Embakasi East MP Babu Owino pours heart out in interview about ODM

Embakasi East Member of Parliament Babu Owino. [File, Standard]

Embakasi East Member of Parliament (MP) Babu Owino says he is demotivated, and describes himself as a “wounded ODM soldier”, who has been overlooked, betrayed and shortchanged.

The MP erupted with rage on Twitter after allegedly learning that he’d been overlooked for the position of the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly.

PAC, a lucrative committee that is usually reserved for the opposition, is responsible for scrutinising the financial expenditure of the government and taxpayers’ money.

It also ensures transparency and accountability within government and makes recommendations to ensure taxpayers receive the best value for money on government spending.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) constituted immediately following the general election serves for a period of three calendar years and the one that succeeds it, serves for the remainder of the parliamentary term.

Babu Owino says ODM had originally settled on him for the position of PAC chairperson before rescinding the decision and proposing Nominated MP John Mbadi for the seat.

“@TheODMparty, with due respect, why should John Mbadi come down from the position of Majority Leader [in the National Assembly] to PAC chairperson, which was reserved for me? This will not happen! Over my dead body. Young people must get their space. It’s now or never. He (Mbadi) has been rewarded through nomination [to Parliament],” said the youthful MP.

Speaking to The Standard, Owino said he received a call from a senior official of ODM Party on Thursday, September 22 informing him that the party had rescinded its decision to propose him for the seat, and instead fronted Mbadi’s candidature.

“I had received Baba’s (Raila Odinga’s) endorsement for the position. How things changed remains a mystery to me,” he said.

“Ninety-nine (99) per cent of the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya MPs had proposed me for the PAC chairmanship. However, on Thursday evening I received a phone call from a senior ODM official asking me to step down for Mbadi.

“It’s unfortunate that our competitors in Kenya Kwanza are embracing the youth, yet we, the young people in ODM, are being oppressed. Look at UDA for example: their candidate for Majority Leader in the National Assembly is [Kikuyu MP] Kimani Ichung’wah, a young person; their Majority Whip candidate is [South Mugirango MP] Sylvanus Osoro, a young person; their Senate Majority Leader candidate is [Kericho Senator] Aaron Cheruiyot, another young person. When you come to ODM, it’s only the elderly people who get the lucrative positions. Why should that be the case?” posed Babu Owino.

“As of Thursday, ODM’s candidate for PAC chairperson was John Mbadi, and not me. I don’t lack the qualifications for that position. [Former Budalangi MP] Ababu Namwamba, who was a lawyer, held the seat; [former Rarieda MP] Nicholas Gumbo, who was an engineer by profession, held the position; Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture, held the position of PAC chairperson.

“So, the talk that one has to be an accountant like John Mbadi to qualify for the position of PAC chairperson is misleading. If anything, a person with an educational background in Actuarial Science and Law, like myself, is better-suited for the position than one who only has an accounting background,” said Owino.

The MP claims he sacrificed more for ODM Party and its leader Raila Odinga in the run-up to the August 9, 2022 General Election than Mbadi did.

“He (Mbadi) watched me on television campaigning for Raila Odinga. My constituency (Embakasi East) brought more votes for Raila Odinga [in the presidential election] than some constituencies in Homa Bay County, where Mbadi comes from.

“I was arrested because of Raila Odinga; I campaigned in all the 47 counties for Raila Odinga. What did Mbadi do for Raila Odinga? Why does he deserve this seat more than me?”

Asked what he’ll do if ODM goes ahead to confirm Mbadi as its candidate for PAC chairmanship, Owino said: “There’s nothing I can do. I’ll continue supporting ODM, but the party should know that I’ll be demotivated. I’m now wounded and would retreat to being a quasi (passive) member of the party. It appears that loyalty is punished in ODM, and there’s no room for the youth to take up senior leadership positions in the party.”

The Standard reached immediate former Suba South MP John Mbadi, who is a Nominated MP in the 13th Parliament and the chairperson of ODM, for comment.

“It’s not true that ODM has picked me for PAC chairmanship. If anything, the party is yet to sit and decide which member takes what position in the National Assembly’s committees. I don’t know where Babu Owino’s claims are coming from,” he said.

Mbadi confirmed that he was eyeing the Majority Leader in the National Assembly, but “accepted” Azimio’s decision to pick Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi for the seat.

ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna declined to comment on the infightings within ODM.