ODM’s Sham Nominations a Signal of Weak Internal Party Democracy
The recently concluded Orange Democratic Movement’s (ODM) primaries exhibited three isms; cronyism, nepotism and favouritism. Losers were muscled back using fake excuses that left the electorate disenfranchised, especially in Luo-Nyanza and Western Province. Whether the Party honchos did it explicitly through law, or implicitly by intimidation or by placing unreasonable requirements, the initially enthusiastic supporters became very disappointed.
Although this article focuses on ODM, the party’s main competitor, The National Alliance (TNA), had its share of electoral complaints which have been tabled before the IEBC by dissatisfied aspirants. A good example is the resolved case of Othaya constituency in which Mary Wambui was awarded then robbed the nomination certificate. This article is a personal reflection of events that ensued in Luo-Nyanza, which should be critically examined by supporters of ODM from the point of view of internal party democracy.
The sham nomination exercise has seen the return of Party loyalists that were clearly beaten and should have conceded defeat. The ODM Secretary General Anyang’ Nyong’o was floored in his Kisumu senatorial bid and instead of accepting it, he complained of having been rigged out. There were rumours that he had defected to Wiper (an affiliate in the CORD coalition) to have his name on the ballot, come the General Election on March 4, 2013. Through some ism by ODM’s National Election Board, Nyong’o got a direct nomination and will very likely become senator. In addition, he has just won the NHIF scandal court battle, while the taxpayer is left poorer because money was lost on his watch as Medical Services minister. Nyong’o is a former social-democrat-leaning politician now turned into a heartless capitalist. Last year, he told the media to go and count bodies in the mortuaries to know how many patients had died during the then nurses’ strike.
Former Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo, who is also the Chief Whip of ODM, was ‘whipped’ out of his parliamentary bid, yet could not accept it and complained to the ODM National Election Board that he had been rigged out, could not have lost the seat, and so forth. It is said he demanded a recount of the votes. Anyway, he has emerged the winner and will definitely represent the constituency after March elections. Midiwo had repeatedly mentioned before that he would still represent Gem, regardless of arising challenges. He is also Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s cousin.
Dr. Oburu Odinga, Raila’s eldest brother and former Bondo MP, was floored in his Siaya County gubernatorial bid by one William Oduol. The County residents clearly wanted change and it is said Oduol had been on the campaign trail for two years, reaching out to the locals and establishing projects in his home area. He was a fresh breath, considering that over the years, many have not considered Oburu as a development-oriented representative. Moreover, as the Finance assistant minister, he never challenged any financial scandals that dogged the ministry during the tenure of former Finance minister, Uhuru Kenyatta. There were rumours that Oburu used to be given his ‘cut’ to keep quiet.
‘Big brotherism’ and nepotism
Dr. Oburu did not concede defeat and lodged a complaint with the ODM Election Board. Meanwhile, he told the media that he did not see how his bid for governorship would jeopardize Raila’s bid for the Presidency. What he did not want to accept is the escalating loathe within a section of Luo-Nyanza for Odiangaism. Prior to the primaries, there was a feeling from many in Luo-Nyanza that even though the Odingas have a constitutional right to contest any elective seat in the country, parading siblings and relatives when Raila is going for the ‘big-seat’ would reflect negatively. Furthermore, why just the Odingas yet there are a myriad of others who have development track records in these areas, even if they have not been MPs? Media reports indicated Oduol had defeated Oburu, but when the Nyanza ODM regional coordinator Monica Amolo, who was overseeing the elections emerged from a visit to Oburu’s rural home, she declared him the winner. Ironically, last year Amolo was on Jeff Koinange’s K24 program ‘The Bench’, lamenting how she had been repeatedly rigged out of her former parliamentary quests in Ndhiwa constituency. Why then, did she overturn Oduol’s win?
Both Oburu and Oduol were disqualified and replaced by one Okanja, who got a direct nomination. How the Election Board chairman Franklin Bett came to this conclusion remains a myth, because the ‘back door’ return of these sore losers has been done without the procedures being made public. It won’t be a surprise if Oburu gets a direct nomination for an elective post sooner or later.
Insiders suggest that the majority of Alego people in Siaya County did not want Oburu and voted against him. However, having supported their son Oduol, they had to be punished by nullifying him. It is said Okanja is from Bondo, Oburu’s home area. There was further confusion when the same ticket was awarded to one Amoth, who is related to the Odingas.
