Primaries: Moment of truth for ODM as direct tickets raise uproar

Raila Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga (right) briefs journalists on March 31, 2022 when he announced that Homa Bay Women Rep Gladys Wanga (center) will fly the party’s flag in the county’s gubernatorial race on August 9.  

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

The issuing of direct tickets to Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) hopefuls has caused unrest in the party strongholds, marking the start of a traditionally tumultuous season of political party nominations.

The Raila Odinga-led ODM has identified candidates to gun for various seats in Coast, Nyanza and Western Kenya using opinion polls, a method that has sparked outrage among many contestants.

Coast MPs Abdulswamad Nassir (Mvita), Mishi Mboko (Likoni) and Jomvu’s Badi Twalib are to get direct ODM tickets, the Sunday Nation has established.

 Mr Nassir is going for the Mombasa governor seat while Ms Mboko and Twalib are defending their seats.

 Recent opinion polls conducted by Infotrak indicated that Mr Nassir was ahead of the other contestants by 48 per cent, businessman Suleiman Shahbal had 18 per cent, Hassan Omar of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) had five per cent, Wiper’s Ali Mbogo (four per cent) while Mr William Kingi had one per cent.

 Others that are to be handed direct tickets are Changamwe MP Omar Mwinyi, former Kisauni MP Rashid Bedzimba and Mombasa Senator Mohammed Faki.

 High popularity

Mr Said “Saido” Abdalla will be given a ticket to face incumbent Nyali MP Mohamed Ali.

A meeting called by ODM top officials in Nairobi on Thursday to hammer out the deal failed to reach an agreement.

 The party has decided that those with high popularity based on opinion polls will not be subjected to nominations.

ODM, according to a source who attended the meeting, relied on several polls that showed the hopefuls leading with huge margins.

 Party chairman John Mbadi confirmed to the Sunday Nation that the meeting with Mombasa hopefuls took place at a city hotel.

Mr Mbadi said the position of the party had to be explained to the aspirants. 

Titus Khamala

ODM leader Raila Odinga endorsing Lurambi MP Titus Khamala at Shibuli grounds in Kakamega County on March 26, 2022.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

 “Before giving anyone a direct ticket, there must be consensus among the aspirants. We don’t just issue tickets from the blues. Our meeting on Thursday did not reach a consensus. We will make a decision on the matter soon,” he said.

 He added that an agreement could not be reached because some hopefuls questioned the authenticity of the opinion polls.

They demanded nominations or repeat polls.

“We told the aspirants that it is the party that funded the polls. That is why we want to rely on them to make decisions,” the Suba South MP said.

Other ODM officials who attended the meeting were party Director of Elections Junet Mohamed, Executive Director Oduor Ong’wen and National Elections Board (NEB) head Catherine Mumma.

Primaries for Kilifi and Mombasa counties scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday have been postponed to give room for more consultations, the party said.

Ms Mumma said nominations would proceed as scheduled in other counties.

The decision to issue a direct ticket to Kisii Woman Representative Janet Ong’era sparked widespread protests.

More than 100 hopefuls, including ward representatives and National Assembly members, yesterday threatened to leave ODM and run as independent candidates if the NEB does not rescind the decision.

 Former Nyaribari Chache MP Chris Bichage,  Kisii County Assembly Deputy Speaker Davins Onuso and other politicians accused the ODM headquarters of openly favouring the current woman representative against five others who had reportedly paid nomination fees and submitted their application papers.

They demanded that the party headquarters commence plans for the nominations slated for April 7 to allow the people elect the most popular leaders in a free and fair exercise.

The politicians expressed their support for Dagoreti North MP Simba Arati, who wants to be area governor, and party presidential flag bearer Raila Odinga.

  “We are extremely disappointed with reports of the NEB issuing a direct ticket to Ms Ong’era,” declared the 103 aspirants in a statement read on their behalf by Mr Onuso.

 “Unless this undemocratic nomination is rescinded, we will all march to Orange House in Nairobi with our resignation letters on Monday morning.”

The leaders accused the Orange party of walking back on the democratic ideals “it claims to stand for”.

Mishi Juma Mboko

Likoni MP Mishi Juma Mboko and Teso North MP Edward Oku Kaunya.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

They added that the party headquarters allowed Kisii Governor James Ongwae to build his team without anyone coming heavy on him in 2027.

 “ODM even gave directives on who Ongwae was to work with and who not to. What has changed is that Arati is being frustrated by cartels in Nairobi who want to dictate how he should build his team,” the politicians said during a press briefing at Junction Hotel in Kisii town on Friday.

The NEB also postponed the first round of party primaries in Nakuru County over fears of violence.

The primaries were to take place in Nakuru West and Nakuru East constituencies, as well as Kaptembwa, Kivumbini,Shabaab and Olkaria wards.

Nakuru Branch ODM chairman Benard Miruka said the nominations were called off to allow for further consultations before a new date is agreed and fixed.

Rocked by chaos

 Arrangements for the primaries on Thursday night were rocked by chaos.

