any level. It is the reason we went to war in 2007 even though we were allowed to cast our votes in our villages.

If indeed an NDC is more prone to manipulation, why doesn’t ODM go further and say that the most popular and transparent way of nominating its candidate should be at the constituency or location level? This will make it more democratic and participatory.

Musalia Mudavadi is traversing the countryside preaching the gospel of internal democracy. This is a great sermon in my opinion and yes, it will go a long way in entrenching democracy in our political culture. However, one of the tenets of democracy requires that our leaders acquire the capacity to debate, negotiate and reach consensus on ideas. It is of no benefit to ODM members if each one of them took a stand and refused to burg come rain or shine.

In Mudavadi’s case, can internal democracy be embraced only if the rules of the game are changed to suit his demands?

To the best of my knowledge, ODM, like all other political parties is a members’ organization. To choose the party torch bearer, only bona fide members should be allowed to vote. How then will ODM know if the voters in each county will be genuine ODM members? How will it deal with ODM renegades and their supporters who have since formed other parties but are still clinging to ODM membership cards? Does Musalia Mudavadi have the mechanism to screen these renegades at all the 47 county polling stations?

Mudavadi says that his candidacy will diffuse tensions in the country. Is he saying that his party leader will be doing the opposite? Is Mudavadi anticipating war if he is not the ODM candidate?

When Musalia talks of being a stabilizing hand and that he does not practice the politics of polarization; is he implying that his challenger for the ODM ticket is unstable and likely to polarize Kenya?

Mudavadi is a fine leader and ODM definitely needs him. However, he should stop disparaging his party leader in order to win sympathy votes with the rest of Kenyans.

To the best of my knowledge, I have never heard Raila Odinga making negative remarks against his deputy. Let the two competing giants of ODM wrestle on a platform of ideas. This country needs good manners in our politics in order to move it forward.