A three-man group is reshaping the Orange Democratic Movement’s leadership race and forcing the party establishment to compromise.
The trio of Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho, Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba and Turkana governor Josphat Nanok have launched a spirited, airborne campaign that has taken the party by surprise, with only two days to the National Delegates Convention.
This has compelled the party leader, Mr Raila Odinga, thought to have preferred nominated senator Agnes Zani, to adopt a safer, more neutral position before rival camps clash during Friday’s elections.
The Joho group has been flying to different parts of the country in three helicopters to campaign among delegates.
Tuesday, they were in Kisumu, Eldoret and Kakamega and are expected to wind up their countryside campaigns Wednesday.
On the floor of the NDC, the group intends to challenge a decision by the National Governing Council last week to increase the positions of deputy party leader to two.
On the agenda, delegates will first endorse the creation of new offices before proceeding to the elect office holders.
Tuesday, Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadegu, a member of the Joho team, pointedly wondered when the party will advertise the positions it created last week.
“We want clean elections. We know the positions that were vacant, which people applied for, and we are now wondering when the party is going to advertise the new positions it created the other day. We are focused on the seats officially advertised,” Mr Mwadegu said.
He argued that Coast MPs resolved to support Mr Namwamba, rather than Dr Zani, one of their own, because they apparently wanted to create a lineup which reflected the true face of Kenya.
“We decided to support the group that reflected a true regional balance and one that is strong enough to move ODM forward. We think that with Joho, Namwamba, Nanok, Rosa Buyu, Ogari and Keynan, we are presenting a strong team that represents a true form of regional balance.”
Perhaps sensing the robust campaign the Joho group has launched days to the elections, Mr Odinga has softened his position and said he is ready to work with the ODM Young Turks in the leadership of the party.
“I am ready and willing to assist the young people in steering their leadership ambitions for this country,” Mr Odinga said.
He added that time to give the young minds a chance to fulfil their leadership ambitions had come.
“It is not only right, but also important as a country to allow the youths to lead as we are headed for radical changes in the coming electioneering periods,” he said.
As a result, he challenged the old guard who had held numerous positions in the party not to feel threatened by the young ambitious minds, but instead welcome dialogue and cooperation with the youth.
“The youth will not only bring fresh energy in governance, but also fuel the ambition to fulfil greater dreams and goals, which are very vital to this country’s growth,” Mr Odinga said.
The Mombasa governor, who is running for Deputy Party leader, has pulled a strong team of candidates to his side.
In the team are Mr Nanok (chairman), Bomachoge MP Simon Ogari (treasurer), Aldas MP Aden Keynan (vice-chairman), Nyatike MP Omondi Anyanga (deputy organising secretary).
Nominated MP Isaac Mwaura (deputy secretary-general) and Suleiman Ndori (deputy organising secretary).
Nairobi governor Evans Kidero, Kajiado Central MP Joseph Nkaissery and former assistant minister John Keen are also backing the Joho-Namwamba team.
They are facing a camp gravitating around Nominated Senator Zani, who is aiming for the secretary-general’s post. This camp has Funyula MP Paul Otuoma (chairman), Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya (deputy party leader), Timothy Bosire (treasurer), and George Aladwa (organising secretary).
Kajiado Central MP Joseph Nkaissery said delegates should put in place a strong team of leaders serious enough to marshal the country into supporting Mr Odinga to victory in the next elections.
“The team we want to put together is one that can lead the party into an election victory in 2017 and we believe the Joho team is the right one to do this job for us,” Mr Nkaissery said.
Mr Joho was apparently, upset by the decision to increase the number of seats, which meant that the powers for the deputy Party Leader will be diluted.
Last week, ODM’s national governing council (NGC) adopted the proposal to have two deputy party leaders, two vice-chairpersons, two deputy secretaries-general, two deputy treasurers and two deputy organizing secretaries.