Raila to camp in Western after Ababu resignation
Opposition chief Raila Odinga is going flat out to stamp his authority on Western in a “scorched earth policy” to neutralise ODM rebels who are obstructing his presidential quest.
Just a day after Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba announced he had quit as ODM secretary general, the former Prime Minister has planned a series of engagements that could last two weeks.
Yesterday, Cord CEO Norman Magaya told the Star they will “completely destroy” Namwamba because he is impeding change.
“We will play scorched earth politics. But I can tell you Ababu’s resignation [on Wednesday] is the best thing that has happened to ODM. We will replace him swiftly. The Luhya community has enough able men who can serve as secretary general,” he said.
A scorched earth military strategy destroys or burns all resources that might be useful to the enemy.
The Western tour will involve meeting party delegates and branch officials, as well holding as rallies in a strategy to take the war to the rebels’ doorstep.
Namwamba and Funyula MP Paul Otuoma are the faces of the new rebellion against the Cord leadership. Otuoma resigned as vice chairman last week and accused the party of trivialising their complaints.
Their Busia backyard has the second-largest number of registered ODM members, after Homa Bay county, and there are fears their new political direction could encounter headwinds.
According to 2013 IEBC statistics, Homa Bay had 326,505 registered voters, Busia had 251,517.
On Wednesday, Ababu made good his threat and resigned, claiming he has been “frustrated, belittled and harassed”.
After the 2007 elections, Ababu declined to take the oath of office in Parliament, swearing allegiance to the President as prescribed in law, and instead swore his allegiance to Raila.
In a clear indication the firebrand lawmaker will not support Raila in 2017, the youthful MP publicly regretted supporting Raila for President instead of Musalia Mudavadi in 2013.
“Today in the spirit of the Luhya community, I apologise to my brother Musalia Mudavadi for declining to support him and going for Raila Odinga,” he said after meeting a section of ODM delegates at Mundere in Busia on Wednesday.
Mudavadi has accepted Namwamba’s apology.
There are indications Ababu could join the Labour Party of Kenya and there is speculation his political activities are being bankrolled by Deputy President William Ruto to wreck the Orange Party.
Both Ababu and Ruto have rubbished the claims.
“Ababu’s resignation and departure to the Labour Party of Kenya is good riddance and inconsequential, since he had abdicated his duties and loyalty to the party long ago,” said Busia deputy ODM chairman Patrick Obongoya.
Cord’s tentative timetable indicates Raila will start his Western engagements in a week — with a first stop
in Vihiga — the backyard of former ally Musalia Mudavadi.
He then goes to Funyula and Budalang’i — Otuoma’s and Ababu’s constituencies, respectively, where new aspirants could be unveiled.
Sources said three hopefuls in Budalang’i are celebrating Ababu’s exit from Raila’s inner circle. They claim election for two terms was based on his proximity to the ODM boss.
Otuoma has already complained the party leadership is meeting individuals he defeated in the last polls, saying he remains an ODM member.
On Wednesday, Raila met 13 MPs from Western and discussed the simmering regional revolt.iSources said, however, the MPs were unanimous that Ababu is a self-seeker.
The timing of this instability in ODM complicates matters for Raila as he is forced to put out new political fires at a time when he is laying the groundwork for his rematch with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Besides, Cord is yet to nominate its 2017 flag bearer, with Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Ford Kenya boss Moses Wetangu’la both insisting they should fly the standard.
The ex-PM and his political think tank have lately focussed energies on electoral reforms to seal loopholes for rigging next year.
Wiper secretary General Hassan Omar Thursday asked Ababu to join Wiper, instead of divorcing the Cord family.
“If you cannot sign cheques in ODM, we will make you a signatory in Wiper,” said Omar, asking opposition honchos “to do everything possible” to retain the Budalang’i MP.
Raila is also facing rebellion at the Coast where a number of ODM MPs have declared they will not defend their seats on an ODM ticket.
Some analysts have predicted, however, the the Coastal revolt will collapse and term it more a media event than realpolitik.
“The rebellion against ODM in the Coast region is a rebellion without a cause,” political analyst Kazungu Katana said.
Raila also faces a herculean task to retain his strongholds in Kisii and Nyamira, as Jubilee makes overtures in the region that overwhelmingly voted for him in 2013.
A section of Gusii leaders today are expected to meet at Otamba in Nyaribari Chache constituency to decide on the community’s political future, according to area MP Richard Tong’i.
Tong’i told the Star, “A major announcement will be made in the meeting. We must be in the government of the day as Abagusii. Eighty per cent of the national cake is in Nairobi and we must get our rightful share.”
Senator Chris Obure, a close Raila ally, has been chairing the unity talks and has been mandated by organizers to “lead the community.”
During a function at Kitutu Masaba last week, Obure who chairs ODM’s the Kisii county coordinating committee, was conspicuously absent. His Nyamira counterpart Kennedy Okong’o also gave
the function a wide berth.
However, Governors John Nyagarama and James Ongwae say they will lead campaigns for Raila in their counties.
“The community won’t be swayed by promised projects not backed by budgetary allocation. We remain in Cord and we are working on strategies to ensure Raila wins majority votes from Kisii, Nyamira and countrywide,” Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire said.
TNA secretary General Onyango Oloo said,, however, Jubilee is ready and willing to receive the rebels.
“In Jubilee all members are treated as equals. We are ready to receive not only the leadership but also members en masse,” Oloo said.