ODM forms team to plan for elections and plebiscite

Saturday July 13 2019

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna addresses media in Nairobi last month. ODM leader Raila Odinga has assembled a team of trusted lieutenants to prepare for the referendum and the 2022 General Election. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


ODM leader Raila Odinga has assembled a team of trusted lieutenants to prepare for the referendum and the 2022 General Election.

The team, according to insiders, comprises politicians, legal experts, family members and religious leaders, which he is increasingly turning to for important decisions.

The development comes even as Mr Odinga maintains that he is not focused on another stab at the presidency but the unity of the country.

“The strategy is simply to help Raila navigate his politics. You can see that he has abandoned confrontational politics and taken the path of consultation,” a source familiar with the team said.
Key players in this close knit team include foe-turned-friend and Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju, ODM deputy party leaders Wycliffe Oparanya and Hassan Joho, Suna East MP Junet Mohammed, Mr Odinga’s brother Oburu Oginga, his wife Ida, University don Adams Oloo, Busia Senator Amos Wako, lawyer Paul Mwangi and Bishop Zacheus Okoth.


Others said to have Mr Odinga’s ear are his long serving aide Andrew Mondoh, Governors James Ongwae (Kisii), Anyang Nyong’o (Kisumu), and ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna.


Mr Oparanya and Mr Joho are crucial to Mr Odinga’s political future by virtue of their positions in the party and their political constituencies.

Even though they have publicly declared interest in the top seat, insiders told the Sunday Nation that the two are important in maintaining ODM’s dominance after 2022.

“If you recall the ODM Pentagon that consisted of regional kingpins in 2007, you will understand the matrix. Oparanya and Joho are still key for Raila’s future political ambitions,” a source close to Mr Odinga said.

“It is on this basis that the party supports the formation of a three-tier government with 14 regional governments. With that in place, governors serving their second term will have a soft landing.”

Mr Oparanya, however, says governors serving their second terms are seeking a soft landing after 2022 by pushing for the formation of the regional administrations.

“The three-tier system will strengthen devolution because it is not easy for small units like counties to engage a giant one like the national government,” Mr Oparanya said.
“We have devolved those functions but not devolved financial control.”


Mr Mohammed’s proximity to Mr Odinga came out clear when he was the only MP who accompanied him to Harambee House for the handshake on March 9, 2018.

Others in the group included Mr Mwangi, who later became the joint secretary of the Building Bridges Initiative team formed after the handshake.

The Suna East MP has been an important figure in Mr Odinga’s public engagements in Nyanza recently, especially during the former's inspection of government initiated projects, elbowing aside ODM bigwigs like party chairman John Mbadi and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi.

Mr Odinga also treats with respect members of the BBI team entrusted with gathering information and writing a report that reflects Kenyans' views on ethnic antagonism, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, elections, security, war on corruption and shared prosperity and responsibility. They include Mr Mwangi, Mr Oloo, Mr Wako and Archbishop Okoth.


“The team Raila selected is treated as part of his inner circle as it is entrusted with the most sensitive matters pertaining to the task force. Its report will shape the referendum and the 2022 elections,” an ODM insider said.
Mr Sifuna has also eclipsed Mr Mbadi in Mr Odinga’s team as he is part of a group of emerging leaders who he believes will keep the party alive in western Kenya.

Mr Ongwae and Mr Mondoh, both career civil servants, are said to be held in high regard by Mr Odinga.

Whereas Mr Ongwae cut his teeth in public service as a permanent secretary during the Daniel Moi era, Mr Mondoh was a district commissioner.

A member of the Odinga family told the Sunday Nation that the ODM leader continues to give an ear to Prof Nyong’o.

“It has even become difficult to seek Mr Odinga’s opinion on the affairs of Kisumu County government due to his closeness with the governor,” the source said.

The Sunday Nation has established that a National Super Alliance advisory committee still meets every fortnight to brainstorm on Mr Odinga's future.


The committee comprises Nasa chief executive Norman Magaya, Mr Sifuna, Mr Oduor Ong’wen, Ms Hamida Kibwana, Mr Koitamet ole Kina, Siaya Senator James Orengo, Mr Junet, Mr Odinga's spokesman Denis Onyango and Mr Mwangi.

Then there is Central Organisation of Trade Unions Secretary-General Francis Atwoli, a family friend of the Odingas.

Mr Atwoli was instrumental in getting Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi to support Mr Odinga in 2017 and openly expressed his frustration when Mr Mudavadi failed to show up at the January 31, 2018 mock swearing-in fete of Mr Odinga.

In an interview, Mr Tuju spoke said his working with Mr Odinga should not be misconstrued as his aiming for political leadership in Nyanza.
“I have no interest in becoming the governor of Siaya or Rarieda MP. From the time I stopped being involved in active politics, I went back to private endeavours which confined me to Nairobi,” he said.