Raila Odinga’s dilemma over ODM elections

KENYA: As the term of the current national officials of ODM comes to an end in December, party leader Raila Odinga faces a herculean task of ensuring that the party gets a strong leadership that represents the face of Kenya.

The party has the highest number of elected leaders in Parliament and county governments. It has 91 MPs, 16 Governors and 11 Senators.

Although Raila had earlier told The Standard on Sunday in an interview that elections will be held this December, the National Delegates Conference (NDC) has been pushed to February next year, amid more desertions by leaders from outside ODM’s Nyanza and Western strongholds.

That all is not well for the party came to the fore last week following disclosure that former Cabinet ministers Franklin Bett and Prof Margaret Kamar had quit ODM.

Add to this the deafening silence of party chairman; former Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey and ODM fortunes in Rift Valley appear quite dim.

In western Kenya, a region widely considered an ODM stronghold; the radical transformation of a section of politicians is a challenge for Raila.

Restructuring

The party’s Executive Director, Magerer Langat said when the NDC meets, they will fill all the 26 positions from the party leader downwards, save for his position, which has already been filled.

Originally, the national office had 54 positions, which were reduced to 27 members, constituting the National Executive Committee (NEC) as part of the party’s restructuring.

A close ally of Mr Kosgey, former Eldoret South MP David Koros, told The Standard on Sunday that the ODM chairman had been advised to keep off politics for some time.

“We have told him to keep off politics and you will not see him active in national politics soon,” said Mr Koros.

Last Friday, during the burial of his mother in Nandi, the former Tinderet MP, hinted that he was willing to work with the Jubilee government.

Referring to URP leaders who attended the burial, Kosgey said: “We have now left the (leadership) baton to those in Government. We will now support you.”

Mr Magerer indicated that former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende had expressed interest in the party chairmanship while Kisumu Central MP Ken Obura was eyeing the secretary general post.

However, there are fears within ODM that Mr Marende was no longer the moderate politician he had been perceived to be, going by his recent declaration that the Luhya community should support one of their own for the presidency come 2017.

Shifting alliances

In an apparent shifting of alliances, Marende who has been a loyal ally of the former Prime Minister announced that the Luhya community would no longer support the ODM and Cord leader in the next General Election.

“We supported Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in the 1992 General Election and also backed Raila Odinga in the two consequent elections of 2007 and 2013 but ended up losing. The belief that leadership to the Luhya community will only come after someone from the lake (Victoria) has proved unworkable and we are now telling them to also support us since we will be fronting one of our own in the next General Election,” said Marende.

The former Speaker spoke during a funds drive at Chemululuchi Primary School in Bungoma County, where he led other leaders Cyrus Jirongo, Soita Shitanda, Alfred Khang’ati, Kizito Mugali, ODM National Youth Leader Rashid Mohammed, former Webuye MP Joash Wa Mang’oli and 57 County Representatives to declare support for immediate former Bungoma County Senator Moses Wetangula.

Rashid also concurred with Marende, saying even if he is still the ODM youth leader, he will mo bilise support for a presidential candidate from Western, and not an outsider.

“This time we are not going to rally behind anyone from outside the region. We have not yet decided on the party, but the candidate will be our own,” Rashid told The Standard on Sunday.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya had also a few months ago warned he could quit ODM because the party had neglected the county, before rescinding his threats after Raila visited the county.

And in Rift Valley, former party loyalists, Bett and Kamar, tendered their resignation from ODM.

Dr Sally Kosgei, another former Raila ally in the region has also gone silent after losing her Aldai seat in the March 4 General Election as well as former Cabinet minister Musa Sirma.

Dr Joseph Misoi, a former secretary of the ODM elections board, notes that ODM is a mass movement and would survive even after some of its leaders opt out.

“There can always be fresh leadership that believes in its ideologies, coming up to keep the party going,” points out Misoi.

Raila has also maintained the youth will be given an opportunity to serve in the party’s top leadership once the NDC is held but insisted that even the old guard are required to provide leadership.

“There is room for youth in the party but we also need experience,” said Raila. The former PM’s sentiments come at a time when youthful MPs are pushing for a regime change in the party.

Regional balance

Officials from Nyanza, the former PM’s political base, occupy most of the top positions in the party. They include Peter Anyang Nyong’o (secretary general), Dalmas Otieno (acting treasurer) and Caeser Asiyo (deputy executive director) among others.

With 91 MPs, 11 senators and 16 governors, spread in all parts of the country, there are those who feel the national leadership of the party should be evenly distributed across the country. Before Magerer (Rift Valley) got the executive director’s position, the position was held by Ms Janet Ong’era from Nyanza. She is now an ODM nominated Senator.

Currently, the only senior national position being held by a leader from Coast is that of organising secretary, Ali Hassan Joho who is also Mombasa County Governor.

Initially, Deputy President William Ruto and former Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi held the positions of deputy party leaders before they quit the party for UDF and URP respectively.

Magerer has said all the positions will be filled through a competitive process and regional balance will be put into consideration for fair representation.-http://www.standardmedia.co.ke

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