ODM polls causes jitters over fears Jubilee is playing a hand
The controversy surrounding the upcoming ODM elections took a new turn on Saturday with accusations that some of the aspirants are sponsored by the ruling Jubilee Coalition.
This emerged as party leader Raila Odinga moved to fight perceptions he is pushing for the election of a preferred group of candidates as the battle for the control of Kenya’s single largest political party takes shape.
The move follows claims that Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho, considered to be Mr Odinga’s strongest ally, may be supporting a group coalescing around Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba, who is seeking to become the secretary-general.
On Saturday, Mr Eliud Owallo, an aide to Mr Odinga, denied the party leader has any preferred candidate.
“Mr Odinga wishes to make it clear to the candidates to go out there and seek the support of the delegates because he has no intention of favouring any one,” he told the Sunday Nation.
FEARS OF INFILTRATION
Fears of infiltration have seen the emergence of what insiders say is a list of possible officials whose loyalty is guaranteed.
Sources within ODM say some of the candidates who recently pulled out of the race acrimoniously after the party leadership opposed their candidature, may be among the suspected Jubilee moles.
Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno in particular has particularly come under scathing attack from party members who feel he may be out to destabilise ODM.
On Saturday, Suna East MP Junet Mohammed told the Sunday Nation there is “serious infiltration” by Jubilee in the planned February 28 elections. He said ODM is alarmed by the strong Jubilee push to plant candidates in the party, adding that people like Mr Otieno and youthful leaders from Luo Nyanza should tread carefully.
“Dalmas (Mr Otieno) must decide whether he wants to be in the ODM or officially join Jubilee,” said Mr Mohammed, a strong ally of Mr Odinga.
He said they are seriously considering invoking the Political Parties Act to expel “rebels” from the party.
On Thursday, Mr Mohammed claimed the Jubilee government was planning to use State agents to cause mayhem at the ODM National Delegates’ Conference on February 28. He alleged that the intention was to disrupt the elections and damage the party’s image.
The appointment of Mr Otieno in December by President Uhuru Kenyatta to the South Sudan crisis mediation team is said to have taken the ODM leadership aback, with his critics using it as evidence of his divided loyalty.
The suspicion within ODM is said to have further risen this week after a section of leaders from Migori County, Mr Otieno’s home area, met Deputy President William Ruto in his office on Thursday. The delegation included a sitting MP, two former legislators and county government officials.
Migori Governor Okoth Obado, elected on a People’s Democratic Party ticket, has in the past openly indicated he will work with the Jubilee Government even though his county is perceived to be in an ODM zone.
The ruling coalition is thought to be making inroads in the county, which is dominated by the Luo community but has a significant Kuria population.
After the meeting, Mr Ruto was invited to attend a church service in Kuria on Sunday. He is expected to make stopovers in other parts of Migori as well.
Migori Women’s Representative Dennitah Gati confirmed the DP’s visit although she said she was not involved in organising it.
“Yes, I am aware he is coming, but no one has called me to say we are expecting Mr Ruto,” she said.
Mr Odinga’s spokesperson, Mr Denis Onyango, said the party is aware of attempts by the government to influence the election of certain “friendly” ODM leaders. He also accused Mr Otieno of being behind the group out to destabilise the party.
“We are aware of such attempts to infiltrate ODM, but I wish them luck because Luo Nyanza is not easy to infiltrate. And even if that were to happen, Dalmas is the wrong guy to use; he has tried before to divide the community under President Moi and failed,” he said.
According to Mr Onyango, the plot is to make it appear as though South Nyanza, where Mr Otieno comes from, is in political battle against Central Nyanza, the location of Mr Odinga’s rural home.
“This is far-fetched. If anything Southern Nyanza has some of the most loyal supporters of Mr Odinga,” he said.
Yesterday Mr Otieno did not answer calls or mobile phone text messages from the Sunday Nation.
A number of ODM politicians opposed to Mr Namwamba’s bid to be secretary-general also accuse him of being friendly with some top Jubilee leaders, something the youthful MP denies.
But political analyst Tom Mboya from Maseno University sees this as mere propaganda.
“We are always told that politics is a dirty game, but it does not have to be that dirty always,” the don said.
Associates of Mr Odinga say some Jubilee sympathisers had initially been using the excuse of a generational change to get into the party leadership and subsequently weaken it.
Meanwhile, Mr Owallo said some six leaders from Luo Nyanza who withdrew from the race recently did so after they failed to secure Mr Odinga’s endorsement.
The party’s Executive Director Magerer Langat accused some leaders from Nyanza of having hatched a plot to undermine the party elections.
“They walked out in a group to try to destabilise the process but they did not succeed,” said Mr Langat. Kisumu Central MP Ken Obura who was forced to give up his ambition for the secretary-general’s position, said Jubilee cannot be allowed to find a foothold in ODM.
“I am clean, and I made it clear that I was withdrawing my candidature in the party’s interest because I still believe in ODM. No matter what happens, we cannot allow Jubilee to set foot in ODM,” he says.
ORENGO, KAJWANG HANDED ROLES
In the face of such a huge onslaught, Mr Odinga has tasked Senators James Orengo and Otieno Kajwang’ to handle the politics of Luo Nyanza as he addresses issues elsewhere.
But a major headache seems to be to try to keep Mr Joho on the side of the former Prime Minister. The Mombasa governor is known to have deep pockets, and ODM insiders believe his support for opposition to Mr Odinga’s preferred candidates cannot be taken lightly. Mr Odinga is said to prefer nominated Senator Agnes Zani for secretary-general. Dr Zani has always maintained she is an independent candidate.
Mr Namwamba and his team, thought to be against Mr Odinga’s line-up, have been meeting delegates in various counties.
An MP who did not want to be named claimed Mr Joho is unhappy about the prominence given to Dr Zani, and this could be a hint that the governor wants to retain his position as the undisputed ODM leader at the Coast. We were unable to reach Mr Joho yesterday, but Suna MP Junet Mohamed denied the governor was working against the party leader.-nation.co.ke