ODM ‘rebels’: Why we defied party chief Raila

Azimio MPs with DP Gachagua

The seven Azimio MPs who met President Ruto gave Raila Odinga’s Kisii rally a wide berth and instead went to meet with DP Gchagua accompanied by ICT CS Eliud Owalo and Interior PS Raymond Omollo.

Photo credit: Courtesy | DPPS

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leaders in Nyanza have cited the launch of projects after the March 9, 2018 handshake between party leader Raila Odinga and then-President Uhuru Kenyatta as the reason for supporting President William Ruto.

The lawmakers, who have had five meetings with top government officials – the latest being with Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua on Friday – insist they have done nothing wrong.

They say the success of the handshake between Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta in 2018 showed that working with the government of the day pays off.

Nyanza, they insist, has lagged behind other regions in development for long, and now requires a change in tactic.

Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda and National Assembly members Phelix Odiwuor Jalang’o (Lang’ata), Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Paul Abuor (Rongo) and Caroli Omondi (Suba South) have been joined by Kisumu East’s Shakeel Shabbir (an independent MP).

Endless opposition

The ODM lawmakers say endless opposition to sitting governments has impoverished Nyanza, “something we want to correct by working with Kenya Kwanza administration”.

“We agreed on continuous engagements with the leaders from all parts of the country, irrespective of political or any other affiliation,” Mr Gachagua said after the Friday meeting.

Speaking to the Sunday Nation yesterday, the MPs insisted that they have not ditched ODM, the party that sponsored them to Parliament.

They, however, disagree with Mr Odinga when it comes to working with the government. 

“These are follow-up meetings to the one we had at State Lodge, Kisumu. Basic politics requires us to have checks on the government but we must also ensure that Nyanza is not left behind in terms of development,” Prof Ojienda said. 

“The region should not be marginalised when its leaders can sort some things out. Politics and development go hand in hand and that is why we are looking for goodwill from the current government. It is not always about the law.”

The ODM has begun the process of disciplining the “rebels”. 

Antagonising the government

But Prof Ojienda and his team say antagonising the government will not bring development to Nyanza.

“It is about what our constituents can get from the government. We are still in ODM but recognise the current administration for the benefit of our people,” Mr Ochanda said. 

“Whenever we are close to the government from the days of Daniel arap Moi, the grand coalition and the handshake, our region has gained a lot without necessarily losing our party identity.”

The MPs have also met Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen and his Education colleague Ezekiel Machogu.

At the same time, the leaders are planning to go back to their constituencies to explain why they decided to work with President Ruto.

The lawmakers say that since coming out in the open to oppose the anti-Ruto rallies being spearheaded by Mr Odinga, they have not faced any intimidation, though some have been purged from party leadership in their constituencies.

“We have not gone against Baba (Mr Odinga). We opted to go for particular commitments and not protest meetings. My people have asked me to explain what we have been given. I will soon be holding meetings in my constituency,” Mr Nyamita said.

The lawmakers want President Ruto to visit counties in Nyanza.

Prof Ojienda said his loyalty to Mr Odinga is unquestionable, adding that the only difference is his recognition of Dr Ruto as Kenya’s president.

“As a law professor, I know how a government is established. After going to the Supreme Court, there is no other constitutional means to remove a government in place unless you go for the review of the judgment and present fresh evidence,” the Kisumu senator said.