The training of clerks and presiding officers, who were to oversee the exercise, was disrupted.

Kwale ODM vice-chairman Shaban Luchesi said disagreements on the seats that have multiple aspirants led to some members ditching the party.

Among those who quit is Kwale County Assembly Speaker Sammy Ruwa and governor aspirant Chai Lung’anzi.

The contested seats include governor, senator and woman representative.

“Prof Hamadi Boga was presented to Mr Odinga and it was agreed that he gets the ticket instead of Chai. County ODM chairman Hassan Mwanyoha will also get a direct ticket for Matuga seat,” Mr Luchesi said.

Aspirants sensitised

Kwale Woman Representative Zuleikha Hassan has also been assured of a ticket. She wants to be Kinango MP.

Incumbent Issa Juma Boy will get a direct ODM ticket for the Senate seat while Ms Fatuma Masito, the woman representative hopeful has also been assured of nomination.

The party, however, says it will not carry out nominations in Lamu and Tana River counties, according to a list published by Ms Mumma.

In Kilifi, ODM aspirants failed to reach consensus and are likely to be subjected to nominations on Tuesday.

 The party dispatched Mr Richard Tairo to Kilifi to strike a deal between the hopefuls. 

Those eyeing the Kilifi governor seat are former Devolution Chief Administrative Secretary Gideon Mung’aro, Kilifi County Speaker Jimmy Kahindi, and former Kenyan ambassador to Tanzania Dan Kazungu, Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi and former Assistant Minister Francis Baya.

“We have begun the discussions and are likely to have a way forward. The aspirants were called by our board to discuss the upcoming primaries. All the measures have been put in place to ensure the nominations are smooth,” Mr Kazungu told the Sunday Nation.

“But we were also urged to see if we can talk and reach a consensus to make it easier to select flagbearers before we look at opinion polls. We all stand for democracy.”

 Kilifi County has been an ODM stronghold for years but the outfit faces opposition from Pamoja African Alliance (PAA), a party associated with Governor Amason Kingi.

 Deputy President William Ruto’s UDA has also made inroads. Its pointperson in Kilifi County is Malind MP Aisha Jumwa.

 Mr Mung’aro said the aspirants have been sensitised on the ODM nominations.

 “Talks are ongoing but we will the details soon. We all agree not to be divided by the exercise,” Mr Mung’aro said.

The dilemma is also being experienced in Western Kenya, where a number of people have been handed direct tickets and endorsed by Mr Odinga for various elective seats.

The most notable is Mr Fernandes Barasa who wants to succeed Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

When word went round that Mr Barasa would get a direct ODM ticket, , Kakamega Deputy Governor Phillip Kutima defected to the Democratic Action Party of Kenya.

Prof Kutima said he felt betrayed by Governor Oparanya and the party.

Mr Oparanya is the ODM deputy party leader together with Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho.

Also handed tickets are MPs Peter Nabulindo (Matungu), Mr Tindi Mwale (Butere), Mr Christopher Aseka (Khwisero), Mr Titus Khamala (Lurambi), Mr Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo), Mr Bernard Shinali (Ikolomani) and Mr Oku Kaunya of Teso North.

Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga has already secured an ODM ticket for the governor seat.

Ms Wanga has named former Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga her running mate.

The Homa Bay gubernatorial race had attracted Mr Mbadi, former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, Mr Magwanga himself, former Homa Bay county secretary Isaiah Ogwe and several others.

Mr Kidero, however, rejected the decision, saying he was not consulted by the party despite having settled the nomination fees.

Following the decision to give a ticket to Ms Ongera in Kisii, County ODM chairman Kerosi Ondieki called for free, fair and verifiable nominations.

Mr Ondieki and other politicians said the issuing of the ticket to the woman representative would work against the party.

According to Mr Ondieki, ODM lost many parliamentary seats in the region after giving many hopefuls direct tickets in past elections.

Mr Ondieki said those given the tickets were unpopular, leading to a rebellion by voters.

 Democratic expectation

“We are calling on the party to uphold and defend the democratic expectation of the people and ensure a free, transparent and verifiable nomination to determine the people’s choice. We believe it will be in the party’s best democratic interest if only strong candidates get ODM tickets through integrity,” Mr Ondieki added.

 Chaos marred Azimio La Umoja alliance rally in Migori on Friday when supporters of Senator Ochillo Ayacko and Woman Representative Pamella Odhiambo – both intending to succeed Governor Okoth Obado – clashed.

The rival factions faced off for nearly 20 minutes after Dr Odhiambo was denied access to the podium. The Azimio leaders were campaigning for Mr Odinga.

 Rumour has it that the party prefers Mr Ayacko, a situation that has not been received well by other hopefuls and their supporters.

 Like in many other regions, party primaries in Migori take place this week.

 Reported by Samwel Owino, Eric Matara, Maureen Ongala, Winnie Atieno,  Siago Cece, Rushdie Oudia, Ruth Mbula, Victor Raballa, Shaban Makokha and Ian Byron