former governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa) and Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) eyeing ODM's top job.

| File I Nation Media Group

Who is who in Oparanya, Joho camps to succeed Raila in ODM

What you need to know:

  • Mr Joho, who has been out of the political limelight since the 2022 elections, has already warned Mr Oparanya to brace himself for a fierce battle for control of the ODM party should Mr Odinga exit the stage.
  • Mr Oparanya is also sharpening his daggers and has lined up his team, also comprising top party officials, ready to take on Mr Joho's camp.

Two factions have begun to emerge within the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party of Kenyan leader Raila Odinga following his plans to quit the party's leadership if he wins the African Union Commission (AUC) post next year.

Mr Odinga hinted to ODM party delegates in Wajir County on Thursday last week that he would relinquish the party's top post next year to his deputies - former governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa) and Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) - if he wins the AU post.

Mr Joho on Sunday held talks with some ODM members in his camp in preparation for the launch of his nationwide campaigns.

Addressing party delegates at Wajir ICT Hall after launching the county's membership drive last Thursday, Mr Odinga noted that he was still in the process of campaigning for the AU post, which he said he could either win or not.

"In the unlikely event that I'm not elected, I will just come back to continue serving you, but should I win, Joho and Oparanya are here and capable of leading this party to success," Mr Odinga said.

The Nation has since established that the indications have triggered fresh succession battles in the Orange outfit, with two camps beginning to emerge pitting Mr Joho against Mr Oparanya.

Governor Hassan Joho

Former Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Senior party officials are said to have started rallying around either Mr Joho or Mr Oparanya in preparation for what they have described as a looming "bruising battle", similar to the one in 2014 that was disrupted by the infamous "Men in Black".

At the time, Mr Joho and former ODM secretary-general Ababu Namwamba (now Sports Cabinet Secretary) were in the same camp and were on the verge of being elected before angry youths disrupted the elections, forcing them to be cancelled.

Trouble started when a group of delegates led by former ODM nominated MP Isaack Mwaura (now government spokesman) protested against what they called "glaring irregularities".

Now, the camps of Mr Joho and Mr Oparanya have begun to take shape.

Joho's team

The Nation has established that Mr Joho's side includes; ODM Director of Elections and National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed, party Chairman John Mbadi, Senate Minority Leader Steward Madzayo and Whip Ledama Ole Kina.

Others include, ODM Deputy National Treasurer and Kwale Woman MP Fatuma Masito, vocal Embakasi East MP Babu Owino and Wajir Governor Ahmed Abdullahi who endorsed Mr Joho last Thursday.

Mr Joho on Sunday held talks with Mr Junet, Mr Owino and Mr Ole Kina to plan the launch of their nationwide campaigns.

"Ni sisi...tumemaliza mkutano. Chama iko Imara!" (It's us, we finished the meeting. The party is strong)," Mr Joho posted on his social media pages after the meeting.

Mr Owino would only tell Nation that "something good is cooking" when contacted on the phone.

Team Oparanya

In Mr Oparanya's camp, ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna is said to be leading the push for his elevation to the party leadership.

The camp also includes Mr Odinga's elder brother Dr Oburu Oginga, National Assembly minority leader Opiyo Wandayi, national treasurer Timothy Bosire, national vice chairman and Kisii governor Simba Arati, ODM deputy secretary Catherine Omanyo and security secretary Elsie Muhanda.

Although some of the leaders have not publicly declared who they support between Mr Joho and Mr Oparanya, their political leanings, regions and interviews with their confidants have revealed where their hearts lie.

Raila Odinga

ODM party leader Raila Odinga (left), during a past meeting with his two deputies Wycliffe Oparanya (second right), Ali Hassan Joho (right), and National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohammed.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Mr Joho, who has been out of the political limelight since the 2022 elections, has already warned Mr Oparanya to brace himself for a fierce battle for control of the ODM party should Mr Odinga exit the stage.

"Some people have been spreading falsehoods that I have disappeared from party affairs but today I want to set the record straight that everything I have been doing, Baba (Mr Odinga) was well aware of it," Mr Joho said in Wajir.

Describing Mr Odinga as his political father and mentor, he pointed out that "he is the only one I can excuse myself to, but for my brother Oparanya, brace yourself for a gruelling battle".

Mr Oparanya is also sharpening his daggers and has lined up his team, also comprising top party officials, ready to take on Mr Joho's camp.

On Sunday, an ODM MP told the Nation that there is a general feeling that "ODM is firmly rooted in Western Kenya and should Oparanya lose the top party post, it could affect the party's strength in the region".

Raila Odinga

ODM party leader Raila Odinga (left) confers with his deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya during ODM National Governing Council meeting held in Nairobi on March 1, 2019.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

But those who support Mr Joho say he could breathe new life into the party by nurturing the younger generation and reinvigorating the 19-year-old outfit.

Mr Oparanya insisted that as far as he was concerned, Mr Odinga was not leaving the political scene, but added that if the succession came, he would offer himself for the ODM leadership post.

"Baba is here with us and he is our leader. We support his bid for the African Union Commission and also as ODM leader but we are ready to lead this party to success even in his absence," said Mr Oparanya.

Mr Junet came out openly to declare his support for Mr Joho.

"I am supporting Joho because he has what it takes to lead this party," he told the Nation.

Junet Mohamed

Minority Whip Junet Mohamed addresses journalists during a past function. 

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Two weeks ago, the Suna East MP, who like Mr Joho had taken a back seat after the 2022 elections, hosted Mr Mbadi in his constituency, signalling plans to work together.

Mr Mbadi had fallen out with Mr Wandayi after the Ugunja MP was nominated by the Azimio coalition to replace him as Minority Leader in the National Assembly.

