Cracks emerge in Azimio over Official Opposition Leader's office

Azimio la Umoja

Raila Odinga (centre) and the top leadership of Azimio la Umoja address the media in Nairobi on September 15, 2023.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita

What you need to know:

  • Allies of Wiper party leader, Kalonzo Musyoka, said he should automatically take up the slot in Mr Odinga’s absence.
  • ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya, said the slot would be taken by the outfit with the largest number of MPs.

The probable exit of ODM leader Raila Odinga from local politics has split Azimio la Umoja affiliate parties over who should take the yet to be created position of Official Leader of the Opposition.

This comes in the wake of Mr Odinga’s formal declaration of interest in the chairmanship of the African Union Commission (AUC).

Yesterday, the parties appeared to be pulling in different directions on a day the National Assembly unanimously adopted the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) report.

Allies of Wiper party leader, Kalonzo Musyoka, told the Nation that he should automatically take up the slot in Mr Odinga’s absence in the event it is created before the 2027 General Election.

But ODM, through deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya, said the slot should be taken by the outfit with the largest number of Members of Parliament.

ODM’s argument has ruled out the chances of Narc-K leader Martha Karua, who was Mr Odinga’s running mate in the 2022 polls, from taking up the slot since her party has no elected MPs.

However, it has been suggested that one slot for the deputy Official Leader of the Opposition be reserved for Ms Karua.

According to the Nadco report, the seat would be taken up by the leader of the largest party/coalition of political parties that garnered the second-greatest number of votes in the immediately preceding presidential elections.

The holder of the office will have two deputies.

At the same time, Mr Oparanya indicated he is ready to assume the position of Official Leader of the Opposition since ODM is the largest party within Azimio la Umoja - One Kenya Coalition. 

“The decision on who takes that position should our party leader take the continental role should be based on the numbers in Parliament. You cannot lead a team if your party has no members in the two Houses,” said Mr Oparanya.

“ODM will pick the holder. I know we may have a transitional arrangement for the position before a proper structure can be put in place after the next polls,” he said.

The name of Ugunja MP, Opiyo Wandayi, has also been fronted owing to his position as the Minority Leader in the National Assembly.

On the contrary, Mr Musyoka’s allies, led by Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua and Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu, said there should be no second guessing on who fills the slot in Mr Odinga’s absence.

The two said Mr Musyoka should be the automatic pick, citing a consensus that was settled on him being the coalition’s presidential flagbearer in the next polls.

“The position of Official Leader of Opposition is not being created for an individual. It is supposed to serve the country for posterity,” said Mr Wambua.

“Once we are clear about the structure, the issue of the occupant will be a small one. It is not rocket science. Kalonzo is best suited for the seat. It makes a lot of sense because he will be our flagbearer in 2027,” said Senator Wambua.

Mr Mulu echoed these remarks, stating that Mr Musyoka remains the automatic choice to take up the position. 
He said Ms Karua can serve as one of the two deputies.

“In the absence of Raila that position should automatically be taken by Kalonzo. Martha can be his deputy,” said Mr Mulu.

Within Azimio, Mr Musyoka is projecting himself as the coalition’s 2027 presidential flagbearer and has teamed up with DAP-K leader Eugene Wamalwa as his possible running mate.

However, ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna has dismissed the succession talks in Azimio, saying Mr Odinga is yet to announce his retirement from active politics.

“May it go on record that Raila Odinga, in seeking the AUC chairperson position, has not made any pronouncements regarding his local political future, and remains the party leader of ODM. We urge our members not to fall for the narratives currently being churned by the media,” said Mr Sifuna.

Although Mr Odinga has stated that he will remain available for whoever needs his support, the next occupant of the AUC chair’s office will walk into a full in-tray.

Mr Odinga, on his part, stated that both ODM and Azimio coalition are not short of competent leaders to steer them in the event he lands the AU job.

“Political leadership is always shared. Even if I’m not around, there are competent people around me ready to step in and provide leadership in both ODM and Azimio,” Mr Odinga told Weekly Review last week.

With ODM having two deputy party leaders – Mr Oparanya and former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho – it remains unclear who between the two leaders would take up the party leader’s post, should Mr Odinga relinquish it to concentrate on the AU job.

This even after the succession debate in ODM took an interesting twist last week with Mr Joho's declaration of interest in running for president in 2027 under the Orange party banner.

“I’m done with Mombasa politics. I’ll go for the president of the Republic of Kenya. I’ve heard some people saying they will be going for the presidency. I want to tell them I’ll also be in the race,” Mr Joho said.

“In ODM, there's a party leader and deputy party leaders – Oparanya and I. Oparanya is also seeking the presidency. I want to tell him that we shall battle it out within ODM,” he added.

Meanwhile, ODM National Chairman John Mbadi has said the party’s Central Committee would be convened when Mr Odinga returns from Germany to deliberate on the party’s future.

“When Raila comes back from Germany, we are going to sit as a Central Committee to make a pronouncement on the future of ODM. But I want to state that there should be no cause for alarm,” Mr Mbadi said.

At the same time, Siaya Governor James Orengo has said Mr Odinga can easily serve as AUC chair and still lead the party.

Mr Orengo also said Mr Odinga’s rights cannot be curtailed for holding a continental position.

“I want to dispel all doubts over Raila’s rights under the constitution. He has a right to participate in the political affairs of Kenya, both as a citizen and as a patriot,” Mr Orengo said.