ODM split looms as Raila, Orengo renew rivalry ahead of polls

Upcoming ODM elections threaten to split the party as longstanding rivalry between former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Siaya Senator James Orengo is reported to be re-emerging ahead of next month’s National Delegates Convention.At stake in the ongoing contest is the push to break or inherit Raila’s hegemonic hold on Nyanza politics. Legislators from the region are engaged in vicious catfights to strategically position themselves for political leadership.

The tussle over the party’s secretary-general position, which a section of Nyanza elected leaders want to be a preserve of the region, offers an ideal chance to precipitate an implosion. The widening fault lines in ODM are an enactment of the events that preceded the break up of Ford Kenya following the demise of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in 1994.

A year later, in 1995, Orengo, who had been presumed to be the old man’s heir apparent in Nyanza, waged a fierce campaign against the former PM that saw former Vice President Wamalwa Kijana take over the reins of leadership of Ford Kenya. The rivalry played out again on Wednesday night at a monthly duol (discussion around a traditional fireplace) during which Orengo is said to have complained bitterly that the party’s secretary-general position was being dangled to the highest bidder.

The January duol, hosted by Karachuonyo MP James Rege at his Karen residence and attended by majority of Luo MPs (senators and members of national assembly), was reduced to a verbal contest between Orengo’s faction – Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno and Kisumu Town MP Ken Obura, among others – and those allied to Raila led by Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang, outgoing party Secretary General Anyang’ Nyong’o, Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang, Gideon Ochanda, Ugunja MP James Opiyo Wandayi and Nyando MP Fed Outa.

Orengo is said to have withdrawn from the race after Raila vowed not to support any Luo MP for a national post. Highest bidder Mr Orengo would not shed light on what transpired his rivalry with Raila. Yesterday, he cancelled a scheduled interview with The Standard and KTN at the eleventh hour without giving reasons. He would also neither answer phone calls nor respond to text messages.

In the build up to the Wednesday meeting, Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo, Raila’s first cousin, on Monday had a vicious altercation with Dr Oburu Odinga outside Continental House witnessed by The Standard on Saturday. Midiwo, who supports the retention of the SG seat in Nyanza, was unhappy that the Odinga family was allegedly fronting Dr Agnes Zani for the seat.

Dr Oburu, who chairs the Luo MPs caucus, in turn accused Midiwo of being sponsored by Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and by extension Jubilee, to rock ODM from within. When The Standard on Saturday reached Midiwo for comment, he declined to talk.  “I do no want to comment on the matter. I have decided to keep off, that why I did not attend the meeting,” he said.

The growing friction forced Midiwo to stay way from the duol. The duols rarely have a definite agenda, but on Wednesday the impending party elections dominated discussions. When Dr Oburu called the meeting to order at around 10pm, Orengo fired the first salvo, setting the tone for the evening meeting.

The senator complained that the position was being hawked to the “highest bidder”. Those at the meeting say Orengo told Raila not to “hawk the party to the highest bidder” but support the push for the secretary-general’s position to be occupied by one of their own. Suba MP John Mbadi was even virulent in his push for the seat to remain in the region. On his part, Dalmas Otieno lamented that the Odinga family was fighting him even after committing his resources to the party. Dr Oburu is reported to have assured Mr Otieno that “we fought you when you were in Kanu but after you joined us, we have been working well”. Face of Kenya The other speakers at the doul were Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang’, Nyatike MP Edick Anyanga and Ugunja MP James Opiyo Wandayi. The latter rattled the Orengo faction when he observed that there was no need to replace Prof Nyong’o with another leader from the region.

Some MPs, like Rarieda’s Nicolas Gumbo, had expressed concern that handing the reins of secretary-general to an “outsider” would weaken the party arguing that the holder of the position is the custodian of the party’s records. Gumbo’s position is informed by what happened to Ford Asili that was paralysed when its former secretary-general, the late Martin Shikuku, declined to hand over its certificate. He also cited the drama Raila faced when Daniel Maanzo refused to hand over ODM-Kenya registration certificate, forcing him to seek an alternative.

Raila, who has been pushing for the “face of Kenya” in the party dressed down Orengo allies, saying it would be “unthinkable” to give the party a tribal tag. He reminded the MPs that when Ford Kenya broke up, he took over the National Development Party (NDP) which after the 1997 polls had 25 MPs, 23 of whom were from Nyanza, with one from Central Kenya (George Nyanja, former Juja MP) and another from the Coast. He said NDP only acquired a national outlook after the famous merger with Kanu in 2002.

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