CORD leader Raila Odinga’s announcement that he is ready to give up the Orange Democratic Movement party’s leadership has thrown party members and supporters into a spin.
While some welcomed the move, saying it would give younger members a chance to lead, others panicked fearing it could spell doom for the Orange party.
Several legislators supported the move but others said it could hinder the performance of the party in elections.
Homa Bay County’s Women Representative Gladys Wanga said the position of party leader is a preserve of Raila and may not be up for grabs. She, however, added that Raila’s plan to mentor other leaders as a welcome move.
“We are fully behind him (Raila) in his urge to move the party to greater heights,” she said.
In his announcement, Raila was categorical that he was ready to hand over leadership if most party members believed it was the right thing to do.
Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, who recently launched his bid to become Secretary General in the party’s national elections set for next month, said Raila plans to nurture a new generation of leaders to drive the party’s agenda.
“It is a general initiative by the party to bring on board a mix of both youthful and mature leaders that can blend well with the needs of all citizens,” he said.
Gumbo added that the move should not be viewed in light of age but the desire to make the party more vibrant.
Suna East MP Junnet Mohammad, however, said ODM still needs the services of Raila to give direction to the young leaders and vowed to support him when the right time comes to hand over the leadership of the party.
On Saturday, Raila said he was ready to step down to enable youthful leaders ascend to the helm of the party. He said history had shown that the youth in South Africa were the ones who helped the ruling party Africa National Congress rise to power.
His remarks could be a big boost to many politicians in the party who feared to declare their interest to lead the party for fear of being seen as challenging the regional kingpin.
Kisumu Central MP Ken Obura and his Gwasii counterpart John Mbadi are set to launch their bid to be ODM’s Secretary General in the next two weeks. The position is currently held by Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o.
But Nyamira County Assembly’s Leader of the Majority, Beauttah Omanga warned that ODM would collapse if Raila quits from its leadership.
Omanga noted that the party’s grassroots leadership had weakened and was “seriously wanting” after the former Prime Minister lost his bid for the presidency in last year’s General Election.
“It is evident that a majority of party leaders abandoned ODM after the elections. Grassroots party leadership, especially in Kisi and Nyamira, is seriously wanting,” he said.
The ward representative for Bogichora appealed to governors John Nyagarama (Nyamira) and James Ongwae (Kisii) to play an active role in reactivating the party’s activities in the region while working with the Government of the day.
The defeat of ODM party in the recent by-elections in Bomachoge Borabu and Nyaribari Chache constituency was a pointer to the waning influence of the former Prime Minister in the region, Omanga observed.
He attributed the failures by Chris Bichage (Nyaribari Chache) and Peter Kimori (Bomachoge Borabu) to win the mini-polls to disjointed grassroots leadership.
Omanga was of the opinion that Raila’s departure from the helm of the party should not be hurried.
“His view that it is time he hands over the party’s leadership to the youth is welcome, but it should be done gradually or else it would lead to leadership wrangles that may threaten the future of the party,” he said.
He added: “He should not quit yet. Raila must ensure the youth take control of the grassroots up to the counties.”
Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka welcomed the statement by Raila to hand over the party to the youth, but said that does not mean that the ex-PM will be shoved away from the country’s leadership.
“It will go a long way in showing that ODM is ready to be rejuvenated by handing over leadership to the young generation, but this does not mean the Prime Minister cannot contest the presidency on ODM’s ticket,” Onyonka added.