Raila Odinga's visit to Nyanza fuels sibling rivalries as elections near

Azimio- One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga addresses residents in Migori town on June 30, 2022. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

It was a visit that had been expected to pacify his electoral turfs, push for reconciliatory efforts between wrangling candidates within the Azimio One Kenya Coalition eyeing same seats and also heal wounds inflicted by controversial ODM party primaries that has seen some members drift away as independents.

But reading from his statements, the pronouncements of his lieutenants as well as the conspicuous absence of some candidates from the coalition’s parties and independents, the internal war within Raila Odinga’s coalition is far from over and will only intensify ahead of the August 9 General Election.

Although, the presidential hopeful has carefully juggled between appeasing his partners in the coalition in some parts of Nyanza by leaving the fight for local races an open contest, in Luo Nyanza the message was clear. “I want six-piece in favour of ODM candidates”.

Raila and his troops wants the regions his ODM party has dominated to vote only candidates flying the Orange flag insisting that they have left other parts of the country for other affiliate parties within the coalition.

Battles go on

The developments mean that the intense rivalry for seats from candidates who have refused all attempts, including zoning, to force them out of races in favor of ODM candidates, especially in Nyanza, parts of Western and Coast, will continue with the fight for seats against ODM candidates.

The contests and the appetites for seats has soured relations between candidates in Raila’s camp, with fears that the tensions within the coalition could scuttle some of his presidential votes.

While addressing rallies in several stops in his Siaya backyard, messages of six-piece voting in favor of ODM candidates dominated speeches, with Raila also endorsing all ODM candidates. On the flipside, several candidates competing against ODM candidates in other parties within the coalition and independents all gave the tour a wide berth. A clear signal of the frosty relationship and tensions in Raila’s support base.

A similar scenario was also evident in his visit to Migori County where notable figures such as Jubilee’s Dalmas Otieno and a host of independents skipped the tours as the ODM chief endorsed ODM candidates and routed for six-piece voting.

His troops led by Deputy Party leader Hassan Joho and party chairman John Mbadi, likened the leaders competing ODM candidates in Nyanza to people who are attempting to be “small gods” in Nyanza by challenging Raila and his Orange party.

The calls for six-piece voting is one of the teething problems that has fueled the intense internal wrangles within the coalition as other parties also seek a share of the cake for seats in traditional voting bases.

No room for independents

Yesterday, Raila called on Nyanza residents to consider ODM candidates even as he pushed for a 100 per cent voter turnout to increase his chances of winning his fifth stab at the presidency.

“I am going to win the presidency, but I must also have my people. Do not mix things, give me ODM leaders here in Luo Nyanza,” Raila told jubilant crowds in Ugenya.

The ODM leader is concerned that independents may weaken ODM’s strength in Parliament and fewer numbers may also affect his bargaining power within the coalition.

Raila Odinga addresses supporters in Bondo during his campaign tour in Siaya County. [Michael Mute, Standard]

Unlike his rallies in Nyamira where he claimed that all the candidates in Azimio One Kenya Coalition are his troops, the tone in Luo Nyanza was different. He urged the region to consider ODM candidates.

In Siaya, he endorsed Senator James Orengo for governor, his elder brother Oburu Oginga for Senate and Christine Ombaka for Woman Representative, alongside several MCAs.

Both Orengo and Oburu are facing stiff competition from other candidates contesting on Azimio One Kenya Coalition affiliate parties. Orengo is facing off with United Democratic Movement (UDM) party’s Nicholas Gumbo. Gumbo and his running mate David Ohito were among the leaders who were missing in the rallies. UDM candidates, Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG) candidates all missed Raila’s mega rallies, signifying the bad blood between the parties.

In Ugenya, the incumbent MP David Ochieng who is vying for the parliamentary seat with MDG party did not show up. Ochieng said he was not invited by the organizers and when he tried to find out on Friday about the function, he was told it was going to be an ODM affair.

“Nobody sent me any invite. I am the MP for Ugenya and party leader for MDG yet nobody told me anything about the rally. My party will hold a series of rallies next week in the county to popularize our candidates as well,” said Ochieng.

Similar comments were also echoed by other candidates who claimed that they were not invited to the events, adding that they received reports that the rallies were ODM affair. Several leaders who spoke in the rallies including Joho, urged residents to consider ODM candidates only in all their strongholds.

“In Mombasa we have decided that all seats will go to ODM. If Mombasa has decided that it will be six-piece, how about you?” posed Joho.

“The people who are testing waters here must know that Raila must be respected,” he added.

According to Mbadi, ODM has not fielded candidates in Central region and is supporting Jubilee candidates. The party has also not fielded candidates in lower Eastern region, a Wiper party turf and Mandera in favor of UDM. In Bungoma, he claimed, the party is backing DAP-K candidates.

“We want Luo Nyanza and Mombasa to be left for ODM,” he said.

Leader of Minority John Mbadi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed challenged the region not to let ODM die, arguing that electing the party’s candidates will strengthen the party.

“The next president of Kenya is Raila Odinga Omollo. In this region, we want you to elect ODM in all positions. All parties must look for their own seats,” said Junet.

With the group avoiding the path of reconciliation and instead choosing the six-piece path, the internal wrangles that has seen tensions rise among candidates is likely to continue as rivals plot to counter the ODM agenda in Nyanza.

Different tune in nyamira

During his visit in Nyamira, however, the Azimio Presidential candidate made a tactical retreat on the much-hyped zoning of candidates and was careful not to openly back ODM candidates.

Raila who campaigned in four rallies in North Mugirango, Borabu, West Mugirango and Kitutu Masaba avoided endorsing some favoured candidates especially those from ODM. 

While addressing residents of North Mugirango, Raila made it clear that every candidate in the Azimio Coalition would go for his own fight even as they worked towards ensuring his victory as the common presidential candidate.

“The scenario with many candidates under Azimio from Nyamira is the same as a father and a mother with many children. Just as many children who are born in a family, so is the reality with Azimio. That is why I plead with you to fight on your own and seek your  own votes ahead of the main duel. Whoever will win will be a winner for Azimio,” Raila said at Ekerenyo.

Over the past two weeks, the Azimio brigade has been planning on declaring some candidates from constituent parties under Azimio as preferred bidders of the various seats

But there has been growing dissent over the scheme with candidates across the country opposing it.

It was expected that Raila would announce Timothy Bosire, his close ally as the favoured Azimio candidate for Nyamira governor seat and some other ODM candidates, but it never happened.

In his visit to the region, the presidential hopeful is keen to ensure that the region registers a 100 per cent vote turnout in the August 9 polls.

Today, he will pitch tent in Homa Bay for another vote-hunting mission.

[Reporting by Harold Odhiambo, Olivia Odhiambo, Isaiah Gwengi and Stanley Ongwae]