When he visits the Gusii counties in two weeks, Prime Minister Raila Odinga will most likely find a divided house as ODM party officials and MPs jostle in a popularity contest ahead of the General Election.
The recent “ODM Reloaded” campaigns seemed to expose the rivalries between party grassroots officials and the sitting MPs who tried to outdo each other during the campaign tour. (READ: Wrangles poison ODM campaigns in Gusii)
In South Mugirango, for instance, the “Reloaded” caravan was received with hostility at Tabaka market where rowdy youths shouted down area MP Manson Nyamweya and demanded to be addressed by the party’s sub-branch chairman Gideon Moreka.
Public Works minister Chris Obure’s efforts to cool down tempers were futile. Order was only restored after Mr Moreka was allowed to address the charged crowd.
But Mr Obure, the Bobasi MP, was not sitting pretty. ODM executive director Ms Janet Ong’era took the opportunity to campaign for her bid for the Kisii senate seat.
She distributed campaign posters at Igare, Emenwa and Nyamache trading centres in Bobasi constituency, which reportedly angered the minister.
Mr Obure said Ms Ong’era was undermining him as the area MP. The minister is also interested in the senate seat.
The two, who come from Bobasi, recently held parallel rallies in Bobasi and Bomachoge. Mr Obure hosted ODM delegates from Bomachoge while Ms Ong’era organised a football tournament which MPs Ababu Namwamba, Rachael Shebesh and Simon Ogari attended.
The three endorsed Ms Ong’era for the senate seat. In Kitutu Chache, the rivalry between Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka and Mr James Ongwae played out after Mr Onyonka blocked Mr Ongwae from speaking at Nyabonge trading centre.
Mr Ongwae is Mr Odinga’s campaigner in the area and also ODM’s branch secretary in Kisii county. He grabbed the microphone from Mr Onyonka and addressed the people.
Mr Onyonka was elected to Parliament on a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ticket.
The South Mugirango MP, Mr Nyamweya, led the campaign to Ogembo town in Bomachoge where supporters of Information assistant minister Mr Ogari and city lawyer Joash Maangi clashed after the latter was denied a chance to address the rally. Mr Maangi is the Bomachoge ODM sub-branch chairman.
“We want to tell the PM that “ODM Reloaded” has left more party divisions in Gusiiland,” Mr Maangi said later.
“There is no way the “Reloaded” team can work without involving elected party leaders. We are the soldiers of Raila on the ground and we must be consulted,” he said.
The last day of “ODM Reloaded” rallies ended dramatically in Nyamira, where West Mugirango MP James Gesami’s speech was disrupted by youths chanting praises for his political rival, Mr Evans Ondieki.
Mr Gesami and Mr Ondieki have been wrangling and ODM has two factions in Nyamira county. One faction is led by Mr Timothy Bosire, the Nyamira county chairman. Mr Ondieki is Mr Bosire’s ally.
The confrontation almost degenerated into a fight with Mr Gesami demanding to choose who to address party supporters. “I am the area MP, and I have the powers to choose who to address the people,” he said.
But the rally turned chaotic and a stampede occurred. The caravan hurriedly drove off to Ikonge market where Mr Nyamweya urged tolerance among the rival groups in order to accomplish the mission of popularising Mr Odinga.
“Let’s remain focused and sell the policies of the party,” he said asking aspirants for political seats to wait for the time to launch their personal campaigns.
Mr Nyamweya said the personal differences between political leaders would not defeat the campaign for the Prime Minister. He denied allegations that the “Reloaded” team had sidelined the grassroots leaders.
“We brought them on board and asked them to join us in our caravan and they agreed,” he told the Sunday Nation.
“ODM politics should go beyond party grievances. The “Reloaded” team does not work with the party’s structures, we are independent,” he said.
The aggrieved party leaders said MPs who belong to other parties but who have shown interest in joining ODM should “respect those already in the party”.
Mr Maangi appealed to the Prime Minister to address the differences within the party in the Gusii counties before his planned tour of the region.
But Mr Ogari said the party disputes should be sorted out at the national level.