The desire to give Orange Democratic Movement a national outlook ahead of the 2022 election forced Raila Odinga to postpone the much-awaited grassroots polls that were scheduled for March this year.
Others say that Raila wants Jubilee to hold party polls then follow after reading the mood on ground during the ruling party elections that is already divided down the middle.
Sources say that the postponement had nothing to do with BBI politics but the current bitter war within Raila kitchen cabinet. The war is so serious that a section of members do not greet each other. An example is that of MP Millie Odhiambo and Homa Bay women rep Gladys Wanga.
There were also fears that deputy president William Ruto could try to use his immense wealth to sponsor candidates, particularly in Jubilee strongholds, to undermine Raila and thus derail his presidential ambitions.
The ODM leader, according to insiders, also wants to strengthen the party by incorporating some of his kitchen cabinet members who are solidly behind the Building Bridges Initiative in the party’s governance structure.
Most notable inclusion in the party’s governance structure will be Siaya senator James Orengo, who has returned to the fold after falling out with his boss over the Ugenya by-election debacle where David Ochieng of the Movement for Democracy and Growth defeated the Orange party’s candidate Chris Karan.
Orengo led Karan’s campaigns, which ended in humiliating defeat.
The Siaya senator wormed his way to Raila after he played a pivotal role in Kibra by-election where ODM candidate, Imran Okoth, carried the day by beating the well-oiled Jubilee candidate, footballer MacDonald Mariga.
Orengo has now become one of Raila’s most trusted allies, and even represented him during the burial of second liberation hero Charles Rubia in Murang’a county in December last year.
The return of Orengo into ODM’s political fold has not been received well by ODM chairman John Mbadi and director of operations, the versatile Junet Mohammed.
The Mbadi-Junnet camp also has Wanga. Wanga is key in BBI campaigns overshadowing Millie who decided to skip Embrace Kenya Women team which Wanga was the chairlady.
The late Rubia and late Kenneth Matiba alongside Raila were detained by former president Daniel arap Moi in 1990s for agitating for the reintroduction of multiparty politics.
Indeed, since the aborted elections on February 28 2014 where chaos was stagemanaged to avert it, there have been calls for ODM to conduct countrywide grassroots polls to give the opposition party a national outlook and claim.
The 2014 polls aborted after a group of delegates led by then nominated MP Isaac Mwaura caused mayhem at the Kasarani Sports Gymnasium.
Mwaura has since defected to the Jubilee Party which nominated him to the senate to represent the special interests groups.
During the polls, trouble started when men dressed in black suits overturned tables, smashed ballot boxes and destroyed election materials, infront of Raila insisting that the polls could not proceed unless they were furnished with the party register of its bona fide members. The choreographed chaos was according to some quarters aimed at stopping Mombasa governor and then Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba camp from snatching the party leadership.
Attempts by then outgoing secretary general Anyang Nyong’o to restore order were ignored as it fell on deaf ears.
Before trouble started, Mwaura had climbed on top of one of the tables to attract attention, claiming people were ignoring him.
Raila blamed the violence allegedly on “enemies of the party,” saying the matter was being investigated to determine the cause the rumpus. The investigations have never been made public with word that Raila himself was part of the scheme to disarray the elections exercise. A woman delegate from Kibera narrated how she and others had rushed to a room in the gymnasium to alert Raila that goons had taken over only for Raila, whom she said had, to their surprise, now changed into different cloths, to retort that they go home.
A few days after the mayhem, Raila picked new officials who were expected to be endorsed by the national governing council.
In a move that was seen as an attempt to appease the two factions that battled it out in the botched elections, Raila was named as party leader while Joho and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya were made his two deputies.
Namwamba now the chief administrative secretary in the ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, was named the secretary general with then senators Elizabeth Ongoro and Agnes Zani as the deputies. Namwamba is now allied to Ruto in Uhuru Kenyatta succession game.
Namwamba was to resign as ODM secretary general on July 6 2016 after falling out with Raila.
His resignation came barely a week after the party’s then vice chair Paul Otuoma had resigned from his position saying that ODM lacked internal democracy. Otuoma is slowly winning his way back to Raila as he eyes Busia governorship 2022.
Namwamba had also accused his party of giving him a raw deal by making him a ‘powerless’ secretary general.
In February 2018, ODM national executive council picked Edwin Sifuna for the post of secretary general to replace Namwamba. Sifuna like Namwamba, is a Luhya from Bungoma while Namwamba is from neighbouring Busia.
His appointment was meant to counter Ford-K leader Moses Wetang’ula in Bukusu politics. ODM had sponsored Sifuna to oppose Wetang’ula in the senatorial contest in 2017 as many wondered aloud why Raila could let Wetang’ula, then a co-principal in Nasa, to be opposed in his own dominion.
During the closed-door meeting held at Orange House chaired by Raila, members deliberated on the most suitable candidates to fill vacant positions.
