May 28th 2017

Opinion / Commentaries

Kalonzo's political future is dim, but he can revive hopes if he sticks with Raila, NASA

Despite his presence in the political arena for 32 years, Kalonzo remains detached from the vote-rich areas of Central, Nyanza, and the Rift Valley. His affable, non-combative demeanor in a country where belligerence and defiance are considered prime leadership qualities, has betrayed him.

By Joe KhamisiThursday, 06 Apr 2017 12:58 EAT

Mr Musyoka.

As widely expected, Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, leader of the opposition Wiper Democratic Party, appears ready to activate plan B in his determination for a second stab at the presidency in the August 8 general elections in Kenya. The former vice president in Mwai Kibaki's government who has been haggling for months for a chance to lead the NASA brigade has for sometime been wary of a plot to relegate him to the side bench behind the more assertive and popular Raila Odinga who desires to make his forth attempt at the top job.

Because Raila trashed the nebulous MOU between ODM and Wiper which would have given him a chance to be the flag-bearer, Kalonzo felt betrayed. He is now expected to make the break to stand either alone in Wiper or in a coalition with another yet-to-be-known entity. But the question is: what are his chances outside NASA? The answer is: none. Why? because Kalonzo's path to the presidency is riddled with a myriad of pitfalls.

One, lack of national appeal. Despite his presence in the political arena for 32 years, Kalonzo remains detached from the vote-rich areas of Central, Nyanza, and the Rift Valley. His affable, non-combative demeanor in a country where belligerence and defiance are considered prime leadership qualities, has betrayed him. He lacks the punch to excite crowds and the charisma to attract new supporters. Even his arguments during the Jeff Koinange Show this week fell short of a man ready to lead.

Two, Kalonzo has been unable to shake off the "watermelon" tag. Consequently his loyalty to the opposition alliance NASA has raised critical questions. Raila supporters, in particular, do not trust him and see him as a zelig who could easily change colors and cross the isle. That distrust started when he abandoned Raila and ran away with party documents in 2007, and it escalated when he accepted to be Kibaki's deputy the following year against public opinion.

Three, support in his own Ukambani backyard is wishy-washy. Unlike Raila who maintains a solid base in his Nyanza region and elsewhere, Kalonzo is unable to unite the Kamba people behind him. The region is fractious and incorrigibly disunited. Those divisions have weakened his grip on Ukambani and reduced him to a diffident fire-fighter. His Wiper Party is fissured and fractured and some of his closest advisers have abandoned him. Without a coherent home base, a national reach is difficult to achieve.

All these factors and others make Kalonzo potentially unelectable as president now and even in the immediate future. To try to achieve his goal outside NASA is but a waste of time. Maybe Kalonzo should abandon his presidential ambition altogether and concentrate on nuts and bolts of nation-building. To do that, he must come down a notch or two from his perch at the top.

Like Martha Karua who unsuccessfully contested the presidency and lost and is now contesting for the governorship of Kirinyaga, Kalonzo too - if he wants to serve his people - must look at the gubernatorial seat in his area as a viable alternative. 

Perhaps he should borrow a leaf from Hilary Clinton who moved downwards after losing the presidential contest to take a position as a Cabinet Secretary then shifting back to the presidential race in 2016. Kalonzo would be much more useful as Governor than as deputy president in any administration. In any case he was there holding a position that is not only chaffy but uninspiring. 

As one American vice president once said: the vice presidency is not worth a bucket of warm piss. At least as Governor he can actively chart the path to development for his people, shape the future of the upcoming generations, and leave a legacy for others to emulate. 

Otherwise, he will be just another wannabe.

The writer is a veteran journalist, author and former Member of Parliament for Bahari. All his books are available in bookshops in Nairobi and on Amazon.com





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