ODM to declare Homa Bay flag bearer Tuesday

ODM to declare Homa Bay flag bearer Tuesday
Homa Bay county aspirants vying on ODM ticket from left; Engineer Philip Okundi, Fred Rabongo, Moses Kajwang and Silas Jakakimba. (Jenipher Wachie/Standard)
The naming of Orange Democratic Movement's flag bearer for the Homa Bay senatorial seat took a dramatic twist Monday after the party's top organ met but declined to announce their choice.

After a lengthy meeting at Orange House attended by members of the party's National Elections Board and the National Executive Committee, it was decided that the name of the candidate given direct nomination would be released Tuesday.

The Standard can reliably report that the party has already settled on its preferred candidate to battle for the by-elections scheduled for February 12, 2015, after serious deliberations and consensus following the aborted delegates meeting.

According to credible sources who attended the high-profile closed-door meeting, the party's National Election Board conducted a six-day survey in the county to gauge the aspirants' popularity.

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It was this exercise that allegedly informed them to pick on the late Senator Otieno Kajwang's brother Moses Otieno Kajwang' to be the flag bearer.

Other aspirants also eyeing the ODM ticket include former National Social Security Fund Managing Trustee Fred Rabongo, former Rangwe MP Phillip Okundi, businessman George Mboya and former Raila's aide Silas Jakakimba.

The NEB will today release the polls results to the National Executive Council (NEC) before announcing the party's torchbearer in Homa Bay.

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The Standard can also report that the candidates committed themselves to rally behind the chosen candidate during a series of meetings held to reach a compromise, following the short notice issue by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries (IEBC) to conduct party primaries.

"The elections board carried out a survey on the contesting candidates and their popularity on the ground. It emerged that the electorate still have high hopes on Moses Otieno Kajwang," said a top ODM official who declined to be named.

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Preferred candidate

ODM's Secretary General for Political Affairs Opiyo Wandayi and Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma confirmed to The Standard that the elections board had settled on a preferred candidate to be announced Tuesday.

"What we are going to do what is within the party's constitution and the elections and nomination's regulations. It is not unusual to have direct nominations," he said.

Wandayi, who declined to confirm their direct nominee, only said that the party's choice is the best and that they expect a resounding victory in the by-election.

"It is also the only lasting tribute the people of Homa Bay County can give to the late Senator Kajwang', since he was a loyal member of ODM and fought for the rights of the less privileged in society," said Wandayi.

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Kaluma urged the board to name the candidate to end the anxiety and wait by party supporters.

But he openly supported the candidature of Moses Kajwang', saying it was only wise to allow him complete his brother's tenure at the Senate.

"Kajwang' was a loyal member of ODM and therefore denying his family the opportunity to complete his term will be contrary to the party's tradition," said Kaluma.

Majority of ODM legislators who spoke to The Standard on condition of anonymity, rallied their support behind Moses Kajwang', saying he is better placed to complete his late brother's term.

"Those contesting now should wait for 2017 to contest," said a legislator from Western Kenya.

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The delay by the party to choose its candidate has fuelled speculation and heightened uncertainty among the party's rank and file.

Already there are rumours that some candidates who are privy to the classified information are disgruntled and have faulted the party for settling on their rival they considered unpopular.

Efforts by The Standard to reach NEB members for a comment on the exercise failed, as it emerged the board, alongside the party leadership, had retreated to reach consensus on the matter.

"We are having a meeting today (Monday) to finalise the process and hit the ground for the by-election," confirmed ODM National Chairman John Mbadi.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who had earlier planned to attend a function in Siaya County Monday, did not show up "to oversee the process of unveiling the ODM candidate".

But according to sources who asked not to be named so as not to run afoul of the party's leadership, it appears the party has resorted to delaying tactics to prevent other contestants from jumping ship to other political outfits.

IEBC has set December 27 as the deadline for political parties to present their candidates for the by-election slated for February 12.

"There is a general fear of a backlash that is likely to meet the party's decision because Homa Bay County voters were opposed to a direct nomination. So the party is strategising how to avoid a possible fallout," said a source at Orange House.

The party has been in a dilemma to pick its candidate after its bid use the delegates' system last week turned chaotic.

Hired goons destroyed ballot boxes and overturned tables and chairs, leading to its cancellation. Some of the aspirants raised concerns, claiming the party was taking too long to name its candidate.

"As a curious contestant, I went to Orange House because we were informed that the party was to pick a candidate. I was, however, informed by the party's secretariat that the process had been pushed to tomorrow (Tuesday)" said Kenneth Kambona, an aspirant.

"Our supporters are very anxious and they keep calling to confirm the decision made by the party," Dr Kambona said, adding that he was ready to abide by the party's decision.

On Sunday, some youthful leaders from Homa Bay protested that the process for naming the candidate was "taking unnecessarily too long" and petitioned the party to expedite the process.

Hillary Alila, who is vying as an independent candidate said he was ready to face off the ODM's flag bearer at the polls.

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ODM Homa Bay by election Moses Kajwang senate