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Disquiet after ODM welcomes defectors

Tuesday March 31 2020

ODM leader Raila Odinga (2nd right) welcomes

ODM leader Raila Odinga (2nd right) welcomes former Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo (left) back to ODM party at Chungwa House in Nairobi on March 4. On the right is ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DICKENS WASONGA
By DICKENS WASONGA
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The decision by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party to bring back to its fold renegades who decamped ahead of the 2017 elections is causing disquiet.

The Nation has established that a section of MPs, particularly those from party leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza stronghold, are increasingly becoming uneasy about the decision to welcome the politicians who ditched the party as they protested sham party primaries before the last elections.

According to multiple sources within the party who spoke to the Nation, most MPs, especially those from Luo Nyanza, grudgingly welcomed the decision that was adopted by the party’s top organ as a strategy to make it stronger and vibrant towards the 2022 General Election.

UNHAPPY
The disgruntled MPs are unhappy that the move is likely to give a lifeline to their rivals who will now have an equal chance to fight it out with them for the party’s ticket in readiness for the next elections.

Elections in Luo Nyanza are more or less a concluded affair at party primaries level and the fight to secure the ticket of the most popular party in the region is as intense as it is bruising.

Most of the current MPs from the region would have a head start if their rivals were to compete against them as candidates sponsored by other parties or as independent candidates, given that the party still enjoys popularity on the ground. Candidates are known to edge out their competitors by merely branding them party moles or traitors.

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A party official from the region, who asked not to be named since he is not authorised to speak on behalf of ODM, said most of the MPs who publicly endorsed welcoming of the returnees were only doing so to avoid backlash, should it become clear to party stalwarts that they were opposed to the decision.

“In the safe spaces where they interact freely, they openly indicate their displeasure with the decision. They are scared of the advantage it will offer to their rivals,” he said.

Early this month, Mr Odinga welcomed back several former party members at his Capitol Hill office in Nairobi.

WRONG WAY
Among the returnees were former Nyatike MP Edick Omondi Anyanga, former nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro, former Makadara MP Reuben Ndolo, former Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo, former Alego-Usoga MP Omondi Mulwan and former Kasipul Kabondo MP Joseph Oyugi Magwanga.

A few days after the ceremony witnessed by the party’s top brass, Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo was quoted in a section of the media warning Mr Midiwo that the party had changed the rules of the game and will not allow sham party nominations to prevail.

According to press reports, which the MP has not yet denied, he reportedly said he will make Mr Midiwo the party delegate but “he must understand that a lot had been done to make ODM better in terms of how primaries will be conducted.”

“He must come back pole pole (slowly) and not expect to be a priest. He will only be an offertory collector,” Mr Odhiambo was quoted as saying.

He, however, welcomed the party’s move to allow the renegades back to the party, saying it would help strengthen ODM as it readies itself for the next elections.

However, his remarks appeared to have rubbed some leaders and a section of his constituents the wrong way.

On Wednesday last week, opinion leaders and stakeholders from the constituency issued a statement signed by youth leader Charles Onguko and former Yala Township MCA Joseph Kowuor asking the MP to stop attacking leaders whose reputations are well known.

PARTY LEADER

While defending Mr Midiwo, the team said Mr Odinga’s decision cannot be challenged by any elected member of the party because he is the party leader.

“He should also know that Mr Midiwo never joined any political party after he decamped from ODM, unlike him who would only appear during nominations and vanish,” the statement dated March 24 read.
Fears that a section of the ODM legislators are not sitting pretty over the new development were confirmed by ODM’s director of political affairs, Mr Opiyo Wandayi.

Mr Wandayi, who had been tasked to reach out to the rebels, said he was aware that some of his colleagues were jittery about the decision to work together with those who had left.

They noted that Mr Midiwo had been a fierce defender of Mr Odinga before and should therefore not be vilified for choosing to return to ODM.

Mr Midiwo who was a vocal ODM MP during his fifteen years in parliament fell out with the party during the primaries ahead the 2017 elections. He ran as an independent candidate and lost the seat to his political arch-rival- Mr Odhiambo.

Fears that a section of the ODM legislators are not sitting pretty over the new development were Tuesday confirmed by the party's director of political affairs Mr Opiyo Wandayi.

Mr Wandayi who had been tasked to reach out to the rebels with a view to rejoin the party said he was aware that some of his colleagues are jittery about the party's decision to work together with those who had left.