In Kisumu County, there was another bitter voter disenfranchisement when Raila’s younger sister Ruth Adhiambo Odinga, lost her gubernatorial bid, only to run around complaining of having been rigged out. Kisumu residents stated very well through their votes that another Odinga was not going to lead them. They did so by voting in Jack Ranguma and gave Raila’s sister an abysmal 1000 or so votes. There was a rumour soon after that she had been nominated as Governor, causing an uproar that exploded into street riots and running battles between the youth and police. Ruth conceded defeat and asked for peace for the sake of Raila’s bid and the County’s progress. However, the latest news indicates that she has been nominated as Jack Ranguma’s running mate. Talk about being rescued by a powerful brother; another ism.
Intimidation by Party bigwigs
In Nairobi, there was more drama when the former Kasarani MP Elizabeth Ongoro, was yanked from her senatorial bid to the newly established Ruaraka constituency to vie as MP, yet it was won by Tom Kajwang’, brother of former Mbita MP and Party loyalist, Otieno Kajwang’. Ongoro lamented the loss of KES 200 million that she had spent in the past three years to market herself and said she would sue ODM. Her senatorial seat was then awarded to Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, the former Starehe MP, she who had earlier claimed to be holding appropriate ‘degrees’ and was qualified to contest Nairobi’s gubernatorial seat, only to be discredited by the Commission for Higher Education. Wanjiru should have kept her ambitions within the parliamentary level or if she wanted a senatorial seat, should have expressed it from the start, because she is most likely going to loss badly to TNA’s Gideon Mbuvi alias Sonko, whose senatorial bid is so publicized, he sent ODM veteran Minister Gumo into political retirement.
Franklin Bett was at pains to explain why Ongoro was dropped and replaced with Wanjiru. Accordingly, they had considered the ‘ethnic majority’ in Nairobi, to mean that they had to balance the delicate ‘tribal’ equation. Why couldn’t they think of a boardroom deal much earlier? The latest on Ongoro is that she rejected the MP offer for the sake of peace and support for Raila’s presidential quest.
The above examples were some key ones in the huge mess that was called ODM Party primaries. In Mbita constituency, former nominated MP Millie Odhiambo met animosity alleged to have been engineered by ‘Mapambano’ Kajwang’, in her parliamentary bid. Luo customs were used against her with claims that a married woman cannot return to her birthplace to contest an elective post. It is alleged that a close ally of the Immigration minister was being shoved down the throats of voters instead of Millie, who was their favourite candidate. There was voter intimidation, her convoy was shot at, and all manner of threats were applied, yet she eventually got nominated.
If the primaries are a precursor to the processes expected during the General Election, then ODM is doomed. It was unfair to push the nominations to January 17th, leaving no room for aspirants to pick other options to remain on the ballot. During last year’s Kisumu gubernatorial TV debates, there were prominent women aspirants like Rhoda Ahonobadha and Atieno Otieno who were articulate and had an agenda for the County. However, they must have been seen as newcomers who’d rattle the status-quo, thus were intimidated and probably did not present their names for nomination. ODM just has something against women, especially in Luo-Nyanza. There have not been female MPs elected in this region for the past 15 years; at least since the advent of the former National Democratic Party (NDP). Male politicians should concede defeat when women or younger aspirants beat them.
In Homa Bay, the ‘winning team’ announced by the returning officer after the primaries was reversed, only to have the losers declared winners. Some returning officers in various parts of Luo-Nyanza were threatened by phone calls from the Party headquarters in Nairobi, and fled from the polling stations to announce the imposed winners from safe havens. The real winners, who were immediately declared losers, were branded TNA moles and were therefore replaced with the ‘desirable ones’ by the Party bigwigs.
There were irregularities from the polling station officials who were not keen to scrutinize voters to ensure they had the right voting and identity cards. The media house KTN which was stationed in Luo-Nyanza, had a field day showing these irregularities on TV and the protest marches which for the first time, bore chants against Raila Odinga. Agitation is good in a young democracy like Kenya and for Luo-Nyanza, the voters proved in the primaries that they were not Raila Odinga’s voting machines or robots. They had decided and elected their choice candidates, but were overruled by the dominant isms of the day.