NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga
NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga has moved swiftly to stem a possible fall-out by declaring he is not against independent candidates.
His declaration two weeks ago that he does not recognise independents had created acrimony, with party strategists, political pundits and two elders’ councils saying the move could cost him the presidency.
During a church service at ACK St Stephen’s Cathedral in Kisumu two weeks ago, the NASA leader had asked ODM supporters to reject independents at the ballot, claiming the party needed numbers in Parliament.
“The independents need to campaign for themselves, they are on their own,” he said then.
But the ODM leader seems to have had a swift change of heart, telling a group of independent candidates at Orange House on Tuesday that he was not against them.
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Raila held a private meeting with the independent candidates led by Nyatike MP Omondi Anyanga, former assistant minister Ayiecho Olweny, Kisumu Women Rep Rose Nyamunga, former PS Carey Orege and Richard Muga.
A source at Orange House said the party leader will hold more such meetings. Raila’s statement was greeted with mixed reactions, with ODM aspirants welcoming it and independents crying foul.
Political analyst and lawyer Martin Oloo said Raila had made a grave mistake in telling off independents.
“Raila needs everyone. He needs every single vote available if he is to win the elections and does not have the liberty to choose who he wants support from,” said Oloo.
He likened Raila to a house owner whose home is burning but rather than put out the fire concentrates on chasing away rats.
“ODM primaries were shambolic, so rather than cure the disease, he aggravates it. This may cost him critical votes,” he said.
The Nyanza region, like most parts of the country, has attracted lots of independent candidates. Most of them defected from ODM in the aftermath of the party’s primaries.
Other notable independent candidates from the region include Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma, Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga and former Energy minister Ochilo Ayako, who is eyeing the Migori gubernatorial seat.
During the Tuesday meeting, Raila explained himself that his interest was to see robust political parties and a strong parliamentary system. “We must not kill the spirit of political parties in Kenya to build a firm political base for the presidency,” he said.
The following day, the Luo and Suba councils asked him not to discriminate independents allied to NASA as they were also campaigning for his presidential bid.
Led by Homa Bay County Luo Council of Elders Chairman Owili Mwai, the elders asked the NASA leader to concentrate on his presidential bid and leave local politics to aspirants at that level.
However, Raila’s change of heart has attracted opposition from some of his most loyal supporters. Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo and her Suna East counterpart Junet Mohammed said independents were enemies of the party.
Junet said independents were breaking the law by using NASA logo and colours. “The law is clear, an independent candidate should have his symbol which should not be similar to that of any other party. They should desist from using NASA colours,” said Junet.
Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo and his Rarieda counterpart Nicholas Gumbo told a public meeting in Gem that they would campaign for Raila whether he liked it or not. Midiwo is seeking to retain his seat while Gumbo is running for Siaya governor.