Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga has intensified his plans to strike consensus in picking new party officials months after goons violently disrupted the party’s internal elections.
Bruised by the botched National Delegates Convention in Nairobi on February 28, Mr Odinga’s party has enjoyed relative peace under an interim “team of rivals” bringing together two competing factions.
One group is led by Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba. The other revolves around nominated Senator Agnes Zani and Funyula MP Paul Otuoma.
But things could explode again after it emerged some party stalwarts are pushing for the installation of Kisumu Senator Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o to continue as Secretary-General in the new line-up.
The Sunday Nation has established that though there was a previous agreement that the firebrand Mr Namwamba be allowed to take over the position, there has been a change of heart following the Budalang’i MP’s perceived opposition to Saba Saba rally and the referendum calls, even though he insists his loyalty to the party is intact.
Mr Odinga has heightened political activity in the Opposition – Cord where ODM is the largest party, after his return from the US where he stayed for almost three months, culminating in the July 7 rally that resolved to push for a referendum to address issues facing the country.
Those in Mr Odinga’s inner circle say he is keen to put his ODM house in order as he takes on the ruling Jubilee Alliance with his push for a referendum.
The leader is said not to want any distractions in ODM as he leads a more aggressive Cord.
“He believes the coalition will suffer if ODM remains divided. That is why he wants the positions to facilitate stability in ODM,” said one MP.
On Thursday, Mr Odinga received crucial support for the Cord agenda from ODM legislators at a Parliamentary Group Meeting at Orange House.
Meanwhile, despite not being a member of the caretaker committee installed by Mr Odinga in March, Prof Nyong’o has continued to play critical functions in the party, sometimes dispatching press statements, to which he signs off as Secretary-General.
Prof Nyong’o resigned from the powerful position on February 28 at the party’s NDC, which was later disrupted by hired hooligans, now infamous for the tag “Men in Black”.
But Saturday Mr Namwamba told the Sunday Nation that although he was not aware of Prof Nyong’o’s proposed reinstatement as Secretary-General, he was not opposed to it on a temporary basis while the party top brass works a way out of the leadership crisis.
“We have been having top-level consultations on this matter. We had a retreat in Mombasa where I was asked, alongside Dr Agnes Zani, to create room for compromise. We believe that this matter will be resolved so that our party can stand again,” Mr Namwamba said.
Mr Namwamba also denied disengaging himself from party affairs confirming his loyalty and support for party programmes, including calls for referendum.
Saturday, Suna East MP Junet Mohammed, a close confidant of Mr Odinga, confirmed that the return of Prof Nyong’o is official as the party was unable to file returns after the NDC failed.
“Nyong’o is the official caretaker — he is the Secretary-General and no changes have been made at the Registrar of Political parties,” Mr Mohammed said, adding that the Kisumu Senator’s recent high-profile role in party meetings was not by accident. Sources say Mr Odinga is crafting a new leadership line-up that will include Prof Nyong’o as the Secretary-General.
The list is said to be taking shape with ODM insiders intimating that Mr Namwamba may be missing in the picture. There is a strong push from some party members who doubt his loyalty, a charge the MP vehemently denies.
An earlier list had proposed that Mr Namwamba be proclaimed secretary-general while Turkana Governor Josephat Nanok and Eldas MP Aden Keynan, who were in his camp during the botched NDC, become deputy vice chairmen.
Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang’ was proposed for the position of party chairman and Mr Joho Deputy party leader.
Senators Zani and Elizabeth Ongoro, sources revealed, were to become deputy secretaries-general.
But the new line-up appears to include Mr Joho as deputy party leader, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya as co-deputy party leader, Funyula MP Paul Otuoma as chairman and Mr Kajwang’ as vice chairman. Prof Nyong’o is listed as secretary-general with Dr Zani as his deputy.
Others include Imbalambala MP Abdikadir Adan for the organising secretary, replacing Mr Keynan, who is also accused of having slowed down support for the party.
Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire is to become the treasurer.
ODM Executive Director Magerer Langat told Sunday Nation that the teams coalescing around Mr Namwamba and Dr Zani, bitter rivals for the position of secretary-general in the aborted February elections, have each given Mr Odinga a list with names of individuals and the positions they want them considered for.
“As we speak, there are two separate lists with the party leader from the transitional interim executive committee. All this is in the spirit of give-and-take and even possible merger so that at the end of the day, it is the ODM party that wins,” he said.
He added that once all the hurdles were cleared, a special NDC will be convened before the year ends to unveil the new officials.
“It will be a special NDC because the party Constitution only allows one NDC in a year. We will then be able then to dispense with agenda six electing party officials. We will only call it when we are sure that it will not be antagonistic,” Mr Langat said.
Party members who spoke to us said Mr Odinga is not keen to see a repeat of what happened at Kasarani when the infamous “Men in Black” stormed the arena, scattering the voting materials.
“Kasarani Two is out of question, our boss is not ready for another divisive elections, which is why he is working on a plan that will satisfy all party members,” said an MP from Nyanza.
But Saturday Mr Keynan, who is a top-level member of Mr Namwamba’s team, said he was not privy to the new developments in the party in regard to the sharing of positions.
“As far as we are concerned, we are waiting for the party leader to offer guidance so that the matter can be resolved once and for all,” Mr Keynan said.
The fresh squabbles over the party positions could trigger internal strife in ODM even as Mr Odinga seeks to reconcile the warring party members.
In May, Mr Odinga held talks with both Mr Namwamba and Dr Zani’s teams at the South Coast where they agreed on a way to get the party out of the leadership crisis.
On July 5, Mr Odinga was hosted at the home of Kisumu Central MP Ken Obura for a luncheon. The two had differed ahead of the elections. Mr Odinga has also visited Nairobi Governor Dr Evans following differences between them.
It is only Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno who appears to have been sidelined following his recent declaration that he is setting up a new party to counter ODM in Nyanza.
Political analyst Adams Oloo says Mr Odinga is keen to regain what he calls the “lost one year’. “Cord lost an opportunity to be an alternative government; I see him moving fast to fill this void,” Dr Oloo said.