Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and its leader Raila Odinga have responded angrily to statements by Bungoma senator Moses Wetang’ula in which he alleged that Mr Odinga conspired to have him sacked as the Senate Minority Leader.
In separate statements on Tuesday, the two claimed that Mr Wetang’ula was being dishonest and was trying to hide behind Mr Odinga to mask his personal failures during his stint as the Minority Leader.
“Mr Wetang’ula’s sentiments are dishonest, frivolous and evasive. They are meant only to whip up emotions and sympathy over problems of his own making,” Mr Odinga said in a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr Dennis Onyango.
Late Tuesday, the Nasa Parliamentary Group also released a statement criticising Mr Wetang’ula’s “bloated ego and falsehoods,” declaring that his removal was as a result of a unanimous decision by the parliamentary group in compliance with the law and the Senate Standing Orders.
Announcing that he had totally broken ranks with Mr Odinga, Mr Wetang’ula said on Monday: “I know for a fact that nothing happens in the rank and file of ODM without the knowledge, sanction and even approval of its leader.”
Mr Odinga had denied knowledge of the plot to bring down Mr Wetang’ula and convened a meeting at which the matter was going to be discussed further. By that time, however, Mr Wetang’ula had already been sacked and replaced by Siaya Senator and a confidant of Mr Odinga, Mr James Orengo. Mr Wetang’ula angrily refused to attend the meeting, saying he was no longer interested in the post.
In an interview with the Nation on Monday, Mr Wetang’ula further claimed that the decision by the coalition to pull out of last year’s October 26 repeat presidential election was not properly discussed within the coalition, accusing the ODM wing of the coalition of having forced the matter down the throat of other partners.
ODM rejected the claims as “false”.
Mr Onyango clarified that Mr Wetang’ula was rejected by senators from all the Nasa parties, not just ODM, pointing out that, to date, none of the Nasa senators has come out to support him.
“That kind of rejection is unprecedented and pointed to a deeprooted problem between him and his colleagues,” Mr Onyango noted, revealing that the problems had come out clearly in a meeting at Panafric Hotel called by Mr Odinga to allegedly broker peace between the senator and his colleagues.
“The senators accused Mr Wetang’ula, in his presence, of being aloof, selfish, arrogant and having the tendency to impose decisions on them under the pretext that they were directives from the Summit, which often was not the case.”
Mr Onyango claimed that Mr Odinga, as the Nasa boss, “did all he could” to save Mr Wetang’ula’s job, including instructing the coalition’s chief executive Norman Magaya to write to the Senate to retain him.
Such a letter would have had no effect because, according to Senate rules, the leader is elected by senators, not appointed by party bosses.
“The persistent efforts by Mr Wetang’ula to avoid the facts and blame his problems on Mr Odinga point to a personal vendetta and a refusal to face and deal with the truth,” said Mr Onyango.
In their statement released through their leader James Orengo, the legislators insisted that Mr Odinga had no role in the decision. They said Mr Wetang’ula was sacked out of the need to maintain a balance between the coalition generally and the coalition in Parliament.
“Nasa senators have tremendous respect for the Summit, which is the highest decision-making organ of the coalition. When it called upon us to explain the decision to change leadership to the principals, the senators fully justified the basis and rationale for the decision,” they said in the statement.
They further confirmed that there was no provision in the coalition’s agreement that awarded any position in Parliament to any specific individual or political party .
“It is unfortunate that one of our principals would seek to denigrate the outcome of a democratic process on the platform of politics of ethnic division, sectarianism and parochialism. Mr Odinga should be kept out of this as there was no single senator from the constituent parties who voted against his removal,” the senators said.
ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna described Mr Wetang’ula as an experienced power broker who had decided to pick a war with Mr Odinga “so as to mortgage the Luhya community to the highest bidder, Deputy President William Ruto”.
“Mr Odinga called the meeting at Panafric hotel in good faith. The meeting was supposed to be candid. Senators were encouraged to speak freely because that is the only way issues can be solved,” Mr Sifuna said, pointing out that had Mr Wetang’ula been a good example to his colleagues, Mr Odinga wouldn’t have attended the meeting.
“This was an in-house problem which Mr Wetang’ula should have easily solved by talking to senators. Mr Odinga was there because Mr Wetang’ula invited him in the hope that he was the only person who had the power to save him.”