ODM leader Raila Odinga is facing one of the biggest headaches as his party prepares to hold nominations starting from Thursday this coming week.
In the past week alone, the party has been rocked by three violent incidents, with Deputy Party Leader Hassan Joho being caught up in gun drama during a rally in Migori where his bodyguard was shot in the leg.
The Director of Public Prosecutions later directed the head of the Criminal Investigations Department to investigate the case.
Before the dust could settle, on Wednesday this week, Senator Elizabeth Ongoro stormed Orange House, the party’s headquarters in Nairobi, to protest after Mr Tom Kajwang was allegedly given a direct nomination to contest for the Ruaraka parliamentary seat.
Shots were fired and one official, Mr Oduor Ong’wen, was roughed up by a mob.
And yesterday, one person was feared dead after chaos between supporters of Busia Governor Sospeter Ojamoong’ and Funyula MP Paul Otuoma broke out in Funyula.
In response, the ODM leader on Friday chaired a meeting of the party’s Central Committee, which has now summoned Mr Joho, Ms Ongoro, Mr Kajwang, Senators Anyang Nyong’o and James Orengo, Migori Governor Okoth Obado, MP Junet Mohamed and five other politicians from the party to face its disciplinary committee on Monday.
The leaders were warned to appear without their supporters.
“We have given information to all our members to conduct themselves with restraint and decorum,” Mr Odinga said.
“We are not going to tolerate acts of thuggery, hooliganism or use of violence in any branch of our party.”
Besides ensuring free and fair nominations in his own party, Mr Odinga is also expected to meet his counterparts from other parties in the Opposition coalition, Nasa, later this month to pick a presidential candidate for the joint Opposition.
Only this week, a document ostensibly leaked by the team picked to consult on who should face President Uhuru in August, gave scenarios indicating which of the four candidates — Mr Odinga, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi of Amani National Congress and his Ford-Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang’ula — has the best chances to compete favourably against the incumbent or to unseat him.
BATTLE FOR FLAG
Balancing the expectations of his supporters vis-a-vis those of his counterparts who are eyeing the Nasa presidential ticket, is also a big headache for Mr Odinga, obviously the man with the biggest clout of all four.
While all four are optimistic that they will be picked to carry the flag, there are fears over what action those are not on the presidential ticket will take.
Mr Francis Nyenze, who is Mr Musyoka’s close ally and the Leader of the Minority in the National Assembly, has said categorically that there would be no Nasa if Mr Musyoka is not picked as the Opposition flag-bearer.
Although Mr Musyoka softened the blow when he appeared for a TV interview this week, saying that Mr Nyenze was expressing a personal opinion, he added a rider that that opinion ought to be respected.
According sources within Nasa, the technical team has settled on an Odinga/Musyoka ticket.
Just this week, however, in an interview with the Nation, Mr Mudavadi said: “We should not jump the gun by arriving at a conclusion before understanding how that very conclusion will be arrived at.”
On his chances at the ballot, he said: “I consider myself a well calculating individual… who is not polarising at all. I am not an intimidating leader. I have always embraced a non-violent approach to resolving issues”.
According to him, Kenyans need security and a sense of belonging.
“They require an inclusive leader, who symbolises trust and honesty. This is what we have lacked for a very long time. This is what I will bring,” he said.
MIND YOUR BUSINESS
Mr Mudavadi, like the other four, believes he has what it takes to lead Nasa to an electoral victory against Jubilee.
Whether he will settle for less will depend on how he and his other colleagues play their political cards and more importantly, how they have crafted their Memorandum of Understanding to ensure that none of them ditches the coalition if he is not picked.
All these point to the big headache that Mr Odinga faces, whether he clinches the Opposition ticket or not.
On Friday, while responding to criticism by President Kenyatta and his Deputy, Mr William Ruto, that they were yet to pick a flag-bearer, Mr Odinga asked Mr Kenyatta to concentrate on Jubilee affairs and leave the Opposition alone.
“Jubilee is challenging us on nominations and the flag-bearer, but when have they done theirs? Won’t they be saying Ruto, take this, Uhuru take this? When were they nominated?” he asked.
Analysts are pointing to the test of holding free and fair party nominations in the lower seats as the biggest stumbling block in the Opposition’s quest to wrest power from Jubilee Party.
In particular, the analysts have warned that shambolic and violent nominations, especially in Mr Odinga’s bedrock support bases of Nyanza and western Kenya, could turn out to be his undoing and could injure his fourth stab at the presidency.
Unless handled transparently, nominations in these areas could spark voter apathy when the country goes to the elections on August 8, exactly four months to the day, today.
The analysts have said that if nominations turn chaotic and unpopular candidates get the dominant tickets, as has happened in the past, disenfranchised voters could keep away from the ballot to protest, which will deny the Opposition the votes that it badly needs to win.
“People invest emotionally and financially in elections. If you are perennially unable to conduct nominations and people lose out in one day of chaos, you lose them too,” said Prof Jonah Kindiki, a professor of policy at Moi University.
He said that shambolic nominations have hurt Mr Odinga’s chances since 2007.
Dr Jushua Kivuva of University of Nairobi opined that violence and direct nominations will hurt Mr Odinga’s chances.
“Those who lose out in shambolic nominations and contest in other parties will hurt the candidature of Mr Odinga as voters will not wake up to vote,” he said.
Speaking in Nairobi, Mr Odinga appeared to be addressing this fears when he called for peaceful nominations as he led the party’s Central Committee in condemning the violence of recent days.
“Tujiandae kwa njia ya amani na utulivu (let us prepare ourselves in a peaceful and organised manner),” Mr Odinga said as he also warned that there would be no compromise, especially on aspirants who threaten their women and disabled counterparts.
He warned that such aspirants would automatically be ejected from the party.
On the decision by the party to give aspirants direct nominations, Mr Odinga said that the party had 6,000 aspirants and only 850 of these had been given direct tickets.
According to him, those who were given direct tickets had no opponents at the time.
He also took a swipe at the President for commenting on the free tickets during a public rally in Kiambu on Wednesday.
Mr Kenyatta had questioned why Mr Odinga was giving direct nominations if he was a democrat.
On Friday, the President revisited the subject during a rally at Narok Stadium.
“They are issuing nomination (tickets) like sweets from the pocket and that is not what democracy is about,” he said.
Report by Dave Opiyo, Collins Omullo, Gaitano Pesa, Justus Ochieng, Walter Menya and Wanjohi Githae.