Raila Odinga Faces New Test as ODM Polls and Defections Loom
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is facing the battle of his life to retain key allies in the face of potentially divisive party elections and defections to the government.
Already, several of Mr Odinga’s key allies, drawn mainly from Western and Coast regions, are slowly gravitating towards the Jubilee Government while a group of youthful politicians is scheming to kick the former PM’s key allies out of the ODM leadership during the party polls that are due at the end of the year.
The simmering campaign to remove Mr Odinga’s stalwarts from the ODM leadership gathered momentum last week when delegates from all four counties in the western region declared support for Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero to run for the party’s national vice-chairmanship.
The party’s National Youth Coordinator Ben Ombima announced that delegates from Kakamega, Vihiga, Busia and Bungoma counties will back Dr Kidero’s bid on condition he rallies delegates from Nairobi County to back Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwambu for Secretary-General and businessman Kennedy Butiko for the chairman’s position.
“We need to revamp the party’s top hierarchy despite opposition from some elements so as to ready ourselves for another stab at the presidency through our party leader Raila Odinga.
INVESTED TIME AND ENERGY
“After consultations, we have a feeling that Governor Kidero has invested his time, energy and expertise so much in the party that in Western, we propose him for the vice-chairman’s seat while he marshals forces to support one of our own for either the SG or chairman’s position,” Ombima was quoted as saying.
Immediate former ODM Nairobi County chairman George Aladwa also confirmed that informal consultations were underway on how to deliver the seat to Dr Kidero.
“It is no secret that we are canvassing among our delegates to have Evans (Kidero) go for the party’s deputy chairman’s position,” he said.
Dr Kidero is yet to openly comment on his candidature, but sources close to him confirmed he was putting together a formidable team to take over ODM from the current leadership led by national chairman Henry Kosgey, Secretary-General Anyang’ Nyong’o and acting Treasurer Dalmas Otieno.
The Nairobi governor has had an uneasy relationship with Mr Odinga after he skipped the former PM’s visit to the United States with 10 governors drawn from parties affiliated to Cord.
Dr Kidero raised eyebrows when he instead led members of the Nairobi County Assembly to State House to pay President Kenyatta a courtesy call while Mr Odinga and his team were in the US.
Suspicions grew when Dr Kidero joined President Kenyatta on his visit to Russia and China last week.
“We have always known that Kidero is a mole planted in ODM by Jubilee functionaries. Wanjiru (Bishop Margaret) told us how he was holding secret meetings with Jubilee people with a view to standing for the presidency in 2017 so we are not surprised,” said a close ally of Mr Odinga, who requested anonymity because of fear of antagonising some party leaders.
“We are also aware that he wants to run for vice-chairman, but we doubt he will go far; there is nobody backing him. Even the young MPs he thinks are behind him are not,” he added.
ODM executive director Magerer Lang’at confirmed that a number of candidates had shown interest in running for office in the party’s elections.
“We have received a lot of interest from MPs. Some people have even started slogans of the young versus the old, but there is nothing like that, Our constitution allows anyone to seek elective positions,” he said.
NATIONAL GOVERNING COUNCIL
The party has already scheduled the National Governing Council (NGC) meeting for late September to set a date and agenda for the party elections expected in January because the term of the current office holders lapses in December, Mr Lang’at said.
Mr Odinga is also fighting to retain his support base in Coast area especially after some of his key lieutenants in the region hosted Deputy President William Ruto and openly declared their intention to work with the Jubilee government.
Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar, who attended two of Mr Ruto’s “informal” meetings, says that as the county leaders, they have resolved to work with the Jubilee administration.
“Political dynamics dictate that the leadership of Mombasa be pragmatic if it wants to fulfil its promises to the electorate who can eat neither Cord nor Jubilee,” he was quoted as saying.
Through a consensus, the senator said the county leadership resolved to engage “everybody”, but when the time for politics comes, they will definitely give their position.
Leaders who attended Mr Ruto’s dinner at the Tamarind Restaurant included Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, MPs Hezron Awiti (Nyali), Rashid Bedzimba (Kisauni), Abdullswamad Nassir (Mvita), Omar Mwinyi (Changamwe) and Badi Twalib (Jomvu).
Before the dust settled, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya also threatened to lead his supporters out of the party, claiming it had abandoned Western region.
Mr Oparanya a week ago cited the recent retreat for Cord governors and senators in Mombasa and the US trip as some of the events to which he was not invited.
But the county’s ODM branch chairman David Malala stated: “The governor should stop threatening the party. ODM is a national party, and he should know that it was the party that placed him in office as governor.”
– Daily Nation