Cracks emerge in Raila Odinga's inner circle as President Ruto brigade digs in

John Mbadi

ODM National Chairman John Mbadi (right) with Director of Political Affairs Opiyo Wandayi. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga’s camp is in disarray following cracks among his key lieutenants, even as party rebels continue to give him sleepless nights.

Mr Odinga, who is facing a heightened political onslaught by President William Ruto in his Nyanza backyard, has to also contend with feud by members of his inner circle who are not seeing eye to eye.

As Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo was hosting Karachuonyo professionals for a breakfast meeting in Nairobi to plan for President Ruto’s visit to Homa Bay on Saturday to attend his thanksgiving ceremony, Mr Odinga’s close allies were going for each other’s jugular over performance.

“Let us understand that politics is over and it’s now time to work. Please let us embrace President Ruto’s development plans for this country and particularly his gesture towards Nyanza region,” Mr Omollo told the meeting.

But Mr Odinga’s camp appeared to be falling apart as members of his inner circle tore into each other.

The war over execution of opposition’s functions in the National Assembly pitting National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi and Minority Whip Junet Mohamed on one side, against ODM National Chairman John Mbadi exploded following months of simmering feud.

Mr Wandayi is also the party’s Director of Political Affairs while Mr Mohamed is the Director of Elections. Their differences seem to add insult to Mr Odinga’s injury, after several ODM MPs trooped to the President’s corner.

The MPs include; Mr Odinga’s rural MP Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), MPs Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Paul Abuor (Rongo), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), David Ochieng’ (Ugenya) and Prof Tom Ojienda (Kisumu Senator).

Mr Wandayi on Monday took issue with what he termed as Mr Mbadi’s condescending attitude towards Mr Odinga and the ODM party, calling him out over claims of besmirching him and the party leadership.

“Mbadi is thoroughly conflicted. It is difficult to serve two masters. He must choose to serve either Ruto or Raila, not both,” he charged.

Explaining that he could not sit back anymore and watch Mr Mbadi disparage him, Mr Wandayi accused the former Suba South MP of rocking Mr Odinga’s boat from within at a critical time when unity is required in the party and opposition coalition.

“At a time when our movement requires unity of purpose, Mbadi is busy creating division by driving an endless narrative in the media, in cahoots with our opponents in Kenya Kwanza, aimed at discrediting the minority leadership in Parliament.

“His inept and lethargic chairmanship of ODM has created a huge vacuum that's being exploited by our enemies,” the Ugunja MP asserted.

He continued: “I would expect the Party Chairman to lead ODM troops from the front on the trenches as we resist the Ruto-UDA regime but instead, what we hear are endless lamentations from his hideout, only to emerge in Parliament to continue with the conspiracy to slow down our momentum.”

But Mr Mbadi fired back, challenging Mr Wandayi to wake up and smell the coffee, telling him that he was only representing the silent majority of ODM and Azimio members who are fed up with his leadership style and that of his counterpart — Minority Whip Junet Mohamed.

“Wandayi is the Minority leader and the one we need to tell when things are not going the right way. He took that responsibility knowing that he should lead us and so when we feel we are not being led properly we must come out and speak,” Mr Mbadi said.

He said there is need for proper communication to members and whipping them properly to align with the party or coalition’s position in parliament.

“It’s about communicating with your membership on what needs to be done and bringing them on board and I’m not the first to complain about their leadership style, if Junet is too busy for the whipping job somebody can as well take it up,” said Mr Mbadi.

The former Suba South MP defended his role in Azimio, explaining why he has not been part of the rallies and protests by the opposition.

“We have had enough fights in Azimio. These same leaders and their close allies even pushed me to the grassroots, they wanted to shine at the national level during the campaigns but on this, they have no option but to deliver on their roles because it’s not just a question of earning huge perks and doing nothing,” the MP charged.

Mr Mbadi went ahead to accuse his opponents within ODM of going as far as hiring goons to attack him during recent party meetings, justifying why he has not been seen in most of them but, he says, he continues to work from the backroom in the Azimio economic council.

“When they sent goons to attack me, that’s when I threatened to resign as ODM chairman,” he said.

But Mr Wandayi dismissed his assertions, questioning his commitment to the anti-government pushbacks. “As our gallant youth endure police bullets and tear gas, the party chairman happily follows the developments on television as he sips tea with our opponents from the comfort of Parliament,” he said.

He said that whereas, he has endured a State-onslaught in Parliament where some of their MPs are lured to the government side, they have had their voices heard during debates and passage of some controversial laws.

Rogue regime

 “I have had the privilege of serving in the 11th, 12th and 13th Parliaments, each with its own uniqueness. Due to the Handshake, the 12th Parliament was like a walk in the park for us, the minority Nasa coalition,” he said, referring to the term of Mr Mbadi as the Minority leader.

In the current Parliament, he said, they were dealing with a “rogue regime” that requires total commitment, ideological clarity and focus on their part.

 “The least we expect are distractions from within us, orchestrated by a disgruntled Party official who is whining at every turn. I will continue serving my coalition by playing my role robustly in the House and on the streets, as situations demand,” added Mr Wandayi.

Mr Mbadi on his part noted that whereas circumstances of their working as minority leaders may be different owing to the former ‘Handshake’ administration, he said Mr Wandayi is not justified to claim it was a walk in the park to discharge minority functions.

 “Wandayi is trying to divert attention and digress. I am in Azimio economic council not by accident and we have been able to work on the Finance Bill, breaking it down to a level Kenyans could understand,” said the MP.

He said he succeeded as Minority leader in the last parliament and “because of my hands-on approach, we were always getting good numbers so Wandayi cannot trash the job I did.”

 “At the time, majority of Central Kenya MPs had even trooped to Ruto’s camp and were it not for ODM, we could have failed.”