After several hours, the top leadership, which was weighing between Norman Magaya and Sifuna, settled on the latter as the party’s spokesperson. The position was being held by Zani in an acting capacity.Sifuna is in Junnet-Mbadi camp that calls the shots in ODM.
The Orengo camp has seasoned politicians among them, majority of current governors on ODM ticket, Reports indicate that Raila wants to crack the whip on party Young Turks after they almost bungled Kibra by-election nominations with bribery claims surfacing. It forced Raila to refund nomination fee to other aspirants.
At the time, Joho and Oparanya continue to serve as deputy leaders while Mbadi remains the national chairman.
The list had Turkana governor Josphat Nanok, who was the Council of Governors chairman, as vice chairperson alongside Janet Ongera who replaced Otuoma, Thomas Mwadeghu who took over from Adan Keynan and Christine Lemein.
Deputy secretary generals Zani and Busia woman representative Florence Mutua replaced Ongoro.
Other officials are national treasurer, Timothy Bosire, deputy treasurer Ogla Karani, deputy treasurer Hilda Siang’a, national organising secretary, Abdikadir Aden and deputy organising secretaries, Fatuma Ibrahim.
Others are Owen Baya who replaced Reuben Ndolo, Rosa Buyu and Suleiman Dori, secretary for public policy and economic affairs, Jared Okelo who took over from Steven Kariuki secretary for legal and constitutional affairs, Timothy Wanyonyi secretary for publicity and information, Denitah Ghatti secretary for international affairs, Esther Passaris who replaced Joyce Lay as secretary of regional affairs, Tabitha Seii secretary for women affairs/ (ODM women league leader), Beth Syengo secretary for youth affairs /(ODM youth league leader), John Ketora secretary for special interests groups, Halima Daro who replaced Edin Wario as he absconded, secretary for environment, Ronald Ng’eny secretaries for parliamentary affairs/whip national assembly, Gladys Wanga secretaries for parliamentary affairs/whip senate, James Orengo secretary for devolved government, Kipkorir Menjo secretary for science and technology, Steve Mbogo who took over from Noah Akala secretary for special programmes and social welfare, Memusi Kanchori who replaced the late Grace Mboja, secretary for labour and human resource development, Mike Rubia secretary for national security, Justus Kizito who replaced John Waluke who defected to Jubilee, secretary for humanitarian and disaster management affairs, Bob Njagi who succeeded Amos Olempaka, secretary for disability affairs, Nixon Kakiri who replaced Isaac Mwaura, secretary for political affairs, Opiyo Wandayi, director of campaigns, Junet and executive director (ex-officio) – Oduor Ong’wen.
Raila is party leader, Joho and Oparanya deputy party leaders, Mbadi as chairman, Jeremiah Lomorukai as vice-chair, and Bosire as treasurer, Junet is director of campaigns and Judy Pareno is chair national elections board.
According to insiders, Raila wants the party top leadership, which is dominated by individuals from South Nyanza, spread out to reflect the country’s ethnic diversity.
He is concerned that the party leadership does not reflect the face of Kenya as it ought to be in order to reflect a national image.
This is because he is himself (Luo), Mbadi (Suba), Junet (Somali), but elected in South Nyanza constituency, Lomorukai (Turkana), Mutua (Busia woman representative. She is a Kamba married to a Luhya), Zani (Coast), Joho (Coast), Oparanya (Luhya), Aden (Somali), Sifuna (Luhya), Bosire (Kisii), Pareno (Maasai) and Ongw’en (Luo).
In the ODM top leadership, there is no figure from Mount Kenya region.
Other communities that have traditionally backed the ODM leader are also left out in the top leadership, which is dominated by Luos.
According to sources, Raila wants the ODM national seats distributed to the major communities where he will represent the Luo, Oparanya to go for secretary general to represent the Luhya, Bosire to retain the treasurer’s post to represent the Kisii and Joho to represent Coast.
The other seats will be distributed to the Kikuyu, Kalenjin and Kamba communities.
ODM shelved plans for elections to fill party positions citing the ongoing campaigns to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative.
Raila said they had revised the dates from the initial plan to hold the elections in March.
Among activities taking a back seat is the planned nationwide membership recruitment that was slated for December 31 last year.
Parties are required to submit a list of officials alongside their annual reports to the Registrar of Political Parties by end of April.
However, with the uncertainties around the ODM and Jubilee Party elections, this has been frozen.
Save for ODM, which may simply present lists of interim officials, Jubilee is bound by its constitution to hold its polls by March.
Raila cited recommendations of a taskforce led by Catherine Mumma, as part of the reason for the internal reforms push.
The taskforce which was set up to look at the party elections and why ODM did not do well in 2017, recommended an overhaul of the party’s structure.
To be affected were the national elections board, national executive committee and the secretariat.
The team noted that nominations were one of the causes of ODM’s poor performance in subsequent elections which followed its star performance in 2007.