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Shem Ochuodho on why ODM should be dictched in Senate by-elections

By Dr Shem Ochuodho | February 9th 2015


This week witnesses one of the country’s epoch by-elections, following the sudden death of the flamboyant Homa Bay Senator and Raila Odinga’s side kick, Otieno Kajwang’.

Going by reports from the ground, this is the first time Raila has to fight tooth and nail to secure a seat in Luoland. As for now, I would term the election ‘too close to call’. The jury is still out, but I have no doubt this will be a very closely contested election, barring any rigging that some of the main actors are so well known for when it comes to elections in Nyanza. All the major contestants are ODM even when called by whatever other name. The official ODM candidate, however, must lose this election for Nyanza to be ‘liberated’ from the bondage of tyranny by the Odinga’s.

I want to make a passionate appeal to my county-folk: several of them have asked me time and again to get back into the political arena for one reason or another. Here is an excellent opportunity for them to pave the way for their hitherto silenced and oppressed sons and daughters to re-enter the fray. I guarantee a come-back if ODM loses – and lose they should.

Nyanza has never known any democracy

From the time of the doyen opposition politician, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Luo Nyanza has known no democracy. Despite the gallant fight of numerous sons and daughters of Nyanza like George Anyona, Phoebe Asiyo and James Orengo to bring multi-partisym to Kenya, Luoland has not known any multi-partysm. Remember the famous words of the late long-serving Mathioya MP, Joseph Kamotho, ‘that even a dog would win’? In Luoland too, for several decades ‘3-piece’ has been the rallying call year in, year out when it came to elect the President, MP and Councillor  in the old order. Not much has changed with the new constitution.

As eloquently elaborated in the “Dawn of a Rainbow (2012)”, which Standard Newspapers serialized 2 years ago, the main rigging begins with party nominations. Cases are legion, every 5-year cycle. The very sad thing ODM has taken the voters for granted: every time after the botched nominations, their response is always the same and predictable. “We are very sorry for the botched nominations, we didn’t have money, didn’t have time. This time it won’t  happen again”, the party maestro always says – again and again. Even in this digital era, they never re-invent. The same song is repeated every time an election occurs.

Nobody to check rogue county governments due to single-party

Despite the hue and cry that has become a trade mark of county governments, Luo Nyanza is the one region where the waters are still. Not that there is no pilferage of county resources. Homa Bay especially has little to show for the devolved funds. The little development people hear about only happens on some of the popular vernacular radio stations. There is nothing on the ground. Yet because of group-think, as nearly all the MCs are ODM, nobody raises a finger. Either they eat with the county governments, or forced by party loyalty into submission and self-censorship. The late Senator didn’t do any better; election of his brother is a sure way to perpertuate this unacceptable culture.

To be fair to the people of Homa Bay, Kajwang’ as a Senator was only popular in death. It is a documented fact that while he lived and served as Senator, he was very unpopular on the ground, and stood little chance for re-election. The factions in local ODM leadership tells only part of the story.

Sympathy Vote, and Why the Kajwang’s?

The ODM Leader who has now camped in Homa Bay has asked constituents to vote for Kajwang’ in honour of his brother and his own son, Fidel. Indeed, even as the latter was being laid to rest, the father in a untraditional sense spared no opportunity to raise junior Kajwang’s hand and campaign for him. A taboo itself in Luo culture! Why are the Kajwang’s allowing themselves to be misused to divide and rule over the people of Homa Bay with an iron fist?

And what makes certain families so special to ODM? Must it only be the Kajwang’s, Odinga’s, Midiwo’s and Ongoro’s to be in ODM’s eating high-table? The elder Brother is an MP in Nairobi, having come through itself an election that was marred with rigging purportedly by the nominated Senator herself from yet another favoured family! Kwani the other Homa Bay commoners do not merit sitting on the high table? And if any family or candidate merited sympathy, it was Mary Ojode, the wife of the late Ndhiwa MP and Assistant Minister, Orwa Ojode Sirikal. He perished alongside the late Prof George Saitoti in a grisly air accident. Yet that was not to be. What now makes Kajwang’ so special, that they must be pushed down the throat of the people of Homa Bay at any cost?

May the true leaders of Homa Bay stand up in unison?

