The ‘Ruto factor’ in ANC resignations

In just three days, two top Amani National Congress (ANC) officials have walked away, putting the party in the spotlight as it pushes its leader Musalia Mudavadi to gun for the country’s presidency in 2022.The exit of secretary-general Barrack Muluka and his replacement Eliud Owalo has laid bare the split in the party.While some want Mr Mudavadi to go for the top seat, others insist that he should become Deputy President William Ruto’s running mate.Mr Mudavadi said he has grown tired of being told “that we are working for William Ruto”.

“We welcome Dr Ruto as long as he supports our bid for the presidency,” he said on Thursday, adding that there are no differences between him and President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Mr Muluka and Mr Owalo have been accused of pushing Mr Mudavadi towards the Ruto camp.

Presidential candidate

The changes are meant to make the party leader an automatic presidential candidate.

When he quit as ANC secretary-general on Wednesday, Mr Muluka said the space around Mr Mudavadi “needs to be decongested”.

Mr Owalo, who had been appointed by Mr Mudavadi as Mr Muluka’s replacement, resigned yesterday, giving a similar reason: –“to create ample space in the party and ANC leader without feeling suffocated with my views and suggestions”.

Analysts say the two men had grown weary of waiting for a “handshake” between Mr Mudavadi and Dr Ruto.

In early June, the DP held talks with some ANC and Ford Kenya leaders in which they agreed to work on a political pact.

The meeting came four days after Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali hosted 32 ward representatives dubbed “soldiers of Ruto”, from four counties in Western Kenya.

Mr Washiali told the group to be “friends with Mr Mudavadi because he is in talks with the DP for a possible deal ahead of 2022”.

Sources told the Saturday Nation that the quitting of the two was due to “the Ruto effect”.

A source said Mr Mudavadi, Dr Ruto and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula had agreed to work together in a deal that would see them go into the 2022 elections as a team.

Verbal agreement

It is after the verbal agreement that Mr Mudavadi publicly declared, at a rally in Lugari, Kakamega County, that he had no problem working with the DP and gave conditions for their engagement.

One of the agreements was that Dr Ruto must make a public undertaking to support Mr Mudavadi’s presidential bid. The source said Mr Muluka and Mr Owalo were the brains behind the deal.

“They were the ideological force that was to craft the agreement on the ANC side,” the source added.

“Just look at the general body of their resignation letters. They were definitely written from one source and by the same person.”

Mr Muluka was discreet in his relations with Dr Ruto, preferring to work behind the scenes for fear of a backlash from Western Kenyan leaders.

Mr Owalo has been this visible latecomer to the ANC vessel. He was always seen in the company of Mr Mudavadi.

Recently, he was spotted at Dr Ruto’s Karen home in what many thought was a dress rehearsal for Mr Mudavadi’s arrival.

Within ANC circles, Mr Owalo, the party’s unsuccessful candidate in the November 2019 Kibra by-election, was quietly known as the linkman to the Deputy President.

He has the support of lawmakers favouring the agreement between the two leaders.

The MPs are Mr Titus Khamala (Lurambi), Ms Beatrice Adagala  (Vihiga Woman Representative), Mr Omboko Milemba (Emuhaya) and former Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale

“Mr Muluka and Mr Owalo are not happy with Mr Mudavadi for not honouring the deal with the DP,” the ANC source added.  However, ANC deputy leader Ayub Savula branded Mr Owalo traitor.

“Mr Owalo was a mole who came to the party to drive Ruto’s agenda,” Mr Savula said.

“To scuttle Owalo’s plans, we amended the party constitution so that Mudavadi does not become anyone’s deputy. Once he realised he could not achieve his mission, Owalo had no option but to take a walk.”

Mr Owalo declined to comment on the claims.

“I want to create reasonable legroom with Mr Mudavadi to guard and sustain our 25-year friendship, respect and professional engagements,” Mr Owalo, a management consultant, said.

The “mole” allegations are partly based on Mr Owalo’s late entry to the party.

He joined ANC just days to the November 2019 Kibra mini-poll.

The poll was called following the death of incumbent MP Ken Okoth.

Mr Owalo had pulled out of the Orange Democratic Movement primaries. Dr Ruto’s camp has denied any links with Mr Owalo.

Belgut MP Nelson Koech accused Mr Savula of stretching his imagination too far.

“Mr Mudavadi is a national and respectable leader and the DP would not hesitate to reach out to him. The DP is pragmatic and does not work through emissaries,” Mr Koech said.

Mr Savula and his Sabatia counterpart Alfred Agoi, however, described Mr Muluka as a selfless leader.

National outlook

Mr Agoi said the changes would give Mr Mudavadi an opportunity to make ANC have a national outlook.

“Muluka is a good person to work with. He gave everything to the party. We cannot begin saying he did nothing. The former ANC secretary-general will continue rendering professional services to the party,” the Sabatia MP added.

“It should also be noted that an opportunity has presented itself to Mudavadi to project himself as a national leader. He should ensure ANC has the face of the country, especially in its leadership. Mudavadi needs to reach out to leaders outside Western Kenya ahead of the General Election.”

Contacted yesterday, Mr Muluka – who became ANC secretary general in October 2017 – said he has travelled his political journey and that he does not see himself joining another party.

“I have done my tour of duty and will continue to render my support to the party leader whenever called upon to do so,” Mr Muluka said.

“The party should now populate itself with freshness. It needs oxygen. I see many young people ready to step into my shoes whenever I look around.”

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