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Raila Odinga's allies face bruising battle in 2017 elections

By Dalton Nyabundi and Scophine Otieno | Published Sun, December 11th 2016 at 00:00, Updated December 10th 2016 at 23:54 GMT +3
Kisumu County governor Jack Ranguma. PIC BY COLLINS ODUOR

Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s key allies have begun to prep up for Orange Democratic Movement’s (ODM) primaries in the party’s strongholds in the indeterminate future.

While some of the incumbents in the party will be taking on well-established opponents, a good number will face off against leaders who are less well known but have a strong grassroots network and appeal. Some of those in race for governorships are party chairman John Mbadi, Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o and Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong.

Mr Mbadi, who is the Suba MP, will be up against Raila’s former Chief of Staff Caroli Omondi, who said that despite the party’s history of flawed nominations, he felt confident enough to secure the ODM nomination even though he is running against the party’s chairman.

“I am not worried about the ticket,” Omondi insisted, in anticipation of a bruising battle against Mbadi who believes some of the projects he initiated in Suba Constituency will work in his favour during the vote.

Mbadi, who is among trusted Raila’s allies with a national profile owing to his party position, is keen to ensure that the party he nominally presides over holds credible primaries.

“Everyone will go through the nominations, including myself, so that I can have the moral high ground to raise my voice in areas where the nominations are bungled,” he noted.

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In Kisumu, Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o, a long standing Raila ally, will seek to secure the ticket for governorship against incumbent Jack Ranguma so as to “deliver Kisumu from the bondage of bad governance.”

Nyong’o maintained that although he will be working closely with Raila’s presidential team, his eye will be securely focused on the prize in Kisumu, a challenge Ranguma has said he relishes.

In Migori County, another Raila ally Junet Mohammed, the Suna East MP, will be trying to seek re-election knowing that his predecessor John Pesa, businessman Patrick Odipo and Hezron Ondigo, a teacher, also want the ODM party ticket.

Mohammed, who is also ODM’s director of Elections, does not believe his position in the party will give him undue advantage over others.

“Some people say I have an advantage because of my position. The truth is that when I was elected in 2013, I had no position in the party,” said Mohammed.

Pesa, who narrowly lost to Junet in 2013, says he is ready to reclaim the parliamentary seat he once held.

“I am now working on a strategy to win some of the active youths who initially were my ardent followers but decamped to Junet’s side,” said Pesa, who plans to conduct door-to-door campaigns that target women.

Ondigo, who is a Luhya residing in Kakrao, is banking on the support of the sizeable non-Luo community to secure the seat — particularly members of his own ethnic group, as well as the Kisiis and Somalis.

In Busia, Ojaamong is facing opposition from former ODM Vice Chairman and Funyula MP Paul Otuoma for the governorship.

“The battle will be bruising, even though Ojaamong and Dr Otuoma are Raila point men. You remember it was because of Ojaamong that Dr Otuoma resigned from ODM before changing his mind and returning to the fold several months later,” said Tom Okidia, an ODM delegate from Busia.

“He was under the impression that Raila would favour Ojaamong in the gubernatorial contest,” said Okidia.

Other Raila allies facing stiff competition are Kisii Governor James Ongwae who is expected to battle it out with Senator Chris Obure for a ticket to contest the governorship. ODM has in the past send it would hold primaries in its strongholds but directly nominate candidates in areas it does not hold much sway to minimise the cost of running its party nominations.