Until he returned to the country last week, both President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee administration and his own political outfit Nasa were waiting with bated breath for Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s next course of action.
Mr Musyoka’s long stay in Germany where he was nursing his ailing wife Pauline had triggered all manner of speculation, with some Jubilee-leaning politicians suggesting it was a sign he did not want to be part of Nasa’s push to swear in opposition leader Raila Odinga as president, a view also held by some within the opposition alliance.
Many thought that, by choosing to be away, much as it appears insensitive to Mr Musyoka’s family, the Wiper leader had found a perfect excuse to slowly disengage from the Nasa brigade, a feeling that quickly dissipated when he returned to the country last Wednesday and declared that he was ready to be sworn into office alongside Mr Odinga.
“I have challenged Uhuru to show leadership. If he does not, he will have himself to blame,” Mr Musyoka reiterated on Saturday on his call for dialogue with Jubilee.
Mr Musyoka is said to have been under immense pressure from the international community, just like Mr Odinga, and politicians from both the opposition and ruling Jubilee to disassociate himself from the swearing-in plans.
In effect, Mr Musyoka has kept the record of playing the deciding role in national politics, which he started a decade ago when he threw his weight behind President Mwai Kibaki and agreed to be his Vice President, handing him the much needed legitimacy at the height of a disputed win pitting Mr Kibaki against Mr Odinga.
This time round, the opposition would have been deflated in its quest to install the duo if Mr Musyoka had taken a different path. His return has energised the opposition as they usher in New Year, with Jubilee forced back to the drawing board on how to deal with buoyant opponents.
On his return from Germany where he accompanied his wife Pauline for medical treatment, Mr Musyoka met only Mr Odinga for a lengthy afternoon chat over lunch at his Karen home in Nairobi. He kept everybody else waiting until Thursday when he travelled to Kitui to visit the family of the late Kitui West MP Francis Nyenze.
“They (Raila and Kalonzo) had an extensive meeting, just the two of them, in Karen, perhaps to catch up on the events in the country after the Wiper leader’s long absence” said the source who did want to be named.
But as he focuses on coalition matters, Mr Musyoka will be faced with an increasing dilemma of the hard choices he must make ahead of the 2022 polls if he is keen on running as president.
Already, his foot soldiers in Wiper have made it clear that he will be their candidate. They say they will not settle for anything less this time.
“As far as we are concerned, Mr Musyoka is our presidential candidate come 2022. We want to ask him to go round the country to enlist the support of others to realise this goal. We shall walk with him,” Wiper chairman and Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana said.
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior said it was important for his party leader to call for dialogue because failure to do so would have undermined his international standing on peace building in the region.
“How do you tell warring factions in Burundi, Somalia and Sudan to dialogue their political differences if you are not preaching the same in your country? It amounts to preaching water and taking wine,” he said.
The senator’s sentiments offers a window into the mind of a man who is juggling between his own individual ambitions and his standing on the world stage.
The senator said that Mr Musyoka had built a solid and consistent peace building reputation across the region and that there were certain expectations of him as a leader, both locally and internationally. He added that Mr Musyoka had extended an olive branch to President Kenyatta for the sake of peace in the country.
His sentiments were echoed by former East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) MP Peter Mathuki, who said Mr Musyoka was an accomplished diplomat having served as Foreign Affairs minister in both retired presidents Moi and Kibaki governments.
“Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka are known globally and have proved to the world that they stand for peace, despite all the electoral injustices they have suffered,” Mr Mathuki said, adding that the two leaders would not want the country to go to the dogs in pursuit of political power.
Mrs Charity Ngilu, who accompanied Mr Musyoka during the visit to the late Nyenze’s family, alongside other Kamba leaders, said the former VP’s move was a huge boost to Nasa’s quest for justice over stolen elections.
“I am very proud of my brother Kalonzo for making it clear that the issues arising from the August presidential elections cannot be wished away and that President Kenyatta’s second term in office was illegitimate,” Mrs Ngilu said.
Mr Musyoka has been Mr Odinga’s running mate in the last two presidential elections. His supporters hope that according to a pact between the two, the former prime minister will throw his weight behind the former vice president.
Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen, from Jubilee, however feels that Mr Musyoka stands no such chance of being the flagbearer in Nasa.
“The truth is that Mr Odinga will be running for President in 2022 against the front runner, Mr William Ruto. Mr Kalonzo has a decision to make; either he becomes himself and charts his own political path, or fights for the running mate position with Mr Mudavadi,” he said.
His National Assembly contemporary Aden Duale agreed with him. “Kalonzo cannot give an ultimatum to the President. He needs to organise himself and his party as an opposition outfit for the next five years, outgrow the political shadow of Raila and prepare to face Mr Ruto in the 2022 presidential election,” he said, adding that President Kenyatta was ready for dialogue on his legacy projects.
From wrangling over how to share out leadership positions in Parliament to succession politics, Nasa principals have a full in-tray of issues competing for attention.
On Saturday, ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi, who is one of the principals, said the earliest they can meet is next week since his Ford Kenya counterpart and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula is out of the country. “We will be meeting to draw up the agenda for 2018 and do a bit of housekeeping after the festivities are over,” he said on phone from Mombasa.
Depending on how the push for the swearing in goes, the attention is likely to move to succession politics within Nasa. All the three principals are keen to run as president in future.