Azimio faces internal revolt on plans to drop candidates

Raila in Thika

ODM party leader Raila Odinga’s rally in Thika Greens Stadium, Kiambu County.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party has triggered an internal revolt with its plan to drop some candidates to avoid splitting the votes to the advantage of its rivals.

The plan has sparked an uproar from the targeted candidates despite the coalition dangling offers of government and diplomatic appointments for those who will agree to shelve their ambitions.

The coalition is facing a headache in fielding a single candidate in at least 19 gubernatorial races with 40 days to the General Election. This is in addition to several Senate and National Assembly races where the party is staring at splitting votes that could hand the advantage to the rival Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

In Kajiado County, Governor Joseph ole Lenku of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and his predecessor David Nkedianye of Jubilee Party are eyeing the seat with the rivalry threatening to give Kajiado South MP and United Democratic Alliance (UDA) candidate Katoo ole Metito an upper hand in the contest.

Mr Nkedianye said the prerogative of whether to pick a single candidate or not resides with the party but he is yet to be approached for such talks.

“I keep hearing that they are discussing at the top but I have not been party to the discussions. I am confident that if they have to pick one person it is going to be me,” he said. A similar headache is also being witnessed in Western with Vihiga and Kakamega having multiple candidates.

In Vihiga, Azimio is left with two candidates in Governor Wilber Ottichilo of ODM and Senator George Khaniri running on United Democratic Forum Party led by former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo.

This is after former Speaker Kenneth Marende was prevailed upon to step down and offered the Senate Speaker post should Mr Odinga win. The two are in a battle with Sabatia MP Alfred Agoi of Amani National Congress (ANC) and former governor Moses Akaranga of the Peoples Party of Kenya (PPK). Mr Khaniri warned that Azimio should not interfere with Vihiga as he cannot even contemplate stepping down. He said he has no problem with the two of them going to the ballot as their opponents do not pose a threat to Azimio.

A similar challenge is evident in Coast region where Azimio has four candidates in Taita Taveta and Kwale counties. In Taita Taveta, Governor Granton Samboja of Jubilee, ODM's Thomas Mwakwida, Dan Mwazo of Wiper, and Patience Nyange (Narc) are all competing under Azimio.

In Kwale, ODM’s Hamadi Boga, Dena Gereza of Kanu and Chirau Ali Makwere of Wiper are all battling to succeed Salim Mvurya. With UDA having a strong presence in the region, the rivalry is threatening to derail efforts to wrestle the seat from Dr Ruto’s camp that is banking on Deputy Governor Fatuma Achani and Mr Chai Lung’anzi of Pamoja African Alliance.

In Kitui, former governor Julius Malombe (Wiper) and former senator David Musila (Jubilee) are fighting for the top county seat. Governor Charity Ngilu bdropped out of the race on promises of a government appointment should Mr Odinga win the presidency. Former Nairobi deputy governor Jonathan Mueke is UDA’s candidate for Kitui governor. Another headache is in Machakos where efforts by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka to prevail upon Chama Cha Uzalendo’s Nzioka Waita to step down in favour of Wiper’s Wavinya Ndeti has hit a brick wall. The two are facing off with UDA chairman Johnstone Muthama.

In Tharaka Nithi, political rivalry between Prof Erastus Njoka of Jubilee Party, Dr Mzalendo Kibunjia (Narc Kenya) and Deputy Governor Nyamu Kagwima (Wiper) is undermining Azimio’s quest to wrest the governor seat from UDA’s Muthomi Njuki. In Nyanza, Mr Odinga’s six-piece gospel faces resistance from Azimio affiliate parties. Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati (ODM) quest to succeed Governor James Ongwae faces internal competition from Senator Sam Ongeri of DAP-K, and Jubilee's Chris Obure. They are battling it out with Mr Ezekiel Machogu (UDA).

In neighbouring Nyamira County, Governor Amos Nyaribo, Mr Timothy Bosire of ODM, Mr Ben Momanyi (Wiper) and Mr Mwancha Okioma of Jubilee are tussling with Kenya Kwanza candidates, Mr Joseph Ombasa (Amani National Congress) and UDA’s Walter Nyambati. Governor Nyaribo, seeking to defend his seat on United Progressive Alliance party (UPA), a party associated with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi, comes from Mugirango clan, the same as Mr Momanyi.

In Siaya, Senator James Orengo is battling United Democratic Movement’s Nicholas Gumbo for the county’s top seat.

In Migori, Senator Ochilo Ayacko of ODM is facing Jubilee’s Dalmas Otieno and John Pesa of DAP-K. In Kisumu, Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o of ODM is fighting it out with former governor Jack Ranguma running on Ugenya MP David Ochieng’s MDG party. The delicate balancing act is also facing Azimio in North Eastern where rivalry between ODM and UDM has seen chaos witnessed in rallies in the region.

In Garissa, Governor Ali Korane is seeking to defend his seat on a Jubilee ticket against former Governor Nathif Jamaa of ODM. Supporters of the two clashed on Monday during an Azimio rally forcing the meeting attended by Mr Odinga to end prematurely. Chaos was also witnessed in Marsabit where supporters of National Treasury CS Ukur Yattani and Marsabit Governor Mohamud Ali clashed last week in the presence of Mr Odinga.

The race has Kanu’s Chachu Ganya, Pius Yattani on Mr Yattani’s Upia party, Wario Guyo of Jubilee and Governor Ali, who is defending the seat on UDM ticket. A similar scenario played out during Azimio rally in Mandera where supporters of former Education Chief Administrative Secretary Hassan Noor (ODM) and former Mandera County Assembly Speaker Adan Khalif of UDM clashed.

The race also has former Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed of Jubilee. The sibling rivalry is also evident in Wajir where former Governor Ahmed Abdullahi (ODM), Mr Hassan Mohamed of Jubilee, and Senator Abdullahi Ali alias Kabreta of UDM are locked in a tight battle.

In Isiolo, former Nairobi County Assembly Majority Leader Abdi Guyo of Jubilee, who has been endorsed by Governor Mohamed Kuti, is facing competition from former Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission CEO Halakhe Waqo (ODM).

And with the mounting protests, Mr Odinga yesterday appeared to make a U-turn about the plan endorsed last Friday by the Azimio Council.

“Azimio is a big polygamous house. We have Jubilee, ODM, Narc, Narc-Kenya, UDM among others. We welcome all of them,” Mr Odinga told a meeting in Narok yesterday.

“I am the presidential candidate for Azimio and I leave it to you [voters] to elect whoever you feel is ripe to lead,” Mr Odinga added. He spoke at Aitong in Narok West constituency where Mara MCA Tipapa Kirrokor (Jubilee) launched his parliamentary campaigns.

Additional reporting by Robert Kiplagat