Throughout the struggle for the second liberation and into the early years of the multiparty system, former Vice-President Mwai Kibaki was contemptuously derided as General Kiguoya (coward); the one who, in a famous put-down by newspaper columnist Kwendo Opanga, “never saw a fence he did not want to sit on”.
Well, the coward and fence-sitter went on to become His Excellency President Mwai Kibaki, EGH, MP, Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces of the Republic of Kenya.
If anyone doubts it, he took on the imperial presidency with all the pomp and the trappings of power, including a rather obscene motorcade.
One drawback is that his presidential escort commanders are nowhere near as efficient as those of this predecessor.
President Moi’s escort would close roads only briefly before his motorcade zoomed past at high speed and normal service resumed.
These days, one gets the feeling that roads are closed while the President is still in deep repose at State House, creating for hours unnecessary logjams to Nairobi’s already perpetually gridlocked traffic.
But then he is the president, and can do what he wants. Unlike presidents who have kept time to the second (well, so did Adolf Hitler), President Kibaki is a certified laggard.
Just last week, he gave the Kenyan media fraternity a valuable honour by gracing the inaugural East African Journalists Convention.
He came in more than just fashionably late. It was not until after 1.00pm that he made an appearance slotted on the programme for 11:30am.
Well, he is the President and can get away without even the most cursory of apologies.
Anyway, I have digressed a great deal.
The heroes of the second liberation who took the battle to the one-party autocracy of President Moi have had to play second fiddle to a man who jumped into the front-line only after the battle had been won.
Kibaki was no hero and was never in the trenches, but he became President precisely because he was a safe and moderate pair of hands who would not turn things upside down.
Mr Raila Odinga, who led the Kanu brigade storming in protest at President Moi’s handpicked Project Uhuru, said “Kibaki Tosha” simply because he saw the latter as an accommodating figure who would not seek to entrench personal rule.
President Moi may have run neophyte Uhuru Kenyatta as his chosen successor, but that was only a decoy. His more urgent aim was to stop Mr Odinga, and in that regard, Kibaki was the only other option.
A study of President Kibaki brings out some very striking similarities to the new entrant in the race for State House, Musalia Mudavadi.
The more Mr Mudavadi projects himself as the candidate best placed to halt Mr Odinga’s march to the Holy Grail, the more he hopes that the anti-Raila bandwagon will troop to his side.
It cannot be a coincidence that once he finessed the excuses to move out of ODM, he found waiting to welcome him a ready-made party initially founded and funded as Mr Uhuru Kenyatta’s Plan B.
Once he moved to UDF in a grand ceremony that marked the launch of his presidential campaign, Mr Mudavadi made no mention of the internal democracy upon which the party candidate will be elected.
Well, no matter. The party has decided that he is the candidate, and everything else will be a formality.
Like President Kibaki, Mr Mudavadi is a nice and un-threatening guy who might just manage to build national support around his genial persona.
Among the list of presidential candidates positioning themselves to inherit the support of Mr Kenyatta and Hague-bound colleague William Ruto, Mr Mudavadi might just jump ahead of the pack.
The problem is that the plan for a candidate backed by the Hague duo was drawn up before Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto decided that they will be in the presidential race despite the ICC cases, and not put their fates in the hand of proxies.
If Mr Mudavadi comes to look like a real contender, the owners of UDF might just take back their party.