ODM faces a litmus test in hotly contested primaries

Agnes Zani, Hamadi Boga, Sammy Ruwa

From left: Kwale governor aspirants Agnes Zani,  Hamadi Boga, Sammy Ruwa and Lung’anzi Chai.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party is facing a litmus test in the region over its nomination process ahead of the August 9 General Election.

The party has been bogged down by divisions over the method of nominating its candidates even as it insists that the only way to stem defections is to conduct credible, transparent, democratic and fair primaries.

The dishing out of a direct ticket to Kwale governor aspirant Hamadi Boga last week has raised a furore among his competitors.

The party had attracted four contesters including Deputy Secretary-General Agnes Zani, County Assembly Speaker Sammy Ruwa and former Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) engineer Lung’anzi Chai. But ODM says direct nomination is one of the criteria that is being used by the party to pick its candidates.

ODM insiders also pointed out that it was a method of rewarding party loyalists. Speaking to the Nation, the party’s Mombasa County Chairman Mohammed Khamis said Likoni MP Mishi Mboko was given a direct ticket because she doesn’t have a strong competitor in the party.

“Do you expect ODM to deny somebody like Ms Mboko a direct party ticket? Show me anyone who can defeat her in the nominations? Ms Mboko is a very strong ODM member and does not have a worthy competitor,” Mr Khamis said in an interview yesterday.

The official explained that, when the ODM held its national delegates conference recently, the party agreed to use consensus, opinion polls, direct nominations, or universal suffrage during nominations.

“Issuance of direct party tickets are within the party’s constitution. For the Mombasa governor race, we are looking at [a candidate’s strength and party loyalty]. You cannot just come to ODM and expect to be given a seat. There are people who have been loyal to the party for over 10 years,” he said.

In the Kilifi gubernatorial contest, ODM has attracted three candidates including former Devolution Chief Administrative Secretary Gideon Mung’aro, Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi and  assembly Speaker Jimmy Kahindi.

County Chairman Teddy Mwambire assured aspirants that there will be no preferred candidates and no one has been issued with a direct ticket.

“There is no ODM nomination certificate which has been issued in Kilifi County so far. Busybodies spreading falsehoods are only trying to see if some of our candidates will be intimidated and run away. Luckily, all our candidates are firmly in the party,” he said.

In Taita Taveta County, ODM is losing its grip after most of its aspirants defected to other parties.

Some candidates who were to vie on an ODM ticket have decamped to other parties that are affiliated to Azimio La Umoja Movement, a coalition that is backing ODM leader Raila Odinga’s presidential bid.

Last week, Governor Granton Samboja, who was elected on a Wiper party ticket but was largely expected to seek ODM’s blessings for his re-election bid, joined Jubilee at the last minute,derailing the party’s chances of fielding a strong candidate for the seat.

“Jubilee is my home. This is where I belong. We will work in the grassroots to get a big win for the Jubilee team,” Mr Samboja said. ODM also suffered a blow after Voi MP Jones Mlolwa hopped to Jubilee.

Early this year, ODM Taita Taveta’s vice-chairperson Thomas Mwadeghu and two MCAs decamped to Wiper. Mwatate MP Andrew Mwadime, who also wants to unseat Governor Samboja, decamped from ODM to the Communist Party of Kenya. He was handed a direct ticket.

Mr Mwadime’s move put ODM in a tight corner forcing the party to issue the ticket to Mr Thomas Mwakwida. The MP said the Azimio La Umoja Movement had failed to state clearly how nominations will be handled within the coalition and alleged attempts to deny him the ticket.

But ODM county chairman Jones Mwaruma denied the claims, saying, some of the candidates simply feared the nomination process. He insisted that the party has strong candidates and will win most of the seats in all positions.