ODM’s woes now spill over to Cord

The opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) appears to be headed for a long rocky trek ahead of the next General Election following a spill-over of the woes that have gripped the coalition’s largest partner, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) since the aborted February 28 party polls.

Strong opinions relating to Cord’s compromise flag-bearer in the 2017 presidential election, ethnic balancing, age and popularity of each of the coalition’s three principals are brewing tension, speculation, mistrust and apprehension within the outfit whose survival now hangs on a thread four years ahead of the next presidential contest.

It may have sounded like normal politicking Kenyan-style when a group of leaders drawn from different Cord affiliate parties -among them Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba – assembled in Mbooni, Makueni County, a fortnight ago to announce that they would be backing former vice-president Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka for presidency in the next General Election.

Now, it is turning out that there was more than meets the eye at the Mbooni event that was a thanks-giving ceremony for area Women Representative Rose Mumo’s victory. Others at the function included Ford Kenya legislators Chris Wamalwa and Ferdinand Wanyonyi.

In fact, only last week, Namwamba noticeably joined Kalonzo at another function in Machakos County where local MPs were strongly expressing the view that time had come for ODM leader and Cord’s presidential candidate Raila Odinga to support Kalonzo.

What is emerging is that the seamy effects of the violence that rocked the aborted ODM elections two months ago and the confusion that has afflicted the party since then are now permeating into entire Cord umbrella.

Impending by-elections generated by the nullifications of poll victories of certain MPs appear to be the catalyst of the tension that has been simmering within Cord for some time now but which were brought to the fore by the February 28 aborted elections at Kasarani stadium which, in many ways than one, left Party Leader Raila Amolo Odinga practically battered and vulnerable.

Kenya is bracing for by-elections in Migori County, Nyando constituency in Kisumu County, Shinyalu parliamentary seat in Kakamega County, Mathare constituency in Nairobi County and Bonchari constituency in Kisii County with the Supreme Court expected to decide whether those in Migori, Shinyalu and Mathare will go ahead.

Popular politician The by-elections are turning out to be major centres of contention, with key Cord leaders taking different positions in the manner in which the coalition should approach the polls. Cord is largely composed of ODM, Kalonzo’s Wiper Democratic Movement (WDM) and Ford Kenya parties.

Raging fires within the coalition have been ignited by a move from Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula to field his party’s candidate, Jared Okello, in the Nyando by-election, arguing that he is the most popular politician on the ground.

Okello is the one who had filed a petition that led to the nullification of the election of Fred Outa as Nyando MP. Said Wetang’ula: “We are just expressing the will of the majority because the candidate (Okello) is popular and we better give the electorate what they want.”

Wetang’ula’s view has received a strong backing by Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero who, too, is vouching for Okello in Nyando and ousted Governor Zachary Okoth Obado as the candidate for the Migori gubernatorial seat should polls be finally be held in the area.

Kidero was elected on an ODM ticket. He has come under severe criticism from senators Gerald Otieno Kajwang (Homabay) and Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu) who have stated that the Nairobi Governor’s views are personal and should not be taken seriously.

“Utterances attributed to the Nairobi Governor are reckless and portray disrespect for the rule of law. They are his personal views,” said Nyong’o, who is acting as ODM party leader during the duration of Raila’s two-month stay in the United States.

However, speaking to Political on phone, Kidero stood his ground and maintained that both Okello and Obado are more popular and development-oriented candidates who should be given the opportunity to serve the electorate.

Said he: “In today’s Kenya, let us not cheat ourselves that one can ascend to the presidency by merely compartmentalising a single community into one direction. In a multi-party situation like ours, one must not only learn but be ready and wiling to build bridges.”

The Governor added: “This is the reality that we must accept to live with. Also, the electorate must be allowed to vote for a candidate of their choice. Imposing leaders on the electorate is a betrayal of democracy. Ford Kenya is an affiliate of Cord.

Why should a popular leader from Ford Kenya not be endorsed to represent his people.” “If anything, he is the one who filed the petition that led to the nullification of Outa’s election. We supported Steve Kariuki in Mathare because he is the one who filed the petition.

Why can’t we do the same for Okello? We do not have to treat some leaders and partners as mere flower girls at a wedding. We must be realistic by always practising what we preach. Democracy is a game of give-and-take, not an always-take sport.

These are basics that we must always be alive to,” he said. He said that he has always supported Raila and would be supporting the former Prime Minister to run for the presidency again should he be in the race again whether as an ODM or Cord candidate.

