By ROBERT NYASATO
The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) is facing a serious challenge from new political parties, as jostling for presidency and county elective seats at the home turf of the party presidential torchbearer Raila Odinga takes shape.
Although leading presidential contenders, including The National Alliance’s (TNA) Uhuru Kenyatta, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper Democratic Party and Eldoret North MP William Ruto (URP), have pitched tent in Nyanza region to popularise their parties and whip up support for county positions, the real danger for ODM lies in the so called smaller parties.
Under the bridge
Luo Nyanza, comprising four counties of Homa Bay, Siaya, Kisumu and Migori except Kuria constituency is pre-dominantly an ODM zone.
Neighbouring Gusii counties of Nyamira and Kisii are traditionally not known to rally behind one political party save for 2002 when they overwhelmingly voted in Ford People when Simeon Nyachae was seeking presidency on the party’s ticket.
Since then, a lot of water has gone under the bridge but talks that effort to revamp Ford-People as the party of choice for the community can’t be ignored.
With rising concerns over ODM nominations, other parties are set to reap from candidates keen on being at the ballot rather than face primaries where they feel ticket bearers have long been settled on through other means.
With imminent defections and the coming of new people in the political arena as the clock ticks towards December political party nominations, ODM has to contend with key players like TNA, URP, Ford-People, Kenya National Congress (KNC), Narc-Kenya, WDP, Kenya Social Congress (KSC) and People Democratic Party.
Former South Mugirango MP Omingo Magara says it is high time the Gusii community identified one political party from where to negotiate with other parties before the polls.
Mr Magara’s latest movements indicate he was retracing his roots to Ford-People which he severed links with in 2007 when he joined Raila in ODM.
Lately, he has been in URP, but seems to have changed his mind, asserting he was the only one in the Ruto camp without a home grown party.
“We are going to announce a party where we want our people to join to foster our bargaining power so we are not treated as orphans,” he told The County Weekly in an interview.
With TNA sharpening its teeth ahead of the polls, ODM will face fierce competition from the Deputy Premier’s party given that a number of local MPs, including Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Ongeri are in his camp.
Other lawmakers championing TNA’s cause include Kitutu Masaba’s Walter Nyambati, National Heritage Assistant Minister Wilfred Ombui and Robert Monda of Nyaribari Chache.
By virtue of their incumbency, the MPs enjoy grass root networks that will pose a challenge for the orange party to penetrate.
Another ODM MP, Transport Assistant Minister Simon Ogari (Bomachoge) has remained sceptical of the orange party affairs, but the writing is on the wall that he may go either way any time.
So what will be the way out for ODM to maintain a lead over the other parties waging an onslaught in a region perceived as its backyard?
Trade Assistant Minister and South Mugirango MP Manson Nyamweya says the solution for ODM is to conduct free, transparent and fair primaries for all the positions but must first move with speed to assure aspirants that the same will be effected.
“Shoddy nominations will be disastrous to the party and competitors will capitalise on the same to win people’s hearts,” Mr Nyamweya, who is eying the party’s ticket warned.
But South Mugirango ODM chairman Gideon Moreka differs saying reports by non-members about rigging were unfounded.
He says every party has its own strategy that can’t be made public to the competition for obvious reasons.
“Identifying the best candidates and putting strategic people at strategic positions should not be misconstrued to mean rigging,” Mr Moreka pointed out saying every competitor must play their cards according to their set rules.
Mr Moreka who is running for the South Mugirango parliamentary seat in the coming polls says those crying foul over ODM nominations wanted short cuts but have realised the party had sealed the loopholes.
What is presenting the party with headache is the fact that other parties have already identified formidable candidates who may not be subjected to the primaries yet ODM is crowded with aspirants.
Political analysts say even where nominations are credibly conducted, losers are known to oppose the outcome and proceed to wage war against winners, a possibility in the ODM case.
Interviews with several candidates indicated they wanted to be in the ballot by all means for all the voters to decide on their fate as opposed to where one is thrown out at the nominations by a section of the voters.
Businessman Shem Machoka who is gunning for the Kisii County governor’s seat opted out of ODM before the primaries to join KNC because his supporters wanted him in the ballot to compete with other candidates’ parties.
“My supporters urged me to join another party other than ODM because it seemed things were not moving well in the premier’s house,” he told The County Weekly.
Charles Nyakweba, an ODM member says the party leadership should be awake to the fact that unlike other regions, Gusii has no fanatical following to political parties.
“Unless the party leadership is aware of the Gusii people’s uniqueness, other parties will reap big time if pre-nomination preferred candidates are given room,” Mr Nyakweba is contesting the Bobasi parliamentary seat says.
There is no denying that in the absence of Ford People, ODM resonates well with a majority of the electorate in Kisii but that must pass the nominations test.
A number of aspirants willing to fund their campaigns personally say it would be suicidal to participate in nominations only for the electoral body to bar one after loosing out in the nominations in light of the law which bars party hopping.
Nyamira County gubernatorial contestant on an ODM ticket Charles Mochama says his party will make it by ensuring only popular candidates carried the day not by friendship but clear and practical evaluations.
Going by the reservations, ODM’s only hurdle in containing major parties challenging its grip of Nyanza votes is conducting transparent nominations.