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Raila banks on consensus to avert fallout in elections

Kisumu East constituency aspirant Shakeel Shabirr. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party faces a tough test to win over aspirants as many opt to seek elective seats as independent candidates and on fringe parties.

The ODM leadership fears this may deny it numbers in the Senate, National Assembly and County Assemblies.

ODM leader Raila Odinga is working to ensure his backyard remains intact and party strength is not compromised

In the past, aspirants who have made successful bids have relied on Raila’s clout to win support.

As 2022 draws closer, ODM is racing against time to put its house in order to prevent fallout during nominations.

Some leaders have made a comeback, causing jitters among party stalwarts who have questioned their loyalty.

According to Catherine Muma, the chair of the party’s National Elections Board, the politicians are expected to pay to be ODM life members before they are allowed to contest.

“Our rules are that one has to be a life member before they are allowed to vie on the party’s ticket,” said Ms Muma.

Eroded confidence

There are fears of a backlash should ODM preside over chaotic nominations as was witnessed in 2013 and 2017.

This eroded members confidence in the nomination exercise and they are reluctant to seek the ODM ticket in 2022.

Subsequent wins by some aspirants who ditched the party also gave politicians the confidence to seek other election vehicles.

A number of leaders who contested in past polls as independent candidates yesterday told The Standard that they are not likely to return to ODM although their support for Raila is unwavering.

Among those who are reluctant to seek ODM ticket include Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabbir who in 2017 successfully defended his seat as an independent candidate. 

“I will support Raila’s ambitions but I will not return to ODM,” said Shakeel.

Other leaders who contested as independent candidates said they are not certain whether ODM will conduct free and fair nominations for 2022 elections.

“Many people are still not sure whether the party has addressed flawed nomination process.

“Unfortunately if you declare your intentions of not going back to the party now, you will be dubbed a Ruto sympathiser,” said the former MP aspirant.

The Standard has established that other party diehards are also warming up to fringe parties should things fail to go according to plan.

In the 2013 polls, Migori Governor Okoth Obado decamped from ODM to People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and won the election.

There are fears ODM could face a similar scenario if it does not control the ambitions of its foot soldiers.

In the four Nyanza counties, ODM stalwarts with huge following and financial muscle have expressed interest in similar seats.

In Homa Bay, ODM chair John Mbadi, former Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga, Woman Rep Gladys Wanga — who is also the ODM branch chair — as well as former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero are in the race to succeed Governor Cyprian Awiti.

In Siaya, Senator James Orengo, Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi and former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo are eyeing Governor Cornel Rasanga’s seat. 

In Kisumu, former Kisumu Central MP Ken Obura, businessman Ochola Kamili as well as Senator Fred Outa are seeking to unseat Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o, who is Raila’s confidant.

The situation was the same in Kisii where the party opted for consensus to pick the candidate for the Bonchari by-election.

Political analyst Dismas Mokua however argues that ODM might not have a free ride in Gusii as voters pay attention to personalities.

“In other parts of Nyanza, voters are happy to vote for anybody provided they are aligned to Raila.

“It is not unusual to have candidates from all manner of parties with Raila’s  image on their portraits,” he said.

But as ODM battles to lock Nyanza in, fringe parties are trying to attract potential aspirants.

In Gusii, more than 10 parties have cropped up and are marshalling grassroots support to frustrate ODM and Jubilee party which have dominated the region.

Raila lost South Mugirango MP Sylvanus Osoro to Ruto’s camp.Bomachoge Chache MP Alfa Miruka decamped to Kenya National Congress citing frustrations and favouritism in ODM.

All over Nyanza, Ugenya MP’s Movement for Development and Growth (MDG) party, United Democratic Alliance which is allied to Ruto, Ford Kenya, Amani National Coalition, Citizen Conventions Party and Communist party are fighting for a stake in the ODM stronghold.

Last month, Raila sought to dismiss the increasing number of independent candidates saying the people fronting them were out to kill multi-partyism which the country fought so hard for.

He urged his backyard to support ODM candidates and has already tasked some of his lieutenants with ensuring that all his foot soldiers are under one roof.

In the past polls, Raila pushed for a “Six Piece” voting pattern for all ODM candidates.

Strategic Communications Adviser Barrack Muluka said there are new generations to whom the old ODM and Odinga messages do not ‘signify anything.’

“Such is the nature of life. Old guards must reimagine themselves and their mission.

“They must reinvent, repackage and reposition themselves with a breath of freshness,” Muluka said.

But Raila hopes that the push for consensus instead of contested primaries for some seats will help prevent a fallout.

Jakoyo Midiwo.

Handpicking

While unveiling ODM candidate Pavel Oimeke for the Bonchari by-elections, secretary-general Edwin Sifuna said that the party is now prioritising consensus to ensure the right candidate flies the party’s flag.

John Momanyi stepped down for Oimeke saying he would support the party’s choice. ODM political affairs director Wandayi revealed that he has been tasked with luring back members like MP Olago Aluoch (Ford-K), who ditched the party.

“I was given the mandate by to talk to some of the members who left the party.

“We are hopeful that they will return,” he said.

Leaders who quit the party after controversial nominations include former Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo who contested as an independent in the 2017 polls, former Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma, former MPs Agostino Neto (Ndhiwa), Sylvance Osele (Kabondo Kasipul) and Dalmas Otieno (Rongo).

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