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Fears over new split as ODM bigwigs cling on ‘one-man’

odmA fresh storm is simmering in the Orange Democratic Movement after the party’s top hierarchy failed to provide a definite roadmap to the eagerly anticipated National Delegates Convention.

The meeting is expected to result in radical decisions about the future of the party following a push from the rank and file for change at the top. ODM MPs demanded party leader Raila Odinga to cut lose certain officials at a meeting in Nairobi on Wednesday.

So sensitive is the issue that some of the party officials contacted either flatly declined to comment or referred all questions to newly appointed executive director Joseph Magerer Lang’at, himself facing a revolt as some members question his appointment.

At least 10 MPs are contemplating ‘technically’ defecting from ODM to underline their unhappiness. Former Roads Minister Franklin Bett says the party faces serious integrity questions in the manner it handles its affairs. In a tell-all interview with The Standard on Saturday, Bett took a swipe at the opacity in party operations that excludes majority of its members.

“I am aware they have tried to set meetings after the last Parliamentary Group meeting in June,” says Bett, who was in charge of the party’s presidential election team. “However, meeting and sharing with members is critical to the survival of this party. A clique around the party leader makes decisions. If a party avoids its members, it is doomed to fail. If they cannot find a way of accommodating all members, then the party risks being a one-man show.”

The brickbat that was clearly aimed at the party’s top brass left no doubt he shares the sentiments and frustrations younger MPs and senators have been expressing.

Jubilee is reportedly preparing a war chest to pounce on the dissenters. There have been reports of an effort to woo Western Kenya among other areas.

The latest developments represent the many twists and turns ODM has had to navigate to remain vibrant in the bicameral Parliament, despite its relatively weaker numerical strength. Some of the MPs met Raila on Wednesday evening during which they were categorical the bad eggs have to be dispensed with soon or the party risks another mass exodus as witnessed in the countdown to the March elections.

  Kakamega meeting

The meeting was an attempt by Raila to calm the storm that has been building up involving mainly first-time MPs who have been calling for radical surgery to rid the party of senior officials they accuse of being responsible for the debacle suffered in the elections. The former PM’s responses to specific questions allegedly left some “frustrated”.

Raila, party secretary-general, treasurer and minority leader come from the same community, a reality those calling for disaggregation of seats to reflect the face of Kenya want changed.

The frustration of MPs from ODM political base in Nyanza coincides with a planned meeting in Kakamega this weekend to be addressed by, among others, former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende. Marende is positioning himself for chairmanship.

The realignment takes place against a backdrop of reports that pressure is piling on Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chair Ababu Namwamba and Funyula MP Paul Otuoma “to work with” the Jubilee government. Namwamba would not respond to our phone calls or text messages.

 Hot topic

One of the MPs who attended the 5-9pm “dinner” meeting told The Standard on Saturday that the former PM remained vague on when the party would hold elections to rejuvenate it. The MP says it is unlikely the much-talked about polls will take place this year, as it had become hot topic that would split the party further.

The Serena Hotel dinner talks were attended by Millie Odhiambo (Mbita), Opondo Kaluma (Homa Bay), David Ochieng’  (Ugenya), Ken Obura (Kisumu Central), Jared Opiyo (Awendo), Ken Okoth (Kibra), Sylvance Osele (Kabondo Kasipul) and George Oner Ogalo (Rangwe).

We have also learned that some MPs at the meeting said a senior official in Deputy President William Ruto’s office has been tasked with recruitment of disgruntled MPs from Nyanza and Western.

Kisumu Central MP Ken Obura referred to the meeting as routine “coffee meeting” with the party leader. “There is nothing extra-ordinary. We always meet with party leader for tea,” Mr Obura explained. The first-time MP, however, acknowledged the need to rebuild and re-brand the party.

“The National Governing Council will meet soon to set a date for elections. Once the NGC sets a date for a National Delegates Convention, we shall have enough reasons to speak on the direction we want the party to take,” he says.

Another first time MP from South Nyanza, who requested anonymity, says the session at Serena was stormy, with the MPs insisting demagogues responsible for the chaotic primaries be kicked out.

In a text message after the meeting, the MP described as “hot” the debate on the role played by chairman Henry Kosgey, Secretary-General Anyang Nyong’o, Eliud Owalo and Deputy National Assembly Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo in the March 4 elections.

The MPs questioned the recruitment of Magerer. The latter could not be reached by phone. Leaders from the former Western Province are pushing for either chairmanship or secretary-general’s post. Coast too is eying one of the positions, which are currently held by Kosgey and Nyong’o.

Other than Marende, Otuoma is said to be interested in Kosgey’s post while Namwamba and party assistant executive director Nabii Namwera are lining up to replace Nyong’o. Some MPs from Western are accused of either not propagating their party’s agenda or are quietly “working” with Jubilee.

-The Standard

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