A political storm is brewing in Nyanza after opposition chief Raila Odinga’s wife, Ida, waded into the region’s politics as she seeks to curtail a possible falling out among close allies of her husband during party nominations.
While many people have praised her move to push for consensus among aspirants seeking the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party ticket for gubernatorial seats, others have expressed concern with her decision to endorse some candidates.
Mrs Odinga appears concerned about the cut-throat competition among close allies of the former prime minister who are tussling for the party’s ticket, fearing a falling out could derail Mr Odinga’s journey to State House in next year’s elections.
Her intervention, according to political analysts, hinged on the need to ensure Mr Odinga does not get distracted by “the noise” in his own backyard as he focuses on the presidency.
While praising the move by Mrs Odinga to condemn violence and push for consensus, Mr Salim Odeny, a political commentator, however, differed with her on the outright endorsement of some candidates.
He believes that since Mr Odinga stands a better chance of becoming the country’s fifth president this time round, his wife, as well as other close allies, should try as much as possible to desist from any utterances or moves that could derail his bid.
“Mama Ida has every right as a voter in Nairobi to elect whoever she wishes, but she should not come outright to declare her support for a particular candidate. This doesn’t augur well owing to the position she holds,” he said
He, however, supports the consensus proposal by Mrs Odinga, saying it will go a long way in reducing the tension in the ODM leader’s backyard.
To avert violence during party primaries, the problems must be nipped in the bud, before next year when it is crucial for Mr Odinga’s backyard to be as peaceful as possible, he added.
“I agree with the consensus proposal or negotiated democracy, as it will reduce the cut-throat competition that usually leads to violence. However, Mama Ida might not be the right person to spearhead it and therefore, it is up to the relevant party organs to take it up and ensure it is achieved,” said Mr Odeny.
ODM National Chairman John Mbadi told the Nation that the party is doing all it can to ensure it rights the wrongs it made in the past that led to chaotic nominations.
He stated that the party, on many occasions, is committed to a free, fair and credible process spearheaded by the party’s elections board and not party officials.
The ODM chairman said consensus was one of the methods the party uses in choosing its candidates if agreeable by contestants.
“Consensus is not a new thing as it is enshrined in the party constitution, apart from direct nomination, delegates and universal suffrage. For consensus, the aspirants must agree,” said Mr Mbadi, who is on an official tour in Florida, USA.
He, however, pointed out that aspirants have the sole duty of avoiding violence during campaigns and elections.
There is going to be a close contest among aspirants who are close allies of Mr Odinga, which might be costly to the party should the process be compromised.
Mrs Odinga, popularly known as Min Piny (Luo for mother of the nation), wields influence in the party in the Nyanza region, and to some extent, at the national level.
Earlier this week, she endorsed Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi for Nairobi governor in the next elections.
She promised that those who will miss the party ticket will be considered for other jobs in the next government, should the party win. Before that, while at Sing’enge primary school in Ndhiwa, Mrs Odinga said aspirants should first agree among themselves on who should be given the party ticket before delegates are involved in the process.
She said the proposal by ODM Deputy Leader Wycliffe Oparanya to use delegates to nominate candidates to vie on the party’s ticket will ensure peaceful campaigns.
According to the Kakamega governor, the new system, which will consider popular candidates in an area where one is vying, will help cut down on the costs aspirants incur during nominations.
In Homa Bay, Mr Odinga’s allies seeking to take over from Governor Cyprian Awiti include Mr Mbadi, former Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga, Woman Representative Gladys Wanga, former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero, Deputy Governor Hamilton Orata and County Secretary Isaiah Ogwe.
In Migori County, Governor Okoth Obado’s arch rival, Senator Ochillo Ayacko, Migori woman representative Pamella Odhiambo, and Uriri MP Mark Nyamita, all Mr Odinga’s lieutenants are seeking the county’s top seat.
In Kisumu County, Governor Anyang Nyong’o will be facing former governor Jack Ranguma, former Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga, Kisumu Senator Fred Outa, former Speaker Onyango Oloo and the chief administrative secretary in the Ministry of East Africa Community and Regional Development, Mr Ken Obura.
In Mr Odinga’s rural home, Siaya, among touted to replace Governor Cornel Rasanga are Senate Minority Leader James Orengo, former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, Deputy Governor James Okumbe, former police Spokesperson Charles Owino and former Permanent Secretary Carey Orege.