Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi is taking on President Kenyatta in his Mt Kenya backyard as he insists that his party has not been asked to join the Cabinet.
Mr Mudavadi distanced himself from the ongoing political realignments to craft a government with an expanded Cabinet that could see all top seats distributed across the country. Mr Mudavadi said he had not been approached by President Kenyatta to present names of those from his side to be included in the proposed expanded government.
He said any plan for an expanded Executive two years to the next polls is a political gimmick. He said had learnt a painful lesson in 2002 when he was made vice-president for three months by the former President Daniel Moi and lost his Sabatia parliamentary seat in the subsequent elections.
“I am now wiser and I don’t want to repeat the mistakes that badly affected my political career. I am focused on serving Kenyans as their next president and I do not want to be derailed by the so-called political realignments,” said Mr Mudavadi.
He urged the President to focus on the economy.
“Our battered economy badly needs fixing. The government should be addressing public debt by negotiating rescheduling of the debts,” the ANC leader said. “It could take up to five years to fix and turn it around.”
In an interview on Mulembe, Sulwe, and Vuka FM radio stations on Friday, Mr Mudavadi was categorical that he would play his role in the opposition until the next General Election.
“President Kenyatta is my friend but he has not spoken to me about such an arrangement. In any event, all the critical and strategic public appointments have already been filled,” said Mr Mudavadi. “My target is not to be a regional kingpin in Western. I want to offer myself to serve Kenyans in 2022.”
Mr Mudavadi is also angling to bolster his presidential ambition by meeting ward representatives from Mt Kenya counties, coming at a time when the region’s voters have indicated they could back a candidate from “outside” in the post-Kenyatta days.
On Tuesday, he met some Murang’a MCAs, led by Jubilee Party branch chairperson Simon Gikuru, days after he held talks with a similar delegation from Kirinyaga and Meru. Sources close to ANC say Mr Mudavadi is set to meet influential persons from the Central region who are seeking to secure a stake in the next government.
Interestingly, the meetings are happening in the backyard of President Kenyatta at a time the ANC party leader doesn't want a stake in government. So is he taking the President head-on by raiding his backyard without his blessings?
Mr Mudavadi confirmed to the Nation that he has held the meetings and he is talking to Kenyans as he eyes the big seat.
“If you are talking to people from all parts of the country, it is not combative politics as my rivals would want to portray it. It is an outreach,” Mr Mudavadi said. “You can’t operate in isolation.”
He said that he intends to hold meetings in Nyanza, northern Kenya, Rift Valley, Coast and Lower Eastern in the coming days.
Unlike ODM leader Raila Odinga and Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, who have openly castigated the Tangatanga wing of the Jubilee Party that is allied to Deputy President William Ruto, Mr Mudavadi has been meeting all camps.
“I have always desired not to interfere in the internal affairs of any political party and my colleagues in other political parties should do the same,” he said.
The impending retirement of President Kenyatta in 2022 has potentially created a vacuum in Central Kenya. An ANC MP told the Saturday Nation that the Handshake has enabled discussions for a super alliance ahead of 2022.
“This involves the President, who may still play an active role in politics after his term expires,” the MP said.
But Mr Mudavadi will have to position himself to square it out with, among others, Deputy President William Ruto, who has made considerable progress in the vote-rich region that is critical to his 2022 State House bid.
But the Handshake has also levelled the political playground, negating the original idea that DP Ruto would be Mr Kenyatta’s automatic successor.
The President and the ANC leader's political relationship dates back to their time in Kanu, when they were ministers in the Moi Cabinet.
Meanwhile, a section of ANC leaders in Vihiga County have criticised Mr Mudavadi for expelling Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala from the party, saying he was turning into a dictator.
Reporting by Kennedy Kimanthi, Benson Amadala, Derick Luvega, Gitonga Marete and David Muchui