Raila seeks to undo President's political gains in ODM bases

Azimio Leader Raila Odinga on Wednesday, November 22, 2023. [Samson Wire. Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga has intensified his efforts to undo President William Ruto’s incursions in his major support bases across the country.

Raila, who is riding on a push to strengthen his ODM party through party registration drives in Nyanza, Coastal, Western, and Coastal regions, is keen on ensuring the support for his party remains intact.

This is happening as Ruto’s UDA also upscaled its voter registration drives targeting areas where the ODM chief has enjoyed significant support for years.

President Ruto and his team have been active in ODM strongholds, including in Nyanza, staging numerous activities meant to popularise his UDA party.

The president’s allies claim their numbers have increased by ten-fold in the region.

But as part of the efforts to counter UDA’s infiltration, Raila and his henchmen are not leaving the fight unchallenged. They have gone back to the drawing board ahead of the April party elections.

Raila is expected in Homa Bay for a two-day tour, starting today, to market his party as he seeks to ring-fence his support bases. The visit comes barely a week after a similar one when he rallied his supporters to register as party members.

Yesterday, Migori ODM chairman Philip Makabongo said Raila would meet leaders from Suna East and Suna West constituencies during his tour.

“We have made arrangements in all the areas he will be visiting. He will hold a big meeting at Rongo where he will meet ODM leaders in the county on November 26,” Makabongo said.

On Sunday, Raila will open new ODM offices in Rongo sub-county before presiding over registration of new members at Rongo market.

Raila is expected to visit Macalder Polytechnic in Nyatike and before overseeing another party member registration drive.

Nyatike MP Tom Odege said everything was set for Raila’s visit. “We are ready to receive him. We are certain that Migori, being an ODM base, we will have hundreds registering as ODM members,” the legislator said.

Raila’s planned visit to the county in August was canceled due to the outbreak of cholera.

Party insiders said the ODM leader is also using the visits to resolve wrangles among grassroots party officials. 

In Kisumu, the ODM leader bashed leaders accusing some of campaigning for the governorship when they are supposed to be busy working to deliver on their promises to the people.

Wrangles have also been reported among ODM leaders in Migori. Raila’s visit is expected to end the infightings, which have been attributed to a fight over party positions.

Last month, Makabongo said, the party was planning to change its leadership at the county level in Migori County as it sought to lock out ‘traitors’.

Shortly after, they announced they had made changes to some positions, including the secretaries.

But Makabongo also said the wrangles were only being experienced in Suna West and would be addressed by the secretariat.

“The party leader will visit Suna West to open ODM offices, then preside over member registration,” he said.

It remains to be seen how the party will juggle between punishing members believed to be traitors while ensuring they remain in ODM.

Senior party officials, however, believe the fate of leaders considered traitors is already sealed and a search is on for their replacements.

Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna said MPs who betrayed ODM by embracing Kenya Kwanza will not be allowed to vie on the party’s ticket in future.

Sifuna said the legislators crossed the red line, adding: “There are MPs who have betrayed the party. The confidential information I have is that they are planning to start persuading Raila in 2026 for amnesty so that they get the party’s tickets to defend their seats in 2027.”

Among the leaders ODM considers rebels are Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda, MPs Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Felix Odiwuor (Lang’ata) and Paul Abuor (Rongo).

Currently, the leaders are embroiled in a legal tussle with the party as they attempt to fend off efforts by ODM to kick them out.

The membership drives are come ahead of grassroots elections set for next year.

Minority Leader in the National Assembly and ODM’s Secretary for Political Affairs Opiyo Wandayi said the membership drive is a continuous process to strengthen the party.

“This is going to be a continuous process that is not tied to any timelines. The voting population is expanding every day as children transition into adulthood,” he said.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo has stepped up efforts to market the president’s bottom-up agenda in Nyanza region.

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