Wanga 'endorsement', six-piece call jolt ODM ahead of primaries

Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga on teh campaign trail, February 13, 2022. [James Omoro, Standard]

Last Sunday’s endorsement of Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga by some members of Raila Odinga’s presidential campaign team has sparked claims of favouritism of some aspirants, threatening to divide supporters.

The protests come as the high-stakes primaries of the party, perceived to be dominant in Nyanza, part of Western, Coast and Nairobi, is heating up.

The Azimio la Umoja presidential campaign team has been faulted for backing certain aspirants in crowded races even before party nominations, with aspirants asking the leaders to restrict themselves to looking for votes for Raila.

Whereas the group has been traversing the country to market Raila’s presidential bid, the decision by some members of the team to declare support for certain aspirants and the push for a six-piece voting pattern have sparked criticism.

The development comes as pressure mounts on Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement to ensure the primaries are free and fair. Supporters and aspirants of the party fear a shambolic exercise could tear the party apart and lead to defections.

Fringe parties working under the Azimio la Umoja banner are also uneasy with the group’s push for a six-piece voting pattern to lockout candidates from other parties in areas considered ODM and Jubilee strongholds.

In parts of the country where Raila’s party enjoys a huge following, the race for the party ticket is causing jitters among aspirants.

This informs the stiff opposition that has greeted the decision by senior figures in the presidential team to openly throw their weight behind some aspirants eyeing seats.

Last week, the campaign team led by governors Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Anne Kananu (Nairobi), Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina alongside several MPs endorsed Wanga for the Homa Bay governor seat.

Earlier in Nyamira County, a group led by Minority Whip Junet Mohamed had also endorsed ODM treasurer Timothy Bosire to run for governor.

Last week, the Azimio la Umoja team rooted for ODM candidates in Busia and Migori counties, with Ole Kina saying Central Kenya should be left for Jubilee Party while ODM should focus on Nyanza.

The developments have, however, rubbed some aspirants the wrong way. The aspirants have told the team to stop meddling in local politics and instead focus on presidential vote.

Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

In Homa Bay County, Wanga’s opponents are now up in arms over the decision by members of the presidential team to endorse her for the governor seat even though some claimed the leaders had a democratic right to support whoever they want.

Yesterday, a number of aspirants eyeing the seat said such a move was a recipe for disaster.

They included Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori and Homa Bay deputy governor Hamilton Orata.

According to Misori, Raila presidential campaign team should not try to tell people whom to vote and should instead focus only on mobilising votes for Raila.

“Whatever they did was wrong. It appeared like they were showing Homa Bay voters what to do and that is wrong,” said Misori.

County politics

Orata, who hopes to succeed his boss Cyprian Awiti, said presidential campaigns should not be mixed with county politics.

“Let the Azimio brigade avoid actions that will trivialise presidential campaigns. We don’t want mixing of issues in the presidential campaign with private functions,” Orata said.

National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi downplayed the team’s proclamations and claimed that the Wanga event was a private event and not an Azimio la Umoja rally.

In the last few days, Raila’s voting base of Nyanza, including Kisii, has witnessed increased political activities as politicians mount intense campaigns for their respective bids with an eye on the party’s ticket.

Party delegates, clans, and elders have become a hot cake for aspirants as they scramble to get endorsements for various seats.

Personal ambitions of Raila’s allies could prove costly for his bid if the threats by some of the politicians who threaten they would resort to an alternative plan should the party primaries turn chaotic, is anything to go by.

In Raila’s Nyanza backyard, fierce contests are emerging as his foot soldiers begin to mount campaigns aimed at winning over delegates.

Factions bringing together local allies keen on wresting seats from current holders seen ODM diehards and party favourites have been formed. The entry of senior government officials who have resigned to join politics only complicates matters for ODM.

In Kisumu, ODM members led by former Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of East African Community Ken Obura who resigned to contest the governor seat, Senator Fred Outa, former Governor Jack Ranguma and former county assembly speaker Onyango Oloo, are all bracing for a duel for the coveted ticket.

The leaders, who have now joined forces, say they have a Plan B should the party primaries turn out to be shambolic.

“If they joke with the nominations, we have a Plan B. We are prepared for our opponents,” said Outa. They said they were ready to do anything to unseat Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o.

Senator Fred Outa. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Outa’s sentiments mirror the anxiety that has rocked the camp ahead of party primaries as lobbying for delegates’ support and elders continues.

It is still unclear what their Plan B entails but sources said they would front one candidate to contest as an independent.

They have also joined forces with other politicians eyeing MP seats, Senate and Woman Rep and are keen to form a different axis akin to the one formed by independents who conducted joined campaigns in a bid to upset ODM.

In Gusii, a similar contest is developing as key allies of the ODM chief intensify campaigns ahead of party primaries.

Ongwae successor

Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati, who is seeking to succeed Governor James Ongwae, has teamed up with Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka to battle for the seat.

Onyonka is rooting for Arati for the seat and has been conducting joint campaigns with him even as he campaigns for his own seat.

Arati and Onyonka said they would ensure there are fair nominations in ODM in Kisii County.

Deputy Governor Joash Maangi, Senator Sam Ongeri and Woman Rep Janet Ongera are also eyeing the seat, with sources in the ODM camp saying they would back one of them through consensus. Should consensus fail, the leaders will have to fight it out through the delegates system.

The entry of former Transport CAS Chris Obure into the race is also bound to throw Raila’s camp back to the drawing board. Obure said he would contest the seat on an Azimio la Umoja ticket.

Raila is, however, optimistic that long-term ally and outgoing Governor Ongwae will help keep his Azimio house together.

Leaders from the region eyeing other seats are, however, optimistic that the nomination will be free and fair.

MPs Lilian Gogo (Rangwe) and Millie Odhiambo (Suba North) said that the party would embrace a free and fair process.

“We welcome any method that will bring peace,” said Odhiambo.

Tension is also building in Migori and Siaya counties as Raila’s allies prepare for nominations.

About 10 days ago, Catherine Muma, the chairperson of ODM National Elections Board, pitched tent in the region to calm tensions ahead of party primaries.

In Siaya, Ugenya MP David Ochieng is keen to defy the six-piece voting calls by the Azimio group with his Movement for Development and Growth (MDG) party.

“Let our local politics not interfere with Mr Odinga’s race to State House,” says Ochieng.