Raila retains allies and old guards as ODM primaries end

Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong'o speaking during World Mental Health Day in Kisumu in October 2021. (Collins Oduor, Standard)

ODM leader Raila Odinga’s closest allies and old guards got another chance to defend their seats through the coveted party ticket as the primaries ended in the region.

Save for only a few surprises, almost all incumbents and long term allies of the ODM chief won their nominations while others were handed direct tickets after Raila’s inner circle approved their re-election. In Nyanza which is Raila’s home turf, all aspirants who will fly the ODM ticket have now been identified with only Ugenya parliamentary seat remaining as the party’s top brass continues with efforts to broker a consensus between four aspirants.

Some old guards have also been given new mandates and have been charged with the responsibility of wrestling back seats the ODM party lost to other parties and independents. And with the identification of its aspirants now done and dusted, Raila has issued the rallying call for a six-piece voting pattern to the region to ensure that all his troops win in the General Election.

Kisumu Central MP Fred Ouda became the only sitting MP to lose the nominations while all other incumbents won their seats effortlessly as others received direct tickets. A disgruntled Ouda who bagged 5,362 votes against businessman Joshua Oron’s 6,842 votes however believes the exercise was not free and fair and has vowed to make amends.

MPs James K’oyoo (Muhoroni), Aduma Owuor (Nyakach) and Raila’s younger sister Ruth Odinga became the latest allies to get a nod to fly the ODM ticket as the party concluded nominations in four Luo Nyanza counties. In an exercise that was praised by most aspirants who described it as free and fair, Raila’s allies won their seats with significant margins against new entrants who had attempted to make their entry into Raila’s political pool.

Ruth who served as a Deputy Governor between 2013 and 2017 won the race to fly the ticket for the Woman Representative after edging out five opponents by garnering 23,655 votes. Her closest opponent Rose Kisia garnered 13,999 votes. In Kisumu, only veteran lawyer Tom Ojienda who bagged the ticket for the senate after garnering 39,336 votes became the new face in the ODM camp. In the past however, he has also represented the party in the courts and is a familiar face within ODM circles.

The development means that the party has now identified all its aspirants in Kisumu with old guards in the driving seat for another term. ODM is regarded as dominant party in Nyanza and getting its ticket is seen as a major step to winning in August polls especially in Luo dominated areas.

In Nyando, Seme and Kisumu West, the party has settled on long term allies Jared Okello, James Nyikal and Rozah Buyu respectively and has handed them direct tickets. The ODM party is banking its hopes on Buyu to wrestle Kisumu West from veteran lawyer Olago Aluoch’s tight grip. Olago has managed to keep the seat for two consecutive terms on a Ford-K ticket. In the buildup to the August 9 polls, Olago is defending the seat on a DAP-K ticket.

In an interview with The Standard, Buyu expressed optimism of clinching the seat saying she is the best bet to transform the constituency.

“I believe I have what it takes to perform. My track record as a woman representative is all there for everyone to see,” she said.

With some contenders dropping out of races after failing to clinch party tickets, Raila’s adherents are in the driving seat to bag another chance to defend their leadership positions.

This means, save for a few surprises anticipated in the General Election, the same faces who have dominated Raila’s inner circle for more than five years will remain intact. In Nyanza, for almost 15 years, winning the coveted Orange ticket has always been like a guarantee of clinching the seat and the ODM party primaries have always been treated like the General Election.

In Kisumu, the party has settled on Anyang’ Nyong’o while in Siaya, Raila’s confidant James Orengo will fly the party’s ticket. The party has also thrown its weight behind it’s treasurer Timothy Bosire to contest Nyamira seat while Senator Ochillo Ayacko will battle for Migori governorship. Fiery lawmaker and Dagoretti MP Simba Arati has also received the backing of the party to succeed governor Kisii James Ongwae who is retiring in August.

Last week, the decision by the party to opt out of competitive nominations for the Migori seat sparked an uproar among some aspirants who termed the move as unfair. Woman Representative Pamela Odhiambo who had been hoping to compete Ayacko said the decision was unfair and believes she will still get another chance to battle for the party ticket.

In the race for the Senate in Homa Bay, Siaya and Migori, Moses Kajwang, Raila’s elder brother Oburu Oginga and Eddy Muok Oketch respectively, have all received a nod to contest on the party’s ticket. Youthful politician Oketch is another new face who was handed direct ticket to vie for Migori senatorial seat.

According to Clifford Otieno, a constitutional lawyer and a political pundit, some of the allies of Raila including Junet Mohamed who was given the nod to defend his Suna East seat earned their trust in ODM circles and thus the party’s preference on them.

“There are certain things that Raila cannot do as a person because he has a lot on his table. That is where the likes of Junet whom he trusts most comes in,” said the advocate.

In Siaya, all sitting MPs will defend their seats on an ODM ticket. They include Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Otiende Amollo (Rarieda) and Woman Representative Christine Ombaka.