ANC Leader Musalia Mudavadi is targeting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Central Kenya backyard as he plans his 2022 presidential bid.
Known as cautious and mild-mannered, the former Vice President has quietly been having a meet with the leaders from the populous region in hopes of convincing them to back him.
“Our eyes are on the prize and we believe we are on course to win the next election,” Mudavadi told the Star in a telephone interview yesterday.
Ethnic and regional affiliations have long been central to Kenya’s politics and the former Deputy Prime Minister is hoping to make inroads in the region with almost eight million voters.
In the last two elections, the region voted as a bloc for Uhuru, but with the head of state retiring in four years, the fight for the region’s allegiance is intensifying.
There is even talk in Mudavadi’s camp that he may pick his running mate from Uhuru’s Mt Kenya bastion.
The President shocked the region, and much of the nation, last week when he told local leaders that his pick for the presidency will shock some of them.
There was once a pact that Deputy President William Ruto was the heir apparent and would be backed for the top job.
Ruto has made numerous trips to Central where he has been giving generously at harambees for churches, schools and other worthy causes.
Mudavadi, nicknamed ‘MaDVD’, is building his reputation as a moderate leader, a steady pair of hands and the most credible opposition voice in the post-handshake era.
His former Nasa co-principals Raila Odinga of ODM and Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper have decided to work with President Kenyatta, so the ANC leader is positioning himself as the most trustworthy figure to succeed Uhuru.
Mudavadi is understood to be planning an extensive tour of Mt Kenya from January next year when he will court leaders from all the counties.
“We believe the people of Mt Kenya are looking for a credible person they can trust,” Mudavadi said in the Star interview.
Two months ago Mudavadi held a meeting in Nakuru, which was attended by former TNA grassroots officials from Central Kenya and parts of Rift Valley. They endorsed Mudavadi for 2022.
Since then he has met former Kiambu governor William Kabogo and former Nyeri senator Mutahi Kagwe, among others. Mudavadi is also planning to meet Nyeri governor Mutahi Kahiga, Kirinyaga’s Anne Waiguru, Muranga’s Mwangi wa Iria, Embu’s Nyagah Wambora and Meru’s Kiraitu Murungi in the coming weeks.
Central Kenya leaders have been feuding over who should be Deputy President Ruto’s running mate.
Sources close to Mudavadi yesterday told the Star that the former Finance minister would dangle the same carrot to the region’s leaders — who from Central would be his running mate.
Leaders from Meru, Isiolo, Tharaka Nithi and Embu regions have made it clear that it’s their turn to produce the next deputy president and Trade minister Peter Munya is one of the people Mudavadi is hoping to bring onboard.
But their cousins from Kiambu, Murang’a Laikpia and Nyeri are also positioning themselves to serve as Deputy President once Uhuru leaves office. Waiguru has asked Ruto to pick her. But she is facing a tough challenge from Wa Iria and Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki.
Jeremiah Kioni, who was Mudavadi’s running mate in 2013, says the region is now ready for him.
“At that time, all they wanted was Uhuru. The next election seems to be presenting a great opportunity for Mudavadi to get significant votes from the Kikuyu. It is up to him,” Kioni said.
Meanwhile, merger talks between Mudavadi’s ANC and Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya were shaky yesterday after ANC threatened to abandon them.
ANC is concerned Ford Kenya leaders were sending mixed signals about their agenda.
“Wetang’ula should come clean on this matter. We can’t have a situation where his party officials are advancing interests that are contrary to what we have agreed,” Mudavadi said.
Ford Kenya deputy party leader Boni Khalwale has been appearing in public meetings in Western Kenya and telling residents to support Deputy President Ruto in 2022.
In his weekend remarks, he asked Ruto to pick either Mudavadi or Wetang’ula as his running mate.
“Khalwale is a self-confessed Ruto convert and supporter. He does not speak for the Luhya or me. He speaks for himself,” Mudavadi said in the interview.
The ANC boss also told off Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka for urging Luhya leaders to support Ruto.
“He has become Ruto’s speaker and abdicated his role as Senate speaker,” Mudavadi added.
But in a swift rejoinder, Ford Kenya insisted that all was well with the merger plans but promised to address ANC’s concerns.
Secretary general Eseli Simiyu said Khalwale remarks reflected his personal opinion.
“Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetang’ula is out of the country but we will meet once he comes back so we can iron out any issues ANC could be having,” he said.
National Assembly Deputy Minority Whip Chris Wamalwa told newsmen, the technical team formed by ANC and Ford Kenya to work out the merger instruments had completed its work and handed over the report.
“The report awaits ratification by party organs as required by the party constitutions before being submitted to the Registrar of Political Parties to effect the same,” the Kiminini MP said.
Regarding Khalwale’s support for the DP, Ford Kenya ‘s Simiyu said ex-senator was expressing a personal opinion and was not speaking for the party.
“Ford Kenya has not taken a position on supporting Ruto in 2022. As Ford Kenya we can’t sell our people to Jubilee,” the Tongaren MP said.
The lawmaker accused Ruto of lacking a clear agenda for the Luyha community in his frenetic forays into the region.
“We have never heard Ruto talk about development projects for the region. He is always in Western for harambees but not launching any development projects,” Simiyu said.
He said the region will advance its political future without Jubilee, saying the ruling party had neglected the region.