ODM grants aspirants more time

ODM NEC Chairman John Mbadi (left) addresses the Press as other officials look on, on February 12. [File, Standard]

The Orange Democratic Movement has extended its deadline for applicants seeking to fly the party’s flag for the presidential seat in the 2022 General Election.

The party had initially given February 26 as its deadline.

“Further to the notice of the National Elections Board of January 21, 2021 calling for submission of applications by individuals interested in consideration as the ODM party presidential candidate for the 2022 General Election, this is to extend the deadline for the submission of applications from February 26 to March 31, 2021,” said NEB chairperson Catherine Mumma in a statement.

The decision by the party to extend the deadline has raised eyebrows, with some reports indicating that no politician, including party leader Raila Odinga, had by yesterday applied for the process that was initially set to close today.

According to some quarters, recent pronouncements by Raila suggesting he could run for the presidency in the next polls has made other hopefuls shy away from applying for the party ticket.

The Standard yesterday also reliably learnt of disquiet over a perceived pre-determined process in picking the party’s presidential flag-bearer in what sources said had discouraged others from formally applying to face off with the party leader.

Sources within the outfit said some of the senior political leaders – who had declared interest to run – have been made to go slow on applying over recent remarks by Raila that have given strong indications he could be giving the top seat a fifth stab.

“The board is concerned with some of the pronouncements the party leader has been making that appear to suggest that he will be on the ballot. It makes it appear as if the decision has been made,” said a source.

Another source said the decision was to avoid mixing the Building Bridges Initiative referendum with the 2022 presidential race.

Deputy President William Ruto and his allies have previously said the proposed constitutional changes were being used by Raila for his quest for State House.

Raila has been giving hints of running for the top seat in the recent past, the latest being on Wednesday when he promised to increase county allocations if he gets to government.

“If I am there, I will push the funds to counties to 40 per cent and subsequently to 55 per cent like in Nigeria. We can do it. There is no point in retaining the decision-making and funds for the country in Nairobi,” he said.

The ODM leader is yet to come clear if he will vie for the presidency even though his allies have made no secret of the fact that they think he will be the man to beat.

Yesterday, Mumma said there was no emergency to warrant closing on applications, citing the Matungu by-election and the ongoing membership drive by the party.

Mumma said Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya had indicated plans to apply and that it would be unfair to rush him into submitting his papers when he was busy campaigning for an ODM candidate in the mini-poll.

“We are the National Elections Board and we have the powers to extend the deadline. In any case we are still doing a party membership drive. There is no emergency in the matter, so we decided to give ample time for applications,” she said.

“The two deputy party leaders may be interested in applying and you can see Oparanya is in Matungu by-election campaigns. The secretary general is also in Matungu and he is the one to receive applications,” she added.

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Oparanya have publicly declared they will be seeking to challenge their boss to fly the party flag in the presidential race.

Joho yesterday criticised the decision to extend the deadline, saying he dispatched his team to Nairobi yesterday to submit his application papers only to be told of the shift in deadline. “We are ready to proceed. We do not understand why there is an extension of deadline,” he said.

Joho, who maintained he has a cordial relationship with Raila, said he was keen to compete for the presidential ticket after consultation with his supporters.

“I am interested in being the ODM flag bearer. We are democratically competing for the position. Even before the 2017 General Election I had said this region must be represented in the ballot,” he said.