|ODM leader Raila Odinga speaks during a past NEC before the fallout that led to the exit of some officials, including then Deputy Party Leader Musalia Mudavadi.|
By STEPHEN MAKABILA, LAWRENCE ALURU and JAMES OMORO
KENYA: Desertion by top allies and a possible post-election split are the main challenges facing ODM, just five weeks to its national elections.
While former Cabinet minister Franklin Bett, former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende, outgoing chairman Henry Kosgey and Secretary General Anyang’ Nyong’o are not running for any seat, competition among youthful MP in ODM’s Nyanza and Western strongholds may lead to nasty post-election feuds.
There are also fears over little interest in the elections in areas such as Rift Valley, Central, Eastern and North-Eastern. In Luo-Nyanza, insistence by a section of MPs that the post of Secretary General has to go to the region could injure the party’s popularity.
Many view the push by the MPs as an idea that could hurt former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who has shown interest in the presidency in the 2017 elections.
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The party goes to polls on February 28, with Senators Agnes Zani, Elizabeth Ongoro, James Orengo, and MPs Nicholas Gumbo, John Mbadi, Ababu Namwamba, Ken Obura, James Rege and Joseph Chepkwony angling for Secretary General. Obura, who is confident the elections will be free and fair, says the party needs to rebrand, with an eye on 2017. “Raila should remain at the helm but the other positions should go to vibrant leaders who can turn around the party,” he says, adding: “We are ready for 2017 and will make ODM a force to reckon with.”
Siaya County ODM chairman Oloo Okanda says insisting that the crucial post be taken over by a person from the region could be spoiling for the the party leader.
Speaking to the The Standard on Sunday, Bondo MP Gideon Ochanda said the all idea could kill the national image the party enjoys.
“Democracy does not mean a few leaders from one region hold on to posts that should otherwise be shared,” he says.
Nyakach MP Aduma Owuor concurs, saying delegates should vote merit and not ethnicity or region if they have the parry at heart.
“Nobody among the candidates should be voted because he comes from a particular region but must be elected on merit,” he says.
Indeed, while announcing his decision to quit ODM, Bett noted he was not ready to handle intra-party fights that will follow.
“The departure of Bett, Kosgey and other leaders such as former ministers Margaret Kamar and Dr Sally Kosgei weakens it and ways should be sought to change its fortunes in the Rift Valley,” says lawyer Titus Bittok.
In Western, ODM has also the challenge of facing off with a strong Ford-Kenya in Bungoma and Trans-nzoia counties as well as UDF in Kakamega and Vihiga counties.
There is also lack of consensus in Western, where leaders seeking various positions have failed to agree on who should be supported and for which position.
While Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba wants to become Secretary General, his Funyula counterpart Paul Otuoma wants to become chairman as is Ken Butiko from Vihiga County. In Western, ODM leaders declared the region will go for four positions — Deputy Party Leader, Secretary General, Secretary of Devolution and Deputy Organising Secretary.
The meeting agreed to front Namwamba for Secretary General while Butiko and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya will go for Deputy Party Leader.
Kakamega County Assembly Deputy Speaker Cleophas Malala was proposed for the Secretary for Devolution while Busia MP Florence Mutwa will run for Deputy Organising Secretary where she will face Nyatike MP Omondi Anyanga and Migori Women Representative Dennitah Ghati.
Anyanga says he has dependable managerial skills that will help re-energise the Orange party as it sets its sights on the General Election.
“I am equal to the task. Knowing well that Raila will be in the race in 2017, it is vital that we get capable leaders who will not be bought by ODM rivals,” he says.
Anyanga has also warned those interested in party positions to shun speculations that there are ‘sacred cows’ in ODM and that certain posts are a preserve of some people.
Out-going Secretary General Anyang Nyong’o urged aspirants to be civil and to always be “conscious of party constitution and its policies and always ready to prioritize strengthening of the party above individual ambition.”
“ODM has indeed been the party of reform led by Raila Odinga as the indefatigable crusader for change over the past three decades, and I am happy to have worked with him together with the national party leaders and to have connected with grass root leaders”, he said.
He said that the ODM agenda in building a national democratic and developmental state in Kenya had not been completed.
“It is urgent and necessary to dismantle the vestiges of presidential authoritarian rule in our society while also eliminating ethnic hegemonic politics,” said Nyong’o.
In the former Coast province, Ali-Hassan Joho and Zani are among those seeking bigger position at the national level.
Ghati says the delegates who are going to participate in the elections should not concentrate on contenders from big communities.
Speaking at Rodi Kopany in Homa Bay County at the weekend, Ghati said minority communities play a pivotal role in strengthening the party.
“ODM is a national political party whose leadership should comprise people from all ethnic background. The minority communities have been forgotten for long,” Gati said.
Ghati, at the same time, challenged fellow women in the party to contest various positions to allow the anticipated leadership of the Orange party to meet the one-third gender rule.