Raila walking a tightrope as Kidero, Namwamba troubles deepen
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga will need all the political shrewdness and the power of public relations he can muster to navigate the Orange Democratic Movement ( ODM) from the alleged corruption among its top leaders.
Both supporters and critics are keen to see how Raila will handle the woes facing Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and party Secretary General Ababu Namwamba and leave the Orange party with high moral standing to take on the Jubilee government on matters of corruption.
Both Kidero and Namwamba are not strangers to controversy within the Orange party. Kidero has had to fight off perceptions that he is not loyal to the party. Recently, he was named alongside four MPs expected to face a party disciplinary committee before the party hurriedly withdrew his name pending ‘further consultations.’
Namwamba has also had to fend off questions about party loyalty and he had been at the heart of the ODM power struggle that culminated in the bungled party polls a year ago.
The Budalang’i MP is today fighting to preserve his position as chairperson of the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) whose members face a parliamentary probe that starts this week following bribery claims against him and the members. The latest storm swirling around Namwamba is fueled further by his announcement that he has recordings of private conversations including with senior fellow party members that he says will vindicate him during the PAC probe.
The Nairobi governor, on the other hand, has had to fight off claims that he is behind the woes bedeviling Mumias Sugar Company. Kidero has also been named in an alleged land grabbing scandal according to court documents.
But Kidero defended himself, saying his commitment to the party and its ideals is not in question. “I work well with fellow party members. The media should stop creating unnecessary frictions and divisions in our party. I am in good books with my party leaders and members,” Kidero said in an interview with The Standard in his office at City Hall.
“I fully understand my obligations and rights as a party member and I will not be intimidated and scared away from the party. I have a right to speak the truth and always do what is right,” he added.
Kidero said claims that he financed a non- ODM candidate in the recent Homa Bay senatorial by-election are false, saying there is never credible evidence to support such claims. He asserted that he has never made any public statements, whether in a rally, press conference or written documents to that effect. “I was elected in Nairobi as a governor and this is where my commitments are,” he said.
Kidero has defended his tenure in Mumias Sugar saying he left the company on sound financial footing.
It is against this background that the troubles stalking the two might interest Raila because of the implications they would have on the party especially in Western, where ODM has drawn huge support.
But Sunday, Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka came to the defence of his party leader and exonerated him from the current woes facing the duo.
Mr Onyonka said both Kidero and Namwamba are innocent until proven guilty, adding that nobody should associate Raila with issues going on in Parliament.
“The issue Namwamba is facing has gone beyond party line and position. He is still innocent until proven guilty. It is a folly to even think that he will fall out with Western region because of the corruption allegations,” said Onyonka.
Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo said the problem of corruption is not Raila and he should not be held at ransom by politicians who want to save their skin.
Political Analyst Martin Oloo argued that Raila cannot claim any moral high ground in the wake of corruption allegations against two senior party members in his party.
“Kidero has been adversely mentioned in the woes bedeviling Mumias and continues to be mentioned in corrupt dealings. Ababu’s fight is that others also ate. The chances of Raila in this is zero,” said Oloo.
Mr Oloo admitted that the Opposition chief is between a rock and a hard place. “If he supports Kidero, he will fall out with Western since the governor is perceived to be behind the woes Mumias Sugar Company is facing while support for Ababu will be seen entrenching corruption,” he said.
“I would rather suggest he remains silent. Either way, if he supports Kidero or Ababu, he will fall out with the masses and that is not good for him,” said Oloo.
The ODM party has since inception pegged its agenda for change on its commitment to the fight against corruption.
Former PM’s head of campaign Eliud Owalo said the grave corruption allegations against Namwamba in his capacity as the chairman of the PAC makes his position no longer tenable.
“He must therefore step aside to pave way for relevant organs of both Parliament and the State to conduct impartial investigations into the matter to determine the veracity or otherwise of those allegations,” said Owalo.
According to Owalo, Namwamba no longer has the moral authority to continue clinging onto the position
“The secretary general is the spokesperson of the party. The image of the party in the eyes of Kenyans will be heavily dented if its own policy advocate is implicated in graft,” said Owalo.
Owalo added the party risks losing its crucial Western support base by being seen to be protective of Kidero, yet he is equally known to be one of the most disloyal members of the party. ODM Political Affairs Secretary Opiyo Wandayi told The Standard that the former PM’s position on corruption has been very clear that he does not condone it regardless of whoever is involved.
“I am sure he is not willing to sacrifice the ideal at the altar of political expediency. However, the two have not been proven guilty and cannot be condemned wholesome,” said Wandayi.
Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati, however, came to the defence of the duo, saying the relevant anti-graft agencies have not done investigations or implicated them.
Mr Arati, who sits in the House Agricultural Committee, said that there is no report that Kidero run down the sugar miller and challenged whoever has evidence against him to come forth and prove.
“We in ODM stand for a reformed Kenya. If anybody steals, he does not steal on behalf of the party, they steal for their stomach. No relevant institution has done investigations into Namwamba and Kidero. Nobody should drag the name of the party leader into it,” said Arati.