NAIROBI, September 26 – Deputy Prime Minister Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi has said he should not be ruled out of the presidential race in the 2012 general elections.
Mr Mudavadi who once served as the country’s Vice President for three months during President Moi’s regime said he would declare his intentions at an appropriate time.
"For now my objective is to be part of the process of building a very strong and formidable ODM party. I want to play any competitive politics within the framework of the party structures. So you cannot rule me out, but at the same time I will respect the party position," he told Capital News in an interview.
Mr Mudavadi first went to Parliament in 1989 when he was elected unopposed as MP for Sabatia following the death of his father Moses Mudavadi.
Soon after his election, he was appointed the Minister for Supplies and Marketing and enjoyed an uninterrupted stint as a Cabinet Minister until 2002 when his appointment as vice president spelt his political downfall.
In that year’s election, the land economist, who had been seen as a possible presidential contender was the running mate for the KANU presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta but lost the Sabatia seat to Moses Akaranga.
Mr Mudavadi now sees that defeat as a vital lesson.
"I took it my stride and I can tell you the five years I was outside (of political life) were helpful. Sometimes we need to be jolted so that we can come to terms with certain aspects of politics and the sentiments of the people. I think for everyone in politics it is necessary to get that kind of a jolt because it is healthy," he said.
He made a come-back in politics in 2005 during the constitution referendum when he sided with the group that opposed the proposed set of laws.
In the run-up to the 2007 poll, he was one of the candidates who declared interest in the ODM presidential ticket where he emerged second. When Raila Odinga clinched the nomination, he appointed him as running mate.
Under the political deal that was crafted by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, Mr Mudavadi was appointed Deputy Prime Minister representing ODM while Gatundu South MP Uhuru Kenyatta was named Deputy Prime Minister from President KIbaki’s Party of National Unity. The two double up as Local Government Minister and Trade Minister respectively.
But the political battles of Mr Mudavadi who once served in the powerful docket of Finance Minister between 1993 and 1997 are far from over.
The latest fray is from within the Orange Democratic Movement where Members of Parliament allied to Agriculture Minister William Ruto are demanding the latter’s appointment as deputy party leader.
But Mr Mudavadi has played down the apparent rift, saying the preserve of naming a deputy party leader lies with the party’s presidential contender.
"The issue of the deputy leader of the party should not generate the kind of excitement it is. The flag bearer wields the right to nominate his running mate and this is similar to what has happened in the United States," he noted.
He pointed out that ODM was due to hold party elections in November but it was not the time to identity the party flag bearer for the next general election. This, he said, would await the enactment of a new party constitution.
"It could be me as the flag bearer or it could be Raila (Odinga). It could be (William) Ruto or anybody else for that matter. We are giving whoever gets the ticket the latitude to appoint the running mate," he said.
He recalled that he was a contender for the 2002 ODM presidential nomination where Mr Odinga emerged the winner and went ahead to appoint him the running mate.
He also said that he did not foresee a crisis in the party due to the demands by Rift Valley MPs over Ruto’s appointment as party deputy leader.
"Sceptics said ODM’s breaking point would be the presidential nominations but we had already decided to stick together no matter the outcome. The same pessimists also thought that we would split at the recent Naivasha retreat but we emerged as strong as ever."
He said ODM would remain a formidable party and emphasised that there was no bad blood between him and Mr Ruto over the recent power jostling.
On Saturday, Mr Mudvadi was due to hold a homecoming fete at Kakamega’s Muliro gardens where Prime Minister Raila Odinga was slated to be the chief guest.