April 29th 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Fearing nomination chaos, ODM mulls over giving governors direct re-election tickets

In the course of more than one week of investigations to establish the reliability of this survey and the party's internal discussions on the nominations, no senior official agreed to discuss the matter while some laughed the questions away.

By Phillip MuleeWednesday, 12 Oct 2016 16:21 EAT

Part of the crowd that turned up for the ODM@10 celebrations marking the party's 10th anniversary in Kisumu last month. There are party officials who fear disputed nominations would cause divisions in the party.

The heightened campaign by some ODM governors for direct re-election tickets has got good reception at higher echelons of the party, the Kenya Free Press can authoritatively report. While a decision is yet to be made, sources indicated that top ODM leaders are coming to believe that it would do the party "considerable good" to hand its governors direct tickets.

Well placed sources hinted that an informal survey on ODM governors' popularity returned a favourable verdict for the 'not-yet-official' policy, with only five seen as facing tough re-election campaigns. It is believed that twelve governors would not lose the party's nominations in a free and fair exercise, and in the logic of those pushing for direct nominations, it would be unnecessary to take them through the rigours of a campaign when they should be campaigning for the party's presidential flag-bearer and other candidates.

Mombasa governor Hassan Joho and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya, who are ODM deputy party leaders playing senior roles in the party, support the proposal to give all ODM governors automatic tickets, while party leader Raila Odinga has given the idea "serious thought", according to our sources.

Among the governors seen as unbeatable include Joho, Oparanya, Kilifi's Amason Kingi, Turkana's Josephat Nanok and Kajiado's David Nkediany. These governors, according to the reports, face weak opponents in ODM without any prospect for more serious challengers emerging to threaten their nomination chances.

At the same time, the sources say, these governors form a key plank of the party's reach in their counties and neighbouring regions, having led successful by-election campaigns and other activities that have raised their prominence in their counties and with ODM constituencies nationally. They have also achieved "tangible" development projects, according to the sources. 

The assessment indicates that Busia's Sospeter Ojaamong, Kisumu's Jack Ranguma, Kisii's James Ongwae, Wajir's Ahmed Abdullahi and Marsabit's Ukur Yatani face potentially tough nomination fights in which they would ultimately prevail. In this category is also the Migori governor Okoth Obado, who recently joined ODM from People's Democratic Party.

On the other end of the stick are governors seen as facing uphill re-election fights. These include Taita Taveta's John Mruttu, Nyamira’s John Nyangarama, Cyprian Awiti of Homa Bay and Siaya’s Cornel Rasanga. In a surprising finding, Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, against whom no opponent has emerged in ODM, is seen as facing a tough battle ahead, arising from deep resentment against him by ODM supporters in the city.

In Kwale, whose governor Salim Mvurya recently defected from ODM to Jubilee, the party is advised to undertake its nomination early to avoid the rush by defectors. Some party leaders want former cabinet minister Ali Mwakwere, whose planned defection to ODM this website reported exclusively, barred from the nomination for Kwale governorship, saying the current high commissioner to Tanzania is a "Jubilee mole"

Multiple sources said that worries abound in the party over disputed gubernatorial nominations in counties such as Kisumu, Siaya and Homa Bay which witnessed violence in 2013. The sources reported that Kisumu senator Anyang' Nyongo and his Siaya counterpart James Orengo, who are interested in running for governorship, may be prevailed upon to drop their bids and retain their current seats, in which they face minimal opposition.

An official at the Raila secretariat reduced concerns over the nominations to Luo Nyanza, which he said was the potential flashpoint in case of nomination hitches. "There is a growing realisation that aside from Orengo and Anyang', none of the individuals coming up have better credentials than the current office bearers. Voters have huge misgivings on the performance of incumbents but what they are saying is, 'there is no better alternative'. We need to determine whether the gains from a hard-fought nomination process would override the potential losses," he said, raising the prospects of violent outcomes.

The secretariat source reported of rising apprehension over what would happen in the event of nomination disputes. He said the former prime minister had been informed of allegations, which are unverified so far, that an aspirant from South Nyanza had publicly warned of causing chaos should he lose.

In the course of one week of investigations to establish the reliability of our sources on sensitive internal discussions, no senior official agreed to discuss the matter while some laughed the questions away. Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi who is ODM's director of political affairs, dismissed the question as "propaganda", saying he had never heard of any re-assessment on the nominations in the party.

However, our sources said Mr Odinga was preoccupied with redressing perceptions that he favoured some candidates in the contest for Nyanza seats. He was reported to have personally assured Mr Ranguma of Kisumu, who is believed to be deeply suspicious of the party, that he would remain neutral if Prof. Nyongo, who is a close ally of the former PM, sought the seat. It is believed that the Odinga family has talked deputy governor Ruth Odinga against challenging Governor Ranguma.

In Homa Bay, whose governor Awiti fought a losing battle against Mr Odinga's close allies in local party elections, he has assured the governor that he would be neutral in the nomination process. Relations between the two reached an all-time low when perceptions emerged that Mr Odinga favoured Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga to unseat Awiti. Likewise, in Siaya he has fought perceptions that he favoured former PS Carey Orege, who is seeking to unseat Rasanga.

Given the foregoing, the sources held that the decision on the automatic tickets rests on how the party can address the interests of insurgent candidates in Nyamira and Taita Taveta counties and the ripple effect the decision would trigger nationally.

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