ODM ‘six-piece’ call faces growing revolt among Nyanza candidates

Gladys Wanga

Homa Bay gubernatorial aspirant Gladys Wanga (centre), her running mate Oyugi Magwanga (right) and other ODM members on May 1. They resolved to campaign for ODM candidates and work together to ensure the party wins all elective seats in the county. 


Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group

A silent but fast-growing revolution is taking root in Mr Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard where candidates of fringe parties and independents have ganged up against those flying his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) flag.

Proponents of the ‘revolution’, dubbed Ng’ad inywandi (mix and match), say they back Mr Odinga’s State House bid but won’t allow residents to end up with mediocre leadership in the name of ‘not embarrassing Raila’. Its financiers and backers either lost out in the primaries conducted by the party or are unhappy at how they were run.

This pressure from independents and those from other Azimio la Umoja One Kenya member parties has confined most ODM candidates from Nyanza to their home ground, with analysts warning that the group cannot be wished away, presenting a new headache to the ODM boss.

For Mr Odinga, this rumble worries him, if to the extent that any win to these other parties is a loss to his ODM, a party he has built for over 16 years, and which he hopes will provide an important, unshakable base if he wins the presidency in August.

Key candidates

Since 2007, the first time the party presented candidates in a general election, key candidates, especially those with national profile like Siaya Senator James Orengo, would be accompanying the party leader in his presidential campaign tours across the country. That is not the case this time. In the previous elections, the conclusion of the Orange party nominations was considered the end of elections as whoever had the ticket was as good as elected.

And as the former Prime minister campaigns in different parts of the country, only a handful of key lieutenants like Suna East legislator Junet Mohamed and Ugunja’s Opiyo Wandayi accompany him as the rest are forced to fight for their own survival first.

“I will contest as an independent. The party has failed the democracy test and we shall challenge this in the August 9 election. I call upon the electorate of Homa Bay to come out and lend me a hand so that we can deliver our county out of the current confusion,” said Dr Evans Kidero, as he launched his governorship campaigns against ODM’s Gladys Wanga.

Mr Orengo, in his Siaya governorship bid, has adopted door-to-door campaigns to fend off former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo’s forays.

Village-to-village campaigns

Mr Orengo easily won the Senate seat in the last two elections. Observers say he did so without having to print a single poster. Other than the intensified village-to-village campaigns, he has also invested in online publicity and printing of posters and huge billboards in major towns and trading centres.

Mr Odinga is, however, no pushover in his backyard and has been known to cause upsets, sometimes late in a race, by his appearance and calls for a six-piece vote “to protect me at the top”. In the last parliamentary elections, only David Ochieng of Ugenya, Peter Masara (Suna West), Olago Aluoch (Kisumu West) and Mr Shakeel Shabbir (Kisumu East) went against the ODM grain. 

Already, Mr Odinga is believed to have pulled off the masterstroke that has disoriented Mr Gumbo’s campaign after his running mate, former Police Spokesman Charles Owino, was recalled by the National Police Service.

ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna downplayed the fact that they have come under fire from either within Azimio or independents keen to reduce the party’s dominance of the region. ODM was formed after the failed 2005 referendum that sought to repeal the old constitution.

“Where is that rising popularity? Do you have proof?” asked Mr Sifuna.

It is not the first time Mr Odinga and his party are facing such a revolt.

After the 2013 election, Dr Kidero, who was then Nairobi governor, and former Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno engineered Kalausi (wind of change) that was meant to introduce new leadership in the region. They accused Mr Odinga of not doing enough to economically liberate Nyanza. The campaign never gained traction. The ensuing backlash scattered its backers.

Battle-hardened?

In Siaya, there was revolt by aspirants after the party issued direct tickets to Mr Orengo and Dr Oburu Oginga, Mr Odinga’s elder brother who seeks to be the next senator after the incumbent, Mr Orengo. ODM still swept all the six parliamentary seats, together with the governor, woman representative and Senate positions in the county in 2017.

Mr John Thomas Okinda, popularly known as JT Okinda, is contesting the Senate seat against Dr Oginga as an independent and is championing the new revolution, having parted ways with the Orange party after the National Elections Board (NEB) issued Dr Oginga with a direct ticket.

 “People are not interested in the party. They want food on the table; they want their children to go to school; they want better medical services; and they want drugs in hospitals. This is the main reason we are calling on the electorate to reject the six-piece voting pattern that the ODM candidates are championing,” Mr Okinda argues.

Other candidates eyeing the same seat are Oscar Onyango of Dap-K and Tony Yogo, another independent.

The move by Mr Gumbo to have former journalist David Ohito, who comes from Ugenya, Mr Orengo’s backyard, to replace Mr Owino will make the Senate minority leader focus on consolidating home support to stamp his political authority.

“Mr Orengo must first consolidate his home support. The Orange party expects him to win the governor seat, recapture the Ugenya parliamentary seat from the current legislator and MDG party leader David Ochieng and deliver all the ward seats in Ugenya. He will have to work extra hard to make all these come true,” said Mr Ibrahim Otieno, a political analyst and communications expert.

The same revolution is gaining popularity in Homa Bay where Dr Kidero is swimming against the ODM wave; in 2017, the party swept all the parliamentary seats, governor, Senate, and woman representative positions.

In Migori, former Migori legislator John Pesa, and his former Rongo counterpart Dalmas Otieno are contesting the gubernatorial seat under Dap-K and Jubilee Party respectively against ODM’s Ochilo Ayako. In 2017, the ODM party won five out of eight parliamentary seats in the county, with Jubilee taking the two seats in Kuria and Mr Masara sailing through as an independent in Suna West.

Former Kisumu governor Jack Ranguma is challenging Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o on an MDG ticket. The latter got a direct ticket to defend his seat. In 2017, the Orange party won all but two parliamentary seats, governor, Senate and woman representative seats.

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