|Cord presidential candidate Raila Odinga and running mate Kalonzo Musyoka. [PHOTO: FILE]|
By James Omoro
KENYA: A new dawn seems to beckon in Nyanza politics with the possibility that Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) will not monopolise elective leadership positions in the upcoming polls.
Since the re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1992, Nyanza has traditionally rallied behind political parties led by the Odinga family.
But there are signs that the political dynasty that has controlled Nyanza for decades could lose its iron grip due to the discord brought about by political intrigues within the Cord alliance.
Angered by ODM’s direct nomination of big shots, many prominent politicians have defected to other political parties.
And in what is seen as a smart move, the disgruntled politicians opted for parties within the Cord alliance, thereby denying those who were issued with the ODM nomination the advantage of benefitting from Mr Odinga’s party.
Cord affiliate parties – Wiper Democratic Movement, Ford Kenya, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), The Independence Party (TIP) and the National Social Congress — have fielded strong candidates against ODM in Nyanza.
Some of these defectors are said to have won in the ODM nominations but were robbed of victory and the certificates issued to unpopular candidates.
“The chaotic nominations and the formation of Cord have come as a blessing in disguise for the people of Nyanza. There will be no more calls of Adhoga (sellout) because these other parties are in Cord and will campaign for Mr Odinga,” says David Outa, a political analyst.
He adds: “A wind of political change is sweeping through Nyanza. For the first time in many years, being in ODM will not be an automatic ticket to the National Assembly, Senate or County Assembly. It will be survival for the fittest.”
Nyanza’s notoriety for putting its eggs in one basket started in 1992 when Jaramogi Oginga Odinga contested the presidency on a Ford Kenya ticket. The majority of MPs in the area were elected on Ford Kenya but Jaramogi finished third after Moi and Kenneth Matiba.
In 1997, Mr Odinga contested the presidency on the National Development Party (NDP) ticket and all the MPS from Luo Nyanza were elected on the party’s ticket.
Again in 2002, Mr Odinga supported President Kibaki under the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc), which ended Kanu’s long stay in power, and all MPs in the Region were elected on his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ticket.
Mr Odinga finally swept all parliamentary seats in the area in the controversial General Election of 2007 under his ODM. Analysts say this voting trend has now come to an end.
Political analysts told The County Weekly that the situation has put Mr Odinga in a tight situation since he cannot openly campaign for ODM candidates because leaders of other Cord affiliate parties with interests in Nyanza may hit back by campaigning against him in their home turf.
Tom Mboya, Maseno University Political Science lecturer says the formation of Cord alliance has opened the democratic space in Luo Nyanza.
Mr Mboya believes it will be a bruising campaign and ODM will find it hard campaigning against other parties because they all have Mr Odinga as the presidential candidate. “Some of those candidates may have an upper hand because it is now difficult for a member of Cord to campaign against another party which is a Cord affiliate. Whoever does so will be weakening Mr Odinga’s chances, “Dr Mboya added.
However, he warns that not all the defectors will find it easy fighting ODM candidates.
“It is worth noting that not all the disgruntled ODM aspirants will succeed in other parties. Only those who were popular but were robbed of victory will be a threat to ODM,” he added.
Adams Oloo, the chairman of the department of Political Science and Public Relations at the University of Nairobi however says the candidates who ditched ODM are likely to meet hostility from party propagandists who will campaign against them on grounds that they are opposing Mr Odinga’s presidential bid.
Dr Oloo believes there is going to be a strong political contest between members of the Cord alliance since every party will be interested in the number of parliamentarians it will field in the eleventh Parliament.
“The political contest in Nyanza is going to be very stiff because even Mr Odinga will have to come down and argue that leadership is only good if the party has adequate numbers in Parliament and this is likely to convince many people to support ODM,” says Dr Oloo.
He adds: “Mr Odinga will most probably tell the voters proverbs such as “a cow is milked with its own calf instead of a calf from a different cow,” which means that his presidency will only be strong if he has many ODM MPs in Parliament.
Constituencies such as Rongo, Muhoroni, Kasipul, Karachuonyo, Kisumu Town West, Kisumu Central and Mbita have been marked out for fierce battles as handpicked ODM candidates face tough competition. A bruising battle is shaping up in the Siaya gubernatorial seat after the man perceived to have won the ODM ticket, William Oduol was robbed of victory. Mr Oduol has since defected to the little known National Agenda Party and will face ODM’s nominee, Cornel Rasanga Amoth.
Mr Oduol faced Mr Odinga’s elder brother, Oburu Oginga in the primaries but the two were later disqualified by ODM over alleged confusion during the exercise.
In Muhoroni, assistant minister Ayiecho Olweny is facing his perennial opponent, James Onyango K’Oyoo, who moved to Omingo Magara’s PDP after being denied the ODM certificate.
“It is a fact that K’Oyoo beat Mr Olweny by a landslide during the ODM nominations but he was robbed of victory. He will have a sweet revenge on March 4,” said a Muhoroni businessman, Tom Obuya.
In Kasipul, outgoing MP Oyugi Magwanga is a worried man after his main opponent; Charles Ongondo defected to Kalembe Ndile’s Tip party.
In Homa Bay, former Rangwe MP Martin Ogindo, who failed to secure the party’s certificate, is contesting on a Federal Party of Kenya ticket. Mr Ogindo told The County weekly that Homa Bay county residents told him they wanted him back to Parliament to enable him complete the development projects he had started.
“I have served ODM for a long time. I fail to understand why they denied me the ticket but I believe Homa Bay Town Constituents are going to reward me on March 4,” Mr Ogindo said.
In Ndhiwa constituency, Martin Owino has opted to carry the flag for Ford Kenya against ODM’s Augustino Neto. He is said to have defeated Mr Neto in the chaotic primaries. “The People of Ndhiwa will choose their leader on March 4. On this day, ODM will not hand pick anyone for them,” said Mr Owino.
And in Karachuonyo, where protesting ODM supporters blocked roads and lit bonfires over alleged rigging of party nominations, the man said to have been robbed of victory, Adipo Okuome defected to Wiper and will face off with outgoing area MP James Rege. In Mbita, former nominated MP Millie Odhiambo, who allegedly got the ODM ticket on a silver platter, will face a stiff challenge from IT expert Mark Matunga, who has defected to PDP.
The situation is the same in Rongo, where Public Service minister Dalmas Otieno is facing a tough battle from his main opponents, Gradus Oluoch and Paul Abuor. Mr Oluoch is vying on Wiper while Abuor settled on Tip.