Friday, January 31, 2014 | by- JUSTUS WANGA
A major rebellion is building up against Cord leader Raila Odinga in his Nyanza backyard following a dispute over ODM’s national elections to be held at the end of the month.
A decision allegedly made by top party officials to force leaders from Luo-Nyanza out of the race for national party positions has sparked a cold war, with some of the affected MPs threatening to withdraw from activities and events officiated by Mr Odinga.
But, speaking at his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s memorial in Bondo, Siaya County, yesterday, Mr Odinga put on a brave face, claiming that those who had quit the race had wanted him to endorse them.
He named each, explaining how they had sought his assistance, and opted out only when he stood his ground that the party must portray a national image.
“Youth is not only about the age of a person, but also ideas,” he said during a public lecture at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology. His view was supported by outgoing secretary-general Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o.
The misunderstanding over the ODM elections has occasioned an unusual discussion among the MPs and other disgruntled leaders, with talk of the possibility of starting a new political movement to push for development and investment in Nyanza.
This comes at a time that a new opinion poll shows that President Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA) party has overtaken ODM in popularity. The poll commissioned by Strategic Public Relations and released on Friday, shows that ODM has slumped to 28 per cent, while TNA has surged to 32.4 per cent.
Some of the disgruntled MPs’ allies were seen at the Registrar of Political Parties’ offices in Nairobi, on Wednesday, making enquiries about how to register a new political entity.
“We have been toying with the idea of forming a new political entity that our people can own. We have also enquired about the possibility of registering a party called Cord,” one MP reportedly said.
The Saturday Nation has also learnt that meetings have been held in several city hotels to discuss the launch of a movement to be known as Kalausi (whirlwind in Dholuo) to “push for a fresh start in Nyanza”.
On Thursday, most MPs from Nyanza snubbed a food security plan launched in Siaya County and televised live, where Mr Odinga was the chief guest.
Only Bondo MP Gideon Ochanda attended the event in Alego Usonga constituency. Local MP Omondi Mulwan also did not attend.
Nominated MP Oburu Oginga and his Ugenya counterpart, Mr David Ochieng, reportedly arrived a few minutes after the function had ended.
Other leaders who were conspicuously absent were Siaya Senator James Orengo, MPs Jakoyo Midiwo (Gem), Nicholas Gumbo (Rarieda), and Opiyo Wandai (Ugunja).
Mr Wandai and Mr Orengo were, however, said to have been out of town, attending an official function in Mombasa.
On Friday Kisumu MP Ken Obura, one of the politicians who withdrew from the ODM elections on Wednesday, denied knowledge of the emergence of a ‘Kalausi’, declaring that his only interest was in rebuilding ODM and fighting its enemies.
“I have not heard about Kalausi and I am not a rebel. I simply wanted to vie for a party position and when I decided to withdraw, I did so wholeheartedly and I have moved on,” Mr Obura said.
Of all senior ODM politicians, only Mr Gumbo and nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro are still in the race.
The two are vying for the secretary-general’s seat and will face off with Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba and nominated Senator Agnes Zani.
On Wednesday, Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno, Gwassi MP John Mbadi and Mr Obura opted out of the elections. The Rongo MP warned this could hurt ODM in future.
Alego-Usonga MP Mulwan yesterday downplayed the import of his absence from the Raila function in his constituency, saying last-minute changes on the starting time of event were not communicated to him.
“Governor Rasanga had initially told me it would be held on Friday, only to change to Thursday and despite my efforts to reschedule my flight, it was too late for me,” he said.
Asked whether the failure to communicate the changes to him could have been intended to exclude him, he said: “I don’t know why they changed it at the last minute.”
Mr Mulwan, a Wiper party MP, is one of the few leaders in Nyanza who were elected on parties other than ODM. Others are Migori Governor Okoth Obado, Kisumu West MP Olago Oluoch and Awendo’s Jared Opiyo — all of Ford Kenya.
Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga accused some of the newly elected MPs of “being used by enemies of the party,” warning them that they would “achieve nothing in the end”.
He added: “I want to appeal to my brothers and sisters who joined us the other day not to become a nuisance to our people.”
While the MPs we spoke to would not publicly associate themselves with ‘Kalausi’, big recent fund drives by Dr Kidero and Mr Otieno have sparked outrage from some Nyanza leaders, and drawn support from others.
Some 2,854 delegates will participate in the February 28 ODM National Delegates Convention.
Party executive director Magerer Langat yesterday said a third of them would be women, in line with the constitutional rule on gender.
He said at Orange House in Nairobi that the elections would be free and fair, and the delegates at the NDC would have the final say.
“Aspirants are reminded to adhere to the party code of conduct,” Mr Langat said in a statement, adding that a fundraiser would be held at the Panafric Hotel, Nairobi, on February 6, to “meet the NDC expenses”.
A budget of Sh30 million has been drawn up and well-wishers and party enthusiasts are expected to support the event.
A list obtained from the headquarters indicates that Mr Odinga will be challenged by Dagoretti MP Simba Arati for the party leader’s position (Mr Arati however told one of our reporters last night that he had pulled out of the race) . The deputy party leader’s post has attracted Governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa) and Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega).
Those in the race for the chairman’s position are Dr Paul Otuoma, Mr Josephat Nanok, Mr Manson Nyamweya, Mr Isaac Mwilu, and Mr Mpuri Aburi. Homa Bay County Senator Otieno Kajwang’ and Eldas MP Aden Keynan will seek the vice-chairman’s post.
Dt Zani and Ms Ongoro and MPs Gumbo and Namwamba are in the race for the secretary-general’s seat. Mr Wandai and nominated MP Isaac Mwaura will go for the deputy secretary-general’s slot.