While Mr Junet is backing Mr Joho, Mr Sifuna, the ODM secretary-general, has endorsed Mr Oparanya for the party's top post.

"We know that the government thinks that by sending Baba to the AU, he will not be involved in local politics. Baba has told them very clearly that he is not going anywhere and even if he goes, Oparanya will be there to lead ODM," Mr Sifuna said during the burial of Lurambi MP Titus Khamala's father Mzee Timothy Mukhwana on Friday.

He said those praying to kill ODM by sending Mr Odinga to the AU were in for a rude shock.

"Not everyone who calls you a friend is your friend, not everyone who gives you food is your friend, some may be poisonous. Like Malala (Cleophas) saying UDA is supporting Raila, they are not sincere," he added.

Mr Bosire, the ODM national treasurer, also waded into the debate, downplaying claims that Mr Odinga's AUC quest could kill the party's influence.

"This ODM succession talk is in bad taste and unnecessary. Baba going to AUC and winning or losing won't change anything, but there will still be no room for a vacuum," he told the Nation.

While hinting at his support for Mr Oparanya, Mr Bosire said the former Kakamega governor is "ODM deputy leader 'one' while Mr Joho is ODM deputy leader 'two'".

"I don't know the philosophy of naming them as such but it rings a bell. Normally, Oparanya chairs the meeting when Mzee is not around but Joho is a firm believer in our ideologies. But the structure remains," Mr Bosire added.

ODM executive director Oduor Ong'wen, however, insisted that Mr Odinga had been "unequivocal" in his statements since the debate on his AU quest began.

"He's said that despite his quest for the AU chairmanship, he's not leaving the Kenyan political scene yet. In any case, his election to the position is not guaranteed. But if and when he is elected, he has two capable and experienced deputies to hold the fort. In other words, there will be no void," Mr Ong'wen told the Nation.

Asked whether the party will hold elections to elect a new leader if Mr Odinga steps down, or whether the two - Mr Joho and Mr Oparanya - will both take over the leadership role, Mr Ong'wen said, "We will cross that bridge when we reach eleven months".

"As for Hon. Joho's statement, he was simply reiterating what is in the ODM constitution that if Hon. Odinga doesn't want the party's presidential ticket in 2027, he is ready to face Hon. Oparanya and any other aspiring ODM candidate in the NDC party. Our party has systems and structures. People who are trying to read between the lines should know that there's nothing there - just blank paper," Mr Ong'wen added.

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi said, "If Baba wins the AUC post, the person who will be Baba's deputy and who we want to lead ODM is Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya".

Saboti MP Caleb Amisi, who is also ODM deputy organising secretary, said Mr Joho and Mr Oparanya will do Mr Odinga a disservice if they fail to put ODM in order. 

"It will expose them as having latched on to Raila's support base all along. It is time for them to show leadership, if they don't, nature abhors a vacuum," Mr Amisi told the Nation.

He said if Mr Odinga were to step down, it was obvious that his two deputies would have to go through a fair electoral process so that the winner could lead the outfit as the party could not have two leaders at the same time.

"Two centres of power in one party is a recipe for confusion, chaos, external interference and ultimately the final nail in a party's coffin. We have to believe in one leader and that's why the party constitution has an election clause. If they can't agree, let's have an election. If not, let's have a caretaker council while we wait for Baba's (Mr Odinga) decision," the Saboti MP added.

Mr Owino, the Embakasi East MP, said in a radio interview last week that he would negotiate with Mr Joho on how to juggle ODM's political affairs.

" that I'm also brought to the table as a principal. If Baba makes a decision that he is now out of politics, by God, I will be a principal. The person who does not want to work with me, I will not work with him and that's how it will be," the MP said.

Prof Fred Ogolla argues that Kenyan politics is personality driven and if Baba leaves, ODM will be very different from what it is today.

"That is the truth of the matter. Kibaki was in PNU, where is PNU now, it has only a handful of MPs, Uhuru's Jubilee which he served as President also has very few MPs now and the same fate of Jubilee and PNU, even UDA, if Ruto goes, it will be in shambles," says Prof Ogolla.

However, he adds that between Mr Joho and Mr Oparanya, the former Kakamega governor is the most suitable candidate to replace Mr Odinga as ODM leader should he exit the stage.

"If you want to compare between Joho and Oparanya who is a better leader, the question is obvious because Oparanya helped Raila to galvanise Western Kenya but Joho used Raila to become Mombasa governor.

"Joho needed Raila more to become Mombasa governor than Oparanya needed Raila to become Kakamega governor," Prof Ogolla observes.

Both Mr Joho and Mr Oparanya have declared their 2027 presidential bids under the orange outfit.

"I'm done with Mombasa politics. I'm running for president of the Republic of Kenya.

I've heard some people saying they're going for the presidency; I want to tell them too that I'll be in the race," Mr Joho declared in Mombasa two weeks ago.

He continued: "In the ODM party, there's the leader and the deputy leader - me and Oparanya. He (Mr Oparanya) is also eyeing the presidency. I want to tell him that we will fight it out within ODM.

The former Mombasa governor went on to urge Mr Odinga to "declare Hassan Joho Tosha", similar to his endorsement of former president Mwai Kibaki before the 2002 elections.

A.  Hassan Joho's team

  1. Junet Mohamed
  2. John Mbadi
  3. Babu Owino
  4. Ledama Ole Kina
  5. Steward Madzayo
  6. Fatuma Masito (Assistant Treasurer)
  7. Ahmed Abdullahi (Wajir Governor)

 B.  Wycliffe Oparanya's team

  1. Edwin Sifuna
  2. Dr Oburu Oginga
  3. Opiyo Wandayi
  4. Timothy Bosire
  5. Simba Arati
  6. Catherine Omanyo
  7. Elsie Muhanda