Impressive development Asked why he was then pitching for Obado when he is the one whose election has been nullified, Kidero argued: “By the time of last year’s election, PDP (People’s Democratic Party) was an affiliate of Cord.

The party leader (Omingo Magara) only changed positions after the elections, but not Obado. What is more, Obado has a very impressive development record compared to all his opponents. We have to choose whether we want development or if we want mere rhetoric.

Time for rhetoric and sloganeering is long gone.” More than two months since the ODM elections failed to take off owing to the chaos unleashed by the so-called Men-In-Black-Suits (MIBS) in the glare of live television cameras, Raila’s party has noticeably been sliding into a potential abyss with so many of its leaders disgruntled and groping in the wilderness for another political vehicle ahead of the next General Election.

As ODM struggles to emerge from the phoenix of the February 28 debacle, it is becoming apparent that the hitherto enigmatic politician could be fast losing his grip on the outfit he previously held sway over like a colossus, with some pundits questioning whether he still has the fire to stage another stab at the presidency, having previously lost thrice; in 1997, 2007 and last year.

Arguments are shuttling within Cord, especially from Kalonzo’s Ukambani backyard that Raila has done his time and that a moment had come for him to reciprocate by supporting either Kalonzo or Wetang’ula for the top seat in the next election.

Younger sibling However, those views have attracted the wrath of Raila’s elder brother, Dr Oburu Oginga who last week announced that his younger sibling would be running for the presidency in the next election, saying that he was surprised that some people were ruling him out on the account of age when he is not even 70 years yet immediate former President Mwai Kibaki ascended to power at the age of 73 years.

Oburu took a swipe at Wetang’ula whom he accused of undermining ODM in Luo Nyanza, a line that was also adopted by Suna MP Mohammed Junet who accused the Bungoma Senator of “shadow-boxing” in his bid to field a Ford Kenya candidate in Nyando.

Last Monday, Junet demanded that Wetang’ula Ford Kenya be stripped off his position as Minority Senate Leader as well as that of Deputy Chief Whip of the National Assembly held by Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa, ranting: “We will not be ruled by Ford Kenya’s tyranny of the minority.”

On his part, Oburu said that ODM would reach out to the Kalenjin community in the countdown to the 2017 race, declaring: “We want you to back ODM because all of us formed this party. It’s popular and cuts across tribes unlike others which are centred on tribalism.

Fence-mending strategy Raila is currently in the United States from where he was expected at the end of the week, hopefully with some form of remedy for his severely-dented party. Though ODM top-notch leaders may still put on a brave face and maintain that all will be well within the once reforms and democracy-crusading party, several distinct factions have erupted out of the Kasarani elections mayhem, with two of them teetering on the fringes of a bolt-out should the former premier remain adamant and plant his cronies on the ODM leadership.

After the abortive elections, Raila came up with a fence-mending strategy through which he hopes to keep the ODM family under one shade – at least for now. In the move, a caretaker committee comprising three key antagonists from each side of the opposing groups, to be chaired by Raila himself, is to oversee the running of the party’s affairs until fresh elections are held.

However, his absence from the local political scene has opened a lull in the party with nothing of essence taking place, a development that has led to the spill-over of ODM’s problems into the Cord.

Long before the election date, all indications were that Raila was pandering a certain faction perceived as weak, lacklustre, loyalist and with little-known credentials in the political arena and whose most visible faces were nominated Senator Dr Agnes Zani, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya and Funyula MP Dr Paul Nyongesa Otuoma – though the real musketeers behind the scenes were long-time Raila side-kicks in the persons of Homa bay Senator Gerald Otieno Kajwang, Raila’s elder brother Dr Oburu Oginga, former Nairobi Mayor George Aladwa, former Makadara MP Reuben Ndolo, as well as nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro and ousted Nyando MP Fred Outa.

This is the faction that is still hanging on the coat-tails of the former premier who, in return, is clinging on this composition as safe seat-warmers as he plots his – and possibly last – pitch at the presidency. On the other hand, there is the faction spearheaded by Namwamba, Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho, Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok and prominent Kisumu politician Rosa Buyu.

This is the group that is believed to have been running away with landslide victory before the infamous MIBS engineered the fracas that led to the indefinite postponement of the elections exercise. There is another group of neutrals which retreated on the periphery after attempts by some of its members to vie for certain positions were thwarted by certain forces within the party believed to be at the behest of Raila. The face of this group is Kidero, and it comprises other voices like Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno and Siaya Senator James Orengo. – thepeople.co.ke

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