While touring Homa Bay County during my recent sojourn that took me to various places including Mbita, among others, for a moment I felt the ripeness of time for Nyanza’s liberation. Before that, one would never imagine it would come through Homa Bay, of all the places! Until recently, we were considered ODM’s bedrock, or rather mart it steps on. Raila and his handlers even had the audacity to anticipate himself gunning for the Homa Bay seat. I asked my close friends: can’t even Orengo, Adhiambo (his sister), Ongoro (his cousin) or Midiwo (his nephew) step down for him? Even this ‘little thing’ for Homa Bay, he wants to take away from them? And now he is trying to do it through the back-door; this is why Kajwang’ must be rejected. Not because he is bad, but because he is being used to enslave the people of Homa Bay. A fatal lesson has to be delivered – once for all.

This is why I felt freshness in the air when I spoke to a cross-section of leaders from Milambo (the Former South Nyanza), and they were in unison: ODM must lose! Talk of James Rege, Agostino Neto, my MP George Oner, Otieno Dalmas, Sammy Wakiaga, Evans Kidero, Ker Riaga Ogalo, name it! The time for redemption is nay!

Yet I wonder if the people of Homa Bay ever stop to think of how progressive Luo leaders have suffered under the yoke of this tyranny? Several good leaders who would have lifted Nyanza from poverty and misery have been vanquished. Beginning with the other doyen of opposition politics and patriot per excellence: Ramogi Achieng’ Oneko. Think also of Prof Ouma Muga, the Ndolo Ayas, the Aluoch Polos, Oluoch Kanindos, Raphael Tujus, PLO Lumumbas, the Tom Mboyas,  Miguna Migunas, Owigo Olang’s, Ojwang’ Kombudo’s, Akumu Denis Jakogeros, Roselyne Onyukas, Ong’ondo Weres, Adipo Okuomes, Mark Matungas, Dr Julia, Amb Lazarus Amayos,  Fred Amayos - even Anyang’ Nyong’o and James Orengo until they were ‘rehabilitated; the list is endless. How much better off would Luo Nyanza (and indeed Kenya and Africa) be with these gallant sons? There could never have been a better time than now for the people of Homa Bay to set them free from this bondage of tyranny. Okundi, Rabong’o or Misama are simply tools to be used for that higher purpose.

Personally, I was under immense pressure to go for the same seat. I had to shelve the desire when I realized that it would only hand ODM the chance to ‘win’ easily. Owing to the higher calling, I was ready to reconcile with Okundi, my known perennial opponent and himself a past beneficiary of this very bad imposition of candidates. But this is not about Okundi, Misama or Kajwang’; it is about liberating Luoland!  

Moles in ODM? Really?

I must commend the brave MPs and leaders from the county that have stuck out their necks to go against imposition of a candidate by their own party. As a consequence, they have been branded ‘moles’. Yet, when the government does a family favour to the Odinga’s or they have tea at State House, they are not branded moles. I want to tell these leaders: they are on the right side of history, for standing with the oppressed and impoverished people of Homa Bay. ODM’s leadership should have read the signs well the moment the majority of its own MPs and MCs started to develop cold feet.

You need only to see the caste of campaigners – nearly all from outside Homa Bay – holding the mantle for the ODM candidates. Where are the luminaries from Homa Bay? I only see brigades worth a name from Siaya, Masaku or Ingo campaigning. Shouldn’t this be loud enough a message for the man called Tinga?

As for the threat issued by John Mbadi (who until recently I thought was a worthwhile emerging debator) to reprimand and punish ‘the moles’, the few MPs sticking with ODM should turn it into a mirror and look at themselves. They stand no chance at reelection, especially if tyranny and imposition of candidates is vanquished from Luoland. Even those who feign support and ready ‘to return like the prodigal son’, they should know the die is cast. Their place is not in ODM, as ODM never forgives. Indeed, what the Homa Bay voter should contemplate after the vote is a invoking the recall clause, for those leaders who have opted to serve the party or its leader instead of the electorate.

The time for Luo Nyanza’s liberation is nay, and I want to stand on the right side of history. To my supporters and sympathizers, come out and vote for your candidate of choice – but not the imposed candidate.

Editor: Do you agree with Shem Ochuodho’s opinion?Send your comments on this story.

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