Ghosts of 2013 come back to haunt Kalonzo.
Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka finds himself in a catch-22 political situation that poignantly echoes his tribulations a decade ago in the last presidential transition.
And the question he is grappling with is just how he boxed himself into this unenviable position where he is once again negotiating with coalition partners who have apparently placed the two biggest political prizes out of reach.
That the position of president or deputy president is not available in his negotiations with the President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja coalition was made public recently by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo, who protested Mr Musyoka was being offered the Speaker’s post.
For the former vice-president — who has backed Mr Odinga’s presidential run twice as his running mate in 2013 and 2017, and got him to commit to back him for the top seat in this year’s election via a secret deal that has fuelled the latest conflict between the two former allies — being tapped for the DP’s post again would have been the least offer to appease him.
But with Mr Odinga working hard to win over Mt Kenya this time, strategists say the running mate slot is reserved for the region through the president’s Jubilee that has foregone fielding a presidential candidate to support the ODM leader.
This being the case, Mr Musyoka finds himself being overlooked to placate the vote-rich region, as happened in the lead up to the 2013 elections when Mr Kenyatta reportedly told him he could not be considered for either the top seat or running mate to give way for DP William Ruto, so as to secure the Rift Valley vote.
Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto, who were then facing International Criminal Court trials, had reportedly given Mr Musyoka the impression that they would support his presidential bid.
In his biography “Against All Odds”, Mr Musyoka recounted a night meeting at his residence in Karen that would mark the parting of ways with Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto ahead of the March 2013 presidential election.
“I clearly remember the night I felt betrayed by Uhuru and Ruto. This was the night our alliance died. We had agreed with Ruto that I would be on the presidential ticket, with Uhuru as my running mate or vice versa. Ruto was to be the majority leader,” he writes.
“Then on that night, Uhuru and Ruto arrived at my home in the company of Jimi Wanjigi, a Nairobi businessman and political strategist… We walked down to the gazebo where dinner was to be served.”
“Ruto and Jimi sat silently as Uhuru spoke: “Stephen, we have decided that you should choose some other position, but not the presidency or deputy presidency,’’ Mr Musyoka wrote, adding that he was stunned by the turn of events.
Sources have suggested the other slot on offer was that of majority leader in the National Assembly, which would have forced him to run for a parliamentary seat. Given it was a new post, it would appear it wasn’t attractive to the then VP.
But given the clout its first holder Aden Duale initially wielded, analysts have argued that, with hindsight, perhaps Mr Musyoka would have projected a bigger political show especially given he would have been viewed as a principal along with the president and his deputy.
In an interview with Sunday Nation in 2013, Mr Musyoka confessed to having accepted to become Mr Kenyatta’s running mate in a tripartite pre-election deal, but walked out of the plan after Ruto changed his mind on a plan negotiated in Karen.
“I had accepted to be his running mate because we had agreed with my supporters and elders from my side that a deal that would have offered us at least a status quo at the time was the best compromise. Ruto had agreed to be majority leader but he later changed his mind. That is what killed the G7 Alliance,” Mr Musyoka said at the time, assertions that were later dismissed by Dr Ruto’s camp.
“I did not know at what point the arrangement we had earlier, of me being on the presidential ticket, had been changed,” Mr Musyoka wrote in his book, describing the silence that befell the gazebo which saw Uhuru step out into the garden to smoke to ease the tensions.
Mr Musyoka acknowledged he had become a casualty of the Uhuru-Ruto so-called tyranny of numbers gameplan, in which they figured out if they mobilised the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities they could sweep to power. Which they did.
And today, the former vice-president faces a similar predicament. Only that this time round it’s Mt Kenya that blocks the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) principal’s third bid as running mate.
Since he has ruled out working with Dr Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza Alliance (KKA), Mr Musyoka faces two stark options — to take up the offer from Mr Odinga’s camp or go it alone, perhaps with the backing of a third force, in the presidential race.
Yesterday, Kitui governor Charity Ngilu suggested Mr Musyoka’s strategy is to vie for the presidency to force a run-off and that’s why he was playing hardball with Azimio la Umoja.
Also yesterday, the OKA principals convened yet another presser at the Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka (SKM) command centre in Karen, where they once again announced the postponement of the signing ceremony of their 2022 coalition agreement.
“We were to sign our coalition agreement today, but we have postponed to polish certain legal issues that have arisen. Nevertheless, we are committed to our unity and in a few days we will be letting you know the time we shall sign the agreement,” said Narc Kenya chairperson Martha Karua.
She added: “We still are open to receive other parties into the OKA coalition and to building a coalition with other Kenyans so that we can achieve our objective of being able to form government alone or with others in order to fulfil the urgent need of Kenyans.”
Kanu chairman Gideon Moi and United Democratic Party (UDP) leader Cyrus Jirongo are the other OKA principals.
But Mr Musyoka’s lieutenants were still issuing conditions for working with Mr Odinga’s Azimio.
“If ODM and their presidential candidate (Mr Odinga) refuse to engage on the basis of this document (Odinga-Musyoka 2017 agreement), then chances are very high that Kalonzo and the OKA team may go all the way to the ballot,” Kitui senator Enoch Wambua said.
His Makueni counterpart, who is also Wiper vice-chairman, Mutula Kilonzo Jnr added: “Our position is that Raila supports Kalonzo. We have supported Raila and we expect him to reciprocate.”
“As wiper we are ready to go up to the ballot. The party and his supporters are waiting for him (Mr Musyoka) at the ballot,” he added.
Mr Kilonzo said should talks between Mr Musyoka and Mr Odinga flop, “we shall go up to the ballot.”
“These claims he has no votes must end. We are ready to go to the ballot. Kalonzo cannot keep on waiting to back others… he must show he has the ability to look for votes and battle it out with Raila and Ruto in the coming elections,” added Mr Kilonzo.
But the Wiper leader continued to face a barrage of criticism, this time from the Azimio Affiliate Parties (AFP), that include a dozen parties that have already endorsed Mr Odinga for the top seat.
AFP co-chairs — Democratic Action Party-Kenya (DAP-K) leader Wafula Wamunyinyi and Narc’s Charity Ngilu — told the OKA brigade to speed up their negotiations to enable the Azimio ship to set sail towards formation of the next government.
“With greatest respect to Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, introducing Nasa issues in the Azimio engagement is tantamount to flogging a dead horse. All Kenyans are aware that Nasa died, Nasa was buried and a death certificate was issued by the Registrar of Political Parties. Just like they say in marriage ‘until death do us part’, the Nasa marriage for all practical purposes is dead and should neither affect nor be dragged into the Azimio marriage,” the group said in a statement.
Mr Wamunyinyi and Ms Ngilu said the Azimio stool was no longer three-legged — comprising of ODM, Jubilee and Azimio affiliates — but with OKA coming on board, “it is now a four legged stool and if it was a table it is now a more stable table.”
Newszetu learnt last evening that the introduction of the fourth leg in the talks is meant to checkmate Mr Musyoka on the basis of strength.
Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa called out the Wiper leader for not making the right decision in 2007 and asked him to make up his mind in joining the Azimio coalition.
“I want to call upon my brother Stephen Kalonzo, we welcome you to Azimio but don’t come with too much demands, calm down, because the three governors from Ukambani have already joined Azimio.”
“Had he decided in 2007 to go with the ODM leader Raila Odinga or former President Mwai Kibaki, the country would be in a different place right now. So I want to call on him not to make the wrong decision this time round,” Mr Wamalwa said.
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