ODM strongholds particularly in Nyanza region have been hit by a nominations’ fever as aspirants position themselves to contest various elective seats in the 2017 elections.
Already there is anxiety with concerns being raised over some senior officials who have lists of their preferred candidates. Some aspirants are pointing accusing fingers at ODM national chairman John Mbadi of being partisan, while others are concerned that the Odinga family may interfere with party primaries.
Party leader Raila Odinga’s younger sister and Kisumu Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga has told Sunday Nation that there were signs family members – some of whom are not politicians – were indulging in party matters.
“They must stop forthwith as this is likely to jeopardise Raila’s stab at the Presidency,” said Ms Odinga, herself a candidate for the Kisumu gubernatorial seat on the party ticket. She said aspirants in Siaya, Kisumu and Migori had complained that her relatives were taking sides by backing particular leaders.
“I am asking them to keep away from ODM nominations so that the people can have their say in the primaries to rejuvenate Raila’s quest for the Presidency,” she said.
The deputy county chief at the same time warned Mr Mbadi against being partisan.
“I am urging the chairman to make sure he is nonpartisan and that he supports the party. Any official seen to be supporting a certain candidate should be made to step down from that position,” Ms Odinga said.
Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga has previously accused the Suba MP of supporting Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti. Mr Magwanga wants to unseat the governor in the coming General Election.
Mr Mbadi, however, denies such claims and vows that the ODM leadership will ensure smooth nominations so that only popular candidates carry its flag.
He said at the moment, pre-nomination fever could make some leaders point accusing fingers at particular leaders without tabling any evidence.
“At this time there is too much pressure which can cause stress hence accusations. I am used to that by now and I know my office at this time will face attacks from all quarters, unjustified of course,” Mr Mbadi told Sunday Nation in an interview.
He added: “I just want her (Ruth) not to listen to propaganda from people who fear the unknown. I have become the excuse for people who are facing election heat.”
The ODM National Elections Board chaired by Judith Pareno says it is putting in place modalities for credible party primaries.
Ms Pareno told Sunday Nation that the Board and not the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will handle ODM nominations.
“We will use the National Elections Board for our nominations,” she said.
Ms Odinga has also urged party Secretary General Agnes Zani to act on leaders perpetrating violence ahead of the primaries.
“Ms Zani must put her foot forward and come out and ensure those perpetrating violence within the party are made to step down,” she said.
She was reacting to events in which leaders have been heckled during public events. The Homa Bay governor was, for instance, heckled during the late Senator Otieno Kajwang’s memorial at Waondo village in Mbita last month.
The county’s Deputy Governor Hamilton Orata is on record saying that those who heckled his boss had been ferried by individuals he did not name.
“I can confirm to you the youth had been ferried to the two functions to heckle the governor. This kind of politics is uncalled for. I don’t want to speculate on who might have planned that but your guess is as good as mine,” Mr Orata said.
But Mr Magwang’a attributes the seeming unpopularity of the governor on corruption in his administration “where projects are implemented on paper but not on the ground”, thus infuriating locals. “This is clearly depicted in the latest auditor Edward Ouko’s report and the public have a right to get answers on this matter,” Mr Magwanga said.
There is also talk that apart from audit queries that may have angered the residents, the party branch elections had also created camps in the county pitting Mr Awiti against woman representative Gladys Wanga.
Mr Awiti is said to have sided with Homa Bay Town MP Opondo Kaluma against Ms Wanga for the branch’s ODM chairperson’s seat. Ms Wanga won with the backing of Senator Moses Kajwang’, businessman Sam Wakiaga and Mr Magwanga.
“[Mr] Awiti’s team has been accused of lining up candidates against Ms Wanga’s camp which has generated a lot of heat in the county. But all said and done, the governor must tame the people around him because they are the cause of the crisis in Homa Bay,” Mr Ojwang’ said.