Jitters in ODM ahead of party primaries in the western region

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya (left) who is expected to coordinate campaigns and key party activities in western region.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

ODM has put in place measures to avoid the mess experienced in the 2017 party primaries in Western Kenya, which cost the party several parliamentary and civic seats.

The bungled nominations saw popular candidates ditching ODM for Amani National Congress (ANC) and Ford-Kenya in a region that heavily voted for former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

With the Azimio la Umoja movement in play, the primaries are expected to be tricky in the region following the formation of the Democratic Action Party-Kenya (DAP-K), which supports Mr Odinga.

Led by Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, DAP-K is growing fast in the region and has already gained influential members who defected from ANC after its pact with the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

With supremacy battles between ODM and DAP-K taking shape, there are already jitters on the ground ahead of the primaries.

Some ODM aspirants fear that they may be short-changed during nominations in favour of those who are thought to be close to Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, the deputy party leader.

Coordinate campaigns

Mr Oparanya is expected to coordinate campaigns and key party activities in the region.

The party, however, insists no candidates will be handed direct tickets and those who lose in the nominations would be considered for other positions in government should Mr Odinga win.

“We have agreed with Eugene Wamalwa that no member of ODM will move to DAP-K and vice versa because all of us are in Azimio. The essence of DAP-K was to kill Ford Kenya and if it is working there is no problem,” Mr Oparanya told hundreds of ODM aspirants from western Monday.

The governor informed the aspirants that the party has assigned senior leaders regions that they will lead in ensuring seamless nominations.

“We are the ones who will resolve party issues that will emanate from these regions,” said Mr Oparanya. On concerns from aspirants about DAP-K, Mr Oparanya said the coalition agreement will address them.

ODM officials who spoke to the Nation said the party could end up losing members to its competitors if there was a repeat of the bungled nomination process in favour of certain candidates.

In 2017, ODM won just two out of 12 parliamentary seats, in Mumias West and Shinyalu, after unpopular candidates clinched party tickets.

Kakamega gubernatorial race

In the Kakamega gubernatorial race, the battle in the Orange party is between Deputy Governor Philip Kutima, Shinyalu MP Justus Kizito and former Kenya Electricity Transmission Company boss Fernandes Barasa. In Busia, a bruising tussle is expected between former Funyula MP Paul Otuoma, Woman Rep Florence Mutua and Senator Amos Wako.

Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo could be challenged by Senator George Khaniri for the Orange party ticket.

“We want to give our assurance that the party nominations will be free and fair. Those defecting to our party need to know that we had members and as they join us they should prepare to face the primaries,” said Mr Kizito, who is the acting Kakamega County ODM chairman.

ODM National Elections Board chairperson Catherine Mumo said: “We are aligning our nomination rules with the Political Parties Act 2021. Our team will sit with our coalition partners to agree on nomination criteria.”