When Muthama’s ‘loose tongue’ hits the nail on the head

Sunday December 15 2019

Johnstone Muthama's political journey reflects a man who never hesitates to jump from one political ship to another. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP


When former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama spoke this week about a possible political alliance between Wiper party boss Kalonzo Musyoka and Deputy President William Ruto, his claims fitted a consistent pattern that has defined his politics for the last 20 years.

By design or sheer coincidence, every election time, Mr Muthama, the self-declared sponsor of Wiper party, has been emerging as the main voice that determines which coalition Mr Musyoka joins, sparing no effort to achieve his political missions.

Like his name Muthama, which in Kamba means one who migrates often, his political journey reflects a man who never hesitates to jump from one political ship to another.

A wealthy businessman who loves bragging about his financial means, his abrasive style and sharp tongue makes his friendship and influence on the former vice-president so domineering to the extent of imposing his own preference on Mr Musyoka every election year.

The two have been bosom buddies since the Kanu days when the late Kamba political supremo, Mulu Mutisya, called shots in Ukambani politics, and in most times even their close aides are unable to tell the glue that binds them.



One minute they’re bitterly quarrelling in public, the next they are laughing excitedly calling each other best of names, especially when they retreat in private meetings.

But most interesting is how the politician, who calls himself Kiamba (the baobab tree), managed to literally “auction” his buddy Mr Musyoka in the last three presidential elections of 2007, 2013 and 2017.

Other than his vast commercial exploits in real estate, the business of delivering Mr Musyoka to his preferred coalition or unlikely presidential candidates seems to have been politically lucrative as well.

After the 2007 election, he was part of trusted allies who negotiated a power-sharing deal with President Mwai Kibaki, which saw Mr Musyoka appointed VP.

The most dramatic was in 2013, when Mr Muthama forced Mr Musyoka to make a political about turn that saw him mend fences with his erstwhile political rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga, and accept to be his running mate.

At the height of ICC cases that President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy faced at The Hague, Mr Musyoka, who was then serving as former President Mwai Kibaki’s deputy, was firmly in the G7 alliance with the two leaders.


However, either by design or default, it took just one speech at a rally in Machakos stadium in late 2012 to scuttle the G7 union, leaving Mr Musyoka with no option than to join Mr Odinga — whom Mr Muthama preferred.

He made remarks in his dialect which were taken by President Kenyatta and DP Ruto to mean that Mr Musyoka, their partner in G7, was angling to reap from their tribulations to ascend to power once the two are locked up by ICC.

After the Machakos rally, the last joint one by the three leaders, an angry Mr Kenyatta would later accuse Mr Musyoka of behaving like a hyena, which follows people hoping their hanging hands will drop so that it can feed on them.

The country was to witness more drama between Mr Muthama and the Wiper leader in the run-up to the 2017, as Opposition Nasa principals were jostling for the coalition’s flag-bearer position.

At a rally in Sultan Hamud market in November 2016, Mr Musyoka publicly complained that the senator, whom he entrusted as joint chairman of the Cord’s management committee alongside Siaya senator James Orengo of ODM and Kimilili MP Eseli Simiyu of Ford Kenya, was undermining him.


He specifically questioned Mr Muthama’s commitment in helping the Wiper party secure the Opposition cord presidential ticket, saying he was fully aware of the behind the scenes political schemes orchestrated by the senator to scuttle his ambitions.

“I am fully aware of what you have been doing behind my back with Orengo (James) to predetermine the outcome of Cord presidential primaries and deny me the ticket. You must convince Wiper supporters that the ticket you are pushing for can deliver victory for Cord,” he charged.

Mr Muthama triggered the bust up and the ugly exchange when he suggested that even if Mr Musyoka doesn’t get Cord ticket, the Kamba community should rally behind whoever is picked.

This reinforced long-held perceptions within Wiper party circles that he was working for Mr Odinga against his own party boss.

The former VP told Mr Muthama that he was aware that he has been working to scuttle his presidential bid by pretending to be with him during the day while busy campaigning for Mr Odinga at night.

“We nominated you to take care of our party interests in the Cord family, yet you are doing the opposite. The party faithful will teach you a painful lesson,” a visibly angry Mr Musyoka rebuked him.


Despite the fallout, Mr Muthama, who abandoned defending his Machakos Senate seat, had his way once again as Mr Musyoka agreed to deputise Mr Odinga for a second time in 2017 presidential election.

A few weeks later, Mr Muthama said his relationship with Mr Musyoka was intact and dismissed claims that he had fallen out with his party leader as propaganda by his political enemies.

It is their long political history that makes many Kenyans to believe his assertion that Mr Musyoka will team up with DP Ruto before 2022, despite denials from Wiper, but only time will tell.