Why Kibra by-election is a do-or-die affair for ODM

By Baraka Karama On Fri, 30 Aug, 2019 08:00 | 3 mins read
ODM leader Raila Odinga (centre) with party secretary-general Edwin Sifuna (left) and Makadara MP George Aladwa at Kamukunji grounds in Kibra on Sunday during a rally to unveil aspirants for Kibra seat. Photo/PD/TIMOTHY NJENGA
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    The Orange Democratic Party (ODM) hopes to reclaim its image and might in the by-election in Nairobi’s Kibra constituency, following embarrassing loses in Ugenya and Embakasi South constituencies in April.

    Board chairperson Judy Pareno attributed the changes to lack of provision of security by the national police service, since most officers were currently pre-occupied in the national census exercise. 

    Conceding the party has previously experienced challenges, Ongwen expressed optimism that “things will be different right from the grassroots level”.

The Orange Democratic Party (ODM) hopes to reclaim its image and might in the by-election in Nairobi’s Kibra constituency, following embarrassing loses in Ugenya and Embakasi South constituencies in April.

With 11 aspirants cleared by the National Elections Board, the party is putting in place mechanisms aimed at winning back supporters’ confidence.

Chairman John Mbadi said yesterday that  winning the Kibra seat would help the Raila Odinga-led party reclaim dominance in the capital.

“This is an area where our party leader served as an MP before the constituency was split into two. This, therefore, is a seat we ought not to lose and we want to use this particular poll result to gauge our popularity before venturing out to other regions,” Mbadi said in reference to Raila’s two-decade stranglehold on Lang’ata constituency, which was later split into Kibra and Lang’ata.

ODM is still nursing wounds of defeat in Ugenya constituency, in Raila’s rural county of Siaya by Dave Ochieng, of the little known Movement for Democracy and Growth.

Direct nomination

In Embakasi South, ODM candidate Ishrad Sumra, who had successfully petitioned against the election of Wiper Party’s Julius Mawathe, was vanquished a second time by the same politician. 

“It’s a fact that after losing the seats, as well as the one in Wajir where our man defected to Jubilee at the last minute, we went back to the drawing board and this time around we are fully prepared to face our opponents,” says Mbadi.

People Daily has learnt that the party’s top brass has rejected the idea of issuing a direct ticket to a candidate.

Nyando MP Jared Okello, who is also a member of the National Executive Council said direct nomination of a candidate would be suicidal to the party. 

“We do not want to repeat past mistakes and that is why the party’s top organ has decided to let the people decide on who their flag-bearer should be. This will protect us from handing a ticket to an unpopular candidate as may have been the case previously,” he said.

Sham primaries

Ugunja MP and Secretary for Political Affairs Opiyo Wandayi observed that the party “must win this seat and that is why the hurdles we experienced in the past must be rectified and addressed”.

In the run-up to 2017 General Election, several aspirants ditched the Orange party after the sham nominations exercise in various parts of its strongholds. 

Kisumu, Kakamega, Mombasa and Busia are among the counties where some of the aspirants, who ditched the party to vie as independent candidates or on tickets of other parties, cruised through to the Senate or National Assembly.

On Wednesday, the party’s National Election Board announced that it had postponed the nomination process, initially slated for tomorrow, to September 7.

Board chairperson Judy Pareno attributed the changes to lack of provision of security by the national police service, since most officers were currently pre-occupied in the national census exercise. 

There is a possibility, however, that ODM strategically pushed the dates to monitor the developments in the rival Jubilee party.

ODM leaders may have decided to engage in a wait-and-see game, as a way of gauging the strength of rival’s candidates before identifying their own.

On Wednesday, Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju announced that the party would interview aspirants for the Kibra seat between August 31 and September 2, contrary to earlier indications that the party would conduct a nomination exercise via the secret ballot. 

Unless Jubilee shifts the dates, the latest development means Jubilee will identify its flag-bearer ahead of ODM. 

 On Wednesday, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi unveiled the party’s candidiate, Eliud Owalo, who is well known to the Orange fraternity, having spearheaded Raila’s presidential campaigns in 2013. 

Fresh elections

Yesterday, Mbadi disclosed ODM had already identified key areas to be streamlined ahead of the nominations.

“We know for a fact that funding has been a major challenge to us during the nominations. Lack of adequate funds has exposed us to logistical challenges, but this time we are not taking chances”.

Two weeks ago, Raila announced plans by the party to conduct fresh grassroots elections.

“We want the people to choose whoever they want as their leader, so that our party remains stronger as we prepare for bigger things ahead,” Raila said during the burial of the mother of former Gem MP Joe Donde in Siaya on August 18.

The party’s executive director Oduor Ongwen said ODM would also embark on a major screening of members countrywide. 

Conceding the party has previously experienced challenges, Ongwen expressed optimism that “things will be different right from the grassroots level”.