Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), which has dominated Kenya’s opposition politics for the last 17 years, is facing an implosion which now threatens its future.
The party is in the middle of a crisis triggered by cries of betrayal and bad blood between some of the party’s old guard and a group of restless youthful leaders who want to take over.
At the centre of the current spat is the sharing of parliamentary committee leadership positions even as the party has scheduled a Parliamentary Group meeting next week.
Embakasi East MP Babu Owino kicked up the latest storm in the party by vowing not to allow ODM chairman John Mbadi to take over as the Chairperson of the powerful and influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Owino said that he will not settle for any other position since as a young leader, he has worked hard for the party over the years and has the necessary experience to chair PAC and that Mbadi should be satisfied with being a Nominated MP.
“So many youths including me have sacrificed a lot for the ODM party using our time and resources campaigning for the party and feel betrayed, I am not going to accept anything else other than the Public Accounts Committee chairmanship,” said Owino.
Use and dump
The Embakasi East MP insisted that he had been promised the PAC chairmanship by the ODM party and that he has learnt that the position has now been reserved for Mbadi whom he feels has already benefitted having been nominated to Parliament.
Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina also said that the time of being used and dumped is over and that all regions needs to be represented in the party leadership, arguing that it was unfair that some people who have never sacrificed for the party were now being rewarded at the expense of loyalists.
Ledama said that as much as he did not want to delve into the National Assembly issues, it is important that those who have shown commitment to the party are rewarded whenever an opportunity arises instead of leaders who have done nothing, which which is demoralising.
“I would like to ask the ODM party leadership to ensure that all regions where it got support should be represented in the leadership of parliamentary committees and other positions. This should not appear to be a preserve of a particular region only,” said Ledama.
Mbadi, however, dismissed Owino’s assertion that he was out to take the PAC chairmanship position, saying that he did not know what the Embakasi East MP was talking about since allocation of committee slots by the party has not been done and was the subject for discussion.
The ODM chairman said that it is wrong for Owino to drag him into his wars since he had not been informed by anyone that he will be the PAC chairman and that those positions are elective and prospective candidates must lobby legislators across the political divide.
“Parliamentary committees have not been formed. Once it is done, those seeking various leadership positions will have to lobby among committee members who will include even those from other parties. Nobody should expect to get any slot on a silver platter,” said Mbadi.
The Nominated MP had initially expressed reservation over the choosing of Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi as the Majority Leader, a position that he felt he should have been given by virtue of being the party national chairman but he has since downplayed the issue terming it as water under the bridge.
Homabay Town MP Peter Kaluma called on Owino to appreciate that their Party Leader Raila Odinga has supported him twice to be an MP and that he should not be the one rocking the party from within since it is going to make a wise decision on who will be in what committee.
Kaluma called on Owino and other legislators who may have any issues over the manner the party is conducting its affairs to raise them using the right channels instead of ranting in social media which is showing a bad image to party supporters across the country.
“I would like to call on my fellow MPs to appreciate the support that our Party Leader Raila Odinga has given us over the years. We should not appear to be disrespectful to him through comments we make in public meetings or on social media,” said Kaluma.
Former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero asked for understanding of where Owino is coming from because ODM is what it is because of the youth who form the majority of its membership and have shown zeal and passion in their support.
“The youth are considered to be soldiers and the army of the party yet when bread is being shared nobody thinks of them. It is not just what has happened in choice of parliamentary leadership but even in nominations to county assemblies across the country,” said Kidero.
The former Governor alleged ODM is a personal property and a commercial asset which the owners use to maximise financial returns and optimise their wealth creation.
He told leaders like Ledama and Babu to think of forming their own party if they do not agree with ODM.
Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Chief Whip Junet Mohamed has notified National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula that Wandayi is the Majority Leader with Kathiani MP Robert Mbui as his Deputy. Nominated MP Sabina Chege will deputise Mohamed.
The latest crisis comes up barely a few week after senior officials traded accusations over their performance in the August 9 General Election, which saw their presidential candidate Raila Odinga losing.
Political Analyst Dismus Mokua said it is not unusual for members of political parties to behave in the manner being witnessed at ODM.
He said that failure to secure the presidency has substantially weakened Raila’s power and influence in the party.
“Raila’s has substantially lost his capacity to inflict pain and pleasure. That is why some Party members are openly challenging his decisions. This would not have happened if he had won. That is why it appears some leaders are openly questioning his decisions,” said Mokua.
The political analyst said that Raila needs to create systems and structures that keep the party together even if he exits the political scene since at the moment, he seems to be the glue holding the party together and his absence will likely see it collapsing.
Mokua said that creating structures involves an ODM National Conference where the party will adopt and embrace ideological positions aligned to the national and public interests besides reflecting on their role in both houses.
He said that Raila should recognise and reward talent in the parliamentary leadership that reflects the face of Kenya and consider rewarding meritocracy and punishing impunity.
Also, he should choose MPs to committees based on their expertise, said Mokua.
“He should create a talent pool at the national level that has universal acceptance. He must entertain divergent views that build the party. He must encourage ideas, cross pollination and intellectual intercourse as a strategy to grow the party but punish mischief,” added Mokua.
He told Raila should not succumb to blackmail by members who feel aggrieved but should listen to concerns and align them to party interests.
Mokua also advised the ODM leader to encourage those uncomfortable to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association.
He said that the party should encourage members who may have left ODM to come back so that they can create a powerful system ahead of the 2027 General Election.