CORD leader Raila Odinga with Funyula MP Paul Otuoma.
The Orange Democratic Movement nominations are turning out to be a real headache for party leader Raila Odinga.
Raila now finds himself in the middle of nomination rows pitting some of his staunchest allies.
Nothing captures this more than the disputed Busia primaries, where Funyula MP Paul Otuoma and Governor Sospeter Ojaamong are claiming to have won.
Although Mr Ojaamong was declared victor, Mr Otuoma claims the elections were marred by by massive irregularities and that he is the rightful victor.
Otuoma has rejected calls by the party’s election board to have the nomination exercise repeated and demanded to be declared the winner and given the gubernatorial nomination ticket.
The two politicians are close allies of Raila but the nomination fiasco has put the ODM leader between a rock and a hard place.
It has also caused consternation within ODM’s top echelons.
By yesterday evening, the two political rivals were holed up in a meeting with party operatives to try and resolve the matter that threatens the party’s fortunes in a region that overwhelmingly voted for it in the last elections.
Already, Otuoma has hinted at contesting for the seat as an independent candidate.
Addressing his supporters in Omena Beach and Port Victoria in Budalang’i on Monday evening, Otuoma insisted that he won the nominations and the party should give him the certificate.
Otuoma is also caught between the devil and the blue sea.
The law bans him from seeking nomination for the second time on another party’s ticket. And if he agrees to a second exercise, there is no guarantee that he will win.
But he admits that his hands are tied.
“The only option at our disposal if they refuse to give us the ticket is to go independent. Do you agree? should I go as an independent?” he posed amid cheers from his supporters.
It is a decision that ODM is desperate to pre-empt, with party Secretary General Agnes Zani saying the party’s top brass will mediate between the two.
Today, Otuoma is expected to declare his stand during a political rally in Busia town. He had earlier indicated he would consult his voters on the path to take following the bungled nominations.
Ojaamong on his part told Otuoma to brace for a tough battle in a repeat of party primaries, as directed by the party’s National Elections Board.
The board directed that the exercise be repeated in Teso South and Teso North constituencies, whose results were contested.
The re-run is set for April 25, a day before the April 26 deadline set by IEBC by which parties should have concluded their primaries.
“Let Otuoma expect a real battle next week. I am ready for the repeat because I have winning tactics. I am very sure I will defeat him again. My loyalty to the party is unquestionable,’’ said Ojaamong.
Political analyst Barrack Muluka argues the matter, if handled wrongly, could mark the beginning of the end for ODM in Busia County, an area where the party has enjoyed massive support.
“The race if not handled well will be a big blow to ODM and Raila’s presidential candidature. Raila may only remain with Teso vote and Otuoma will take all other constituencies,” he says.
Mr Muluka argues that ODM enjoys over 90 per cent support in Busia.
“But Raila should know that this could be going away,” he says.
According to Muluka, the repeat nomination in Teso constituencies, considered to be Ojaamong’s stronghold, is an exercise in futility and would humiliate Otuoma.
There may be a uncertainty about who won the primaries, but one thing is certain – both are very close to Raila.
The closeness between Raila and Otuoma played out in September last year following an earlier resignation of the Funyula MP as ODM vice chairman.
“As far as I am concerned Otuoma has been a member of ODM and only went on recess but the post of vice chairman still belongs to him,” he stated.
Raila did not want to lose Otuoma.
“There was a gap in the party but we will give him back his seat. He is coming back to fill it because I have given it back to him. Otuoma had this position in the party and he will take it back. We know where we have come from and we are working together for a better cause,” he said.
Ojaamong too has worked closely with the ODM party leader.
Before the return of Otuoma to the party, Raila appeared to have endorsed Ojaamong for the governorship seat.
Speaking in Malaba in July last year during a tour of western, Raila told locals to vote six-piece in the August elections. Raila appointed Ojaamong as his personal assistant in 1994, a position he held for eight years until 2002.
Having successfully worked with Raila, Ojaamong tried his hand in elective politics in 2002. He contested for the Amagoro Parliamentary seat in 2002 and emerged the winner. He joined parliament where he successfully served for five years.
During the 2007 General Election, Ojaamong defended his seat and was re-elected and was appointed an Assistant Minister for Labour in the Grand Coalition Government.