Preparations for the ODM party elections received fairly significant media coverage. To its credit, the party had managed to call national attention to its internal affairs; overshadowing whatever other political activity was taking place elsewhere in the country.
But that a few shouting and unruly characters who identified themselves as ODM members could so easily scuttle party elections is indeed a sad statement on political maturity and the depth of the much-hyped internal party democracy.
The planned elections at Kasarani were not entirely an ODM affair. Whatever happens to ODM and TNA and URP is a matter of public concern even for Kenyans who are not members of the parties.
This is because these three political parties are beneficiaries of public funds and conduct party affairs in public interest. So the days when political party leaders and members dealt with parties as personal property are long gone, especially for the three said parties.
One of the reasons for funding of only a few political parties on account of their strength in parliamentary representation, was to ensure that we retain a small number of strong and vibrant parties to ensure sustainable growth of our democracy.
The money given to these parties is a donation from taxpayers and must therefore be utilised in the best way possible. Seeing grown up men kicking ballot boxes, overturning tables, tearing ballot papers into pieces all in the name of demanding fairness in the ODM elections was shameful and waste of public resources.
The culture of chaos in political affairs is a testimony of how politically under developed we are as a country. If party members are unable to tolerate divergent views within their own party, how can they be expected to tolerate the views of other people in other political parties?
The onus is on political party leaders to come up with ways and means of instilling and maintaining party discipline. In every political contest, there must be winners and losers.
The true measure of a democracy is the ability of leaders to hold regular, free and fair elections where willing candidates are allowed equal opportunity to contest any seat.
As the date for the ODM elections drew nearer, there was every indication that all was not well. There were claims of a line up that had been endorsed by the party leader. There were questions around the register of delegates who would participate in the elections. And, on the eve of the exercise, there was evidence of underhand dealings including night meetings in which money changed hands to influence delegates to vote for certain candidates.
This is the point at which the top leadership of the party should have moved in to ensure the sharp, even bitter divisions did not end up at the venue of the elections.
But even the fact that it took only a few disgruntled people inside the Kasarani Stadium Gymnasium, the venue of the party elections, to scuttle the exercise leaves a lot to be desired. What controls do we have within our political parties to ensure that individual and collective grievances are properly addressed without interfering with party programmes? How secure are party members gathered in their thousands for either party rallies or elections or any other activity?
And the team allied to Ababu Namwamba has now added a new twist to chaos within ODM. That they have declared themselves winners in an election that never was does not help matters for the party.
The buck stops at the office of the party leader. It is up to him to mobilise party machinery to speedily deal with the sharp divisions within the party in a manner that brings honour and dignity to the country’s political landscape.
Whatever happens, public resources must not be subjected to malicious damage by people who choose chaos as a way of resolving disputes.