Events surrounding the recent trip to the United States by six Cord governors and the just concluded by- election in Siaya have exposed the uneasiness between some allies of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero.
Dr Kidero did not accompany Mr Odinga in the first trip to Texas in July and is also missing from the current on to Washington DC, in addition to being conspicuously absent from the ODM campaign for Siaya governor.
The former premier’s allies now accuse the Nairobi governor of engaging in premature succession politics in the party and by extension in the Luo Nyanza region when Mr Odinga, the de facto supremo of the party and region, is yet to hang up his boots.
“Politics is like a marathon; it is not a sprint to call for premature succession games. The problem we have is an identity crisis whereby we have people who simply found the party as a convenient vehicle to ascend to their current elective positions,” Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi says of the governor.
And the fact that Dr Kidero has demonstrated his willingness to work closely with President Uhuru Kenyatta––who defeated Mr Odinga in the race for the presidency–– is what has angered them the most.
Dr Kidero’s trip to China with President Kenyatta in August is among acts some ODM leaders are citing as proof that he is not “Corded” enough. But for the governor, the fact that he was elected on a Cord ticket does not make him a perpetual opponent of the government, and he is unapologetic.
“Prudent politics is that which gives the people economic muscle. I yearn for the day when our people – and when I say our people I mean Kenyans in the broader sense – will be economically empowered rather than endless politics; and this is very possible. There is no way I can avoid working with the President as the city governor,” Dr Kidero says.
But the Nyanza MPs are not convinced.
“We have seen his public dalliance with our political rivals. First and foremost, his allegiance must be to the party even as he works with leaders from the other side, but his public posture has been short of this, I have never seen him in our party caucuses,” Mr Tom Kajwang, the Ruaraka MP, said.
“That’s not true,” Dr Kidero countered, “I am a staunch party member both in terms of word and deed, and for that matter, resources.”
ATTEND THE SECOND
A claim by Dr Kidero that he was never contacted over the US trips is also telling.
This is despite the fact that when he missed the July outing, the explanation then was that he would ber on the second. The list of governors who accompanied Mr Odinga to Washington DC was compiled by handlers of the former premier and not the party secretariat, we established.
“The trip was planned by the former PM’s office and not the secretariat. So this is not a subject I can speak of with confidence,” ODM Executive Director Magerer Langat said.
But Mr Langat argued the governor needs some space to do his work.
“Nothing prevents him from sharing a platform with the Head of State. During the unfortunate Westgate incident, the former PM, who is our party leader, spent some time at State House. Why are people not saying that either Uhuru or Raila are reaching out to one another?”
A source close to Dr Kidero said the governor’s troubles began around the time former Embakasi MP Ferdinand Waititu filed an election petition against him.
“They were disappointed when the court upheld the governor’s victory,” he said.
If what the legislators who talked to Sunday Nation say is anything to go by, the governor could be staring at a revolt from party members who are uncomfortable with him. They are against his taking up any leadership position in ODM because “he has not shown enough commitment”.
“It is his right to vie for any position in the party, but he must first show some leadership. I do not see him as a lover of the party,” Mr Kajwang said.
Dr Kidero is being groomed to take the position of ODM national vice-chairman, and a number of Nairobi politicians like former Nairobi Mayor George Aladwa support him.
To demonstrate his lack of passion in party affairs, the legislators accuse him of staying out of the Siaya by-election that saw Cornel Rasanga re-elected governor.
“While campaigning for our man in Siaya, we did not see him. These are such moments when commitment is gauged, and physical presence is also very important,” the Ruaraka lawmaker said.
But the governor’s handlers say he gave a substantial amount of money for the Siaya case, besides making appearances in Kibwezi and Matungulu constituencies during the campaigns.
But some observers argue that what may have landed Dr Kidero in trouble is the perception that he is too rich and independent-minded.
Dr Adams Oloo of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Nairobi says Dr Kidero’s style of politics could largely be informed by his future political ambitions.
“There is nothing wrong with Kidero having ambitions to go beyond where he wants to be,” he said.