Saturday, December 15, 2012

Is Mrs Ngilu becoming irrelelvant?

Why did Raila Odinga believe that his sleight-of-hand introduction of Charity Ngilu into the ODM/Wiper alliance would end well? Mrs Ngilu and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka cannot stand each other, especially since Mrs Ngilu is convinced that the Vice-President is determined to remove her from active politics in Ukambani, or that Kalonzo Musyoka is convinced that without Charity Ngilu's support for the Prime Minister, Ukambani would be his sinecure for all eternity. It is now apparent that the Prime Minister and the Vice-President, at least for the time being, are going to work together to defeat the Jubilee alliance; polls already indicate a 9-point lead by the former over the latter. It is early days though; when the nominations papers are filed, we will find out how the tickets will compete against each other in the hurly-burly of Kenyan politics.

Kalonzo Musyoka is a long-time supplicant at the feet of Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, Kenya's longest serving president. Raila Odinga is the enfant terrible of the Kenyan political landscape, single-handedly destroying KANU as a political machine and denying Moi a legacy by keeping Uhuru Kenyatta, a leading Jubilee alliance stalwart, from the presidency in 2002. Charity Ngilu has pursued an independent path ever since she entered politics in 1992. With the capture of the Kitui Central seat, Mrs Ngilu has established herself as a force to reckon with. A successful businesswoman, Mrs Ngilu's foray into politics was not seen as the scene-stealer it became in 1997, especially after her terrible falling out with Mwai Kibaki during the Democratic Party's nominations for the 1997 general election. When she declared her intent to challenge Mwai Kibaki for the presidential ticket in DP, she was sabotaged even by the likes of Joseph Munyao, Kibaki's trusted lieutenant. Her decision to switch parties to the Social Democratic Party was an inspired one and though she came far behind Mwai Kibaki in the election, she established herself as a strong-willed and talented politician capable of holding her own in the face of such great male opposition. She remains the most potent female politician of her generation and she continues to demonstrate that he reach is not to be under-estimated. She set the ground for Wangari Maathai and Martha Karua to make a play for the presidency and whether the latter wishes to admit it or not, she owes Mama Rainbow a debt of gratitude.

Mrs Ngilu's recent moves have been baffling. Perhaps it is the waning of her national popularity or the fears of irrelevance all politicians undergo, but she has made strange moves in the past year. Her most egregious is to forget that politics is not personal. By making her contest with Kalonzo Musyoka personal, she has managed to create a rift with one of her strongest political partners in recent years, Raila Odinga. She forgets that even though Raila Odinga was the victim of some of the worst tactics of President Moi's government, he managed to hold his nose and merge his National Development Party with KANU in order to capture power. Even he knew that in the Kenyan context, politics is not about issues or manifestos, but about numbers and he wanted the KANU network in order to build up his profile sufficiently enough to take on KANU when the time came. He also realised that in the face of a sustained character-assassination, he could not succeed Daniel Toroitich arap Moi in 2002, hence his Kibaki Tosha declaration that effectively ended forty years of KANU hegemony. Mrs Ngilu also forgets that even in the NARC coalition, Raila Odinga was forced to work with Michael Kijana Wamalwa, who had betrayed him in 1997 during the leadership contest for the Ford-K leadership position that Raila Odinga coveted. Even after the betrayal by the Mt Kenya Mafia in the first quarter of 2003, Raila Odinga still formed a coalition with Mwai Kibaki in 2008 and continued to work in the same government with the men and women who were instrumental in sidelining him in government. His has been a difficult path, but he has trod it in typical Odinga style. By agreeing to work with Kalonzo Musyoka in 2012 to defeat Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013, Mr Odinga surely lives the adage that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics, just permanent interests. It is a lesson that Mrs Ngilu must take to heart.

Mrs Ngilu has been in politics longer than the neophyte Kalonzo Musyoka and she has had far greater successes than the wily William Ruto. Buts she seems not to have drawn any lessons in her two decades in Kenya's Parliament. She still sees herself as the rebel that upset the Kibaki apple-cart in 1997 or the the Moi Ukambani script in 1992. By vacillating between CORD and Jubilee she has displayed uncertainty on an unprecedented scale and she has lowered her political profile to near-irrelevance. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto do not need to capture the Ukambani vote; all they have to do is split it between their alliance and Raila Odinga's. Mrs Ngilu is the key to all this as was Kalonzo Musyoka during their halcyon G7 days. The two are not about to subordinate their ambitions to Mrs Ngilu's. If she has not realised this, then perhaps she is more over-the-hill than she realises. Her safest bet for political relevance was with a team that more or less trusted her: CORD. Her fawning supplication at Uhuru Kenyatta's feet is not only going to cost her her last chance at the presidency, but at political relevancy. With her decision to spurn CORD because of her animosity for the Vice-President is bound to be her greatest political mistake and the costs are going to be devastating for her. Mr Musyoka should have been a cautionary tale and Mr Odinga should have been a lesson in pragmatism. She has learnt nothing in her time in politics. She will pay the price for her folly.

No comments:

Go away.

A short video doing the rounds on social media shows former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka and former Mombasa senator Omar Hasan changing wo...