Memo to Musalia Mudavadi: Stop self-cannibalising
Over the past few months, Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi, son of Moses Mudamba Mudavadi, has been all over the news with talks of Luhya unity.
For starters, the leader of the Amani National Congress (ANC) party is a prince. It just doesn’t get any better than this. In fact, a part of me is tempted to buy a copy of The Prince byNiccolo Machiavelli, erase Lorenzo de Medici’s name from the introductory page and hand the book to Mr Mudavadi. Another part of me feels like sending some copies of The New Machiavelli by Jonathan Powell ― former UK prime minister Tony Blaire’s long-term chief of staff― to him and his greenhorn political advisers. This is because he does not appear to have a clue on how to get, let alone maintain, power.
Today, I want to call Mudavadi out for his self-destructive tendencies. His recent political moves actually remind me of a story I once read in a research journal on self-cannibalism.
The scene is a prison in the United States in 2014. After being found bleeding in his cell, a 34-year-old prisoner was rushed to hospital. He was taken to the emergency department with a deep cut on his right leg. The doctors on duty were surprised by how calm the man was considering a huge chunk of flesh was missing from his thigh. Because of his demeanour, they thought it wise to question him before commencing treatment. But their patient played the deaf and dumb card on them.
Under normal circumstances, anyone with such an injury would be in great pain and ready to give a chronological account of events that led to such an accident. This case was different.
A physical examination revealed that a rectangle of soft tissue measuring 7mm deep had been carefully removed from his thigh. And because the patient was not being cooperative, the hospital requested the prison authorities to investigate and give a probable explanation on what actually happened. It was later discovered that the prisoner had cut the flesh from his thigh using a knife and eaten it raw.
This is what Mudavadi has been doing politically. Eating himself. Slowly by slowly. Piece by piece. And he seems to be enjoying it.
There is hardly a politician in this country who has been embraced by Kenyans in the manner Mudavadi has. Not even Opposition leader Raila Odinga, and definitely not Deputy President William Ruto…. But instead of using this unmerited favour granted to him by the gods, Mudavadi has, especially in the recent past, been self-cannibalising.
Let me explain why.
There is hardly a politician in this country who has been embraced by Kenyans in the manner Mudavadi has. Not even Opposition leader Raila Odinga, and definitely not Deputy President William Ruto. Let us get one thing clear – it is one thing to be known and another to be accepted.
For instance, Raila is known in almost all corners of this country but his acceptability in many regions is wanting. It was former Vice President Kijana Wamalwa (now deceased) who got it right. You either love or loathe Raila. In his words: “Raila excites such passion as those who love him love him unto death and those who don’t are always suspicious of his intentions. You are either Railamania or Railaphobia.”
Mudavadi is known and accepted in nearly all parts of this country. He is almost the only Kenyan politician who can wake up any day and decide to hold a political rally in any corner of this country without experiencing any form of violence or conflict. But instead of using this unmerited favour granted to him by the gods, Mudavadi has, especially in the recent past, been self-cannibalising. If he wants to remain politically relevant, he must do the following moving forward.
First, Mudavadi must stop sitting on the fence. Right now he is a political Humpty Dumpty. If he falls from the fence, it will be impossible to piece him back together. If the wave of political change should sweep over him, he will not be able to recreate himself. Indeed, very few politicians have the ability to forge a new identity that commands attention and excites voters.
For this reason, Mudavadi must pick a side and stick to it. It is either that he is with Raila and President Uhuru Kenyatta, or he is with Mr Ruto. He cannot be a third force because he is not a self-made politician – greatness was thrust upon him. His best bet would be to embrace the Raila-Uhuru offer with a big smile. Anything else is self-cannibalism because to team up with Ruto would be to place himself on the wrong side of history.
Secondly, Mudavadi must get good advisers. Word has it that he wants to be president one day. Well, I don’t know who advises the president or presidential candidates, but somebody should tell Mudavadi that the walk to State House is not easy. Unless he has other political advisers hidden somewhere, he needs to get a group that is serious, seasoned and sober. The ones we know cannot advise anybody who has their eyes set on State House, let alone a governor’s seat.
Mudavadi must surround himself with men and women who think at the table and on their feet; who will put his political interests above their egos. The people he has around him currently are disappointing – they never stop to think, they simply react to situations. That explains why he picks small wars with party members.
Finally, Musalia must make ANC a formidable force in the western region, if not all of Kenya. I shudder to imagine him as a Luhya ‘kingpin’ yet ANC has not produced even one governor in the region. I shudder to think that the two ANC senators in western Kenya are technically in the Orange Democratic Movement party. And it is hard to accept that only three out of the five members of the National Assembly in Vihiga County, where he comes from, are from ANC. Even more shocking is that of the six Members of the County Assembly in his constituency, only two are from ANC. Clearly, this is not a party that can sponsor anyone to the presidency.