Kenya's Most Authoritative Political Newspaper

Citizen Weekly

Monday, 9 February 2015

PANIC IN CORD AHEAD OF HOMA BAY BY-ELECTION

The Homa bay senatorial race is a political acid test for ODM leader Raila Odinga's revered hold on Luo Nyanza . the February 12 by-election occasioned by the death of the late flamboyant senator Otieno Kajwang has opened old wounds, touched off fireworks, horse trading, name calling and all the murky antics that go with political contests of such nature.
Already, panic has gripped Raila’s camp and the entire Cord legion after an opinion poll late last week showed that Philip Okundi was on course to win the seat. It forced Raila and the entire top Cord luminaries to pitch tent in the region. Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula have campaigned tirelessly for the young Kajwang. Last week, Raila was a worried man and was forced to camp in the area after discovering that the influential youth vote had revolted on grounds that the ODM candidate was an outsider.
The youth say Moses does not vote in the area and Raila should have backed a person well versed with the political terrain and problems on ground. According to them, the ODM candidate should have been fronted to run for the seat of Homa Bay county speaker or be  nominated MCA, not fielded as senator on an ODM ticket. And now, not to be seen to have goofed in case his man loses, Raila has been saying Okundi is his friend and has no problem with him having been best man at Okundi’s wedding after the death of his first wife, Philgona. Okundi is also said to be a key financier of ODM. When Okundi’s son died, Raila was with him at the hour of trials.
To win sympathy, ODM has engaged in a propaganda spin that Jubilee is sponsoring certain candidates in the race. Insiders within ODM revealed that the propaganda machinery was worked on immediately they discovered selling their candidate was proving an uphill task. To complicate matters were claims the ODM candidate was working for ICEA, an insurance firm associated with the wealthy Ndegwa family. If linking Okundi to Jubilee can deny him votes, residents say, the young Kajwang  should not be spared unless there are double standards in play. To compound issues for Raila are claims on the ground that when another Luo associates with the Kikuyu community, it is a crime in heaven, but when it is Raila himself and his cronies, then nothing is wrong on earth. A case study is the role Uhuru Kenyatta played in the burial of Raila’s son, Fidel Castro Odinga. 
Political pundits are of the view that Moses, if he is to triumph, should win by a big margin. Any margin  around 58pc or less according to the recent ODM in house opinion poll, should be treated as fail.
Where would the rest of the votes lean to if it is not apathy or rebellion at best, it is being argued. Being the political bedrock and bastion of Raila, over 80 to 90pc mark will be a clear proof that his grip has not waned by growing dissent from some of his loyalists-turned-critics like Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, Karachuonyo MP James Rege, Rangwe MP George Oner, former MP Martin Ogindo and activist Achila Gogo among others.
The Homa Bay county senatorial poll has taken a dramatic twist. In December, candidates who were vying for the ODM ticket were taken round with false promises of being the party choice.
Finally, the Orange party surprised many by naming Moses as the flagbearer. Other ODM candidates are said to have lost millions in the process of scrambling for the ticket with marauding party cartels mostly relatives of the party leader having a field day.
A mini harvest seemed to have come mid season for Homa Bay county residents. Notorious political activists and wheelerdealers roving the streets of Nairobi who have always associated elective politics with handouts from aspirants soon shifted their bases to the county towns.
ODM national election board that had earlier failed to carry out a successful nomination by the delegate system made the Orange headquarters resort to the unpopular and acrimonious direct nomination. The board finally named Moses from Waondo clan as the ODM torchbearer to the chagrin of the other ODM contenders.
Immediately before the nomination, the situation created loopholes for the party mandarins to extort millions from the unsuspecting candidates, some pretending to be acting for the Odinga family. Most aspirants were later left writhing in pain after losing money to political conwomen and men marauding around the Orange House.
Also in the money-minting spree were the perennial losers from different parliamentary areas, they took advantage of the situation and hopped from one candidate to the other. The most notorious were two gentlemen from Kasipul constituency. The two who supported Okundi gubernatorial candidature in the last general election dashed from one candidate to another collecting money from them in the pretext of lending their imaginary support.
One was spotted at Laico Hotel sitting in a strategic committee of Hillary Alila who is vying as an independent candidate.
The two later shifted camp to  Caroli Omondi before they shifted to Okundi’s camp where they did  the same damage before they caught up with Fred Rabong’o and then coiled back to Okundi.
ODM had before the controversial direct nomination earlier purported that it had carried out a survey on the ground and said that it was the young Kajwang’ who was popular with the electorates. The report was immediately dismissed by those eyeing the ODM ticket resigned from the party.
Raila’s former personal assistant Silas Jakakimba jumped ship to UDM but later left the race when he realised he was heading for a big loss.
The former ODM election board  chairman Okundi is now Maendeleo party flagbearer and Kenneth Kambona,  who was also contesting for the seat, termed the decision as unfair, partisan and did not respect the wishes of the Homa Bay people. A coward, Kambona later left the race claiming that he will scheme for it in 2017 general elections.
Okundi on the other hand said that he had invested heavily in the party, a claim echoed by Kambona. “I question the board’s wisdom in coming up with Kajwang. This boy has only been with the party for three weeks. The rest of us have supported the party and the party leader financially for eons. I in particular, offered my personal car in the campaigns of Raila’s presidency. We feel cheated,” cried Kambona.
Okundi, a former managing director of the Kenya Ports Authority was forced to rush for Maendeleo ticket and has now been made the national chairman of the same party. He considers himself as a “tested” hand and as a betrayed ODM financier.
The former NSSF management trustee Fred Rabong’o went to National Agenda Party of Kenya. Rabong’o is reported to have lost a lot of money to operatives surrounding Raila. The cons had convinced him that it was him to be given direct nomination. Gwassi parliamentary perennial loser, George Mboya, pulled out of the race in support of the ODM pet, Kajwang.
Caroli tried to obtain a Ford- Kenya ticket but was frustrated by one of the Cord principals only for him to pull out in protest, but later said he will continue to support his party financially.
Some of Caroli’s supporters had earlier tried to convince him to repossess all material assets he has donated to ODM if he was not given the direct ticket, but Caroli turned down the advice.
The Orange House, the seat of the ODM, is owned by Caroli who donated it to be used by the party to run its affairs. Caroli is also said to be the owner of the chopper that Raila is using to traverse the country. Raila has been the sole architect of the political landscape in Nyanza region for long. He recently came under serious criticism for attempting to force himself as the Homa Bay senatorial candidate.
Leading this onslaught is none other than the Nairobi governor  Evans Kidero, and with his support for the Maendeleo party candidate Okundi, the battle lines are already drawn for a gigantic showdown. In the run-up to the last general elections in 2013, Raila’s most loyal political comrade from Nyanza, the late Otieno Kajwang and by then, the seniormost ODM official from the region, had led a team of politicians who were opposing Kidero’s candidature as the Nairobi governor. The mission to frustrate Kidero flopped as Kidero went ahead and captured the seat.
But the late Kajwang had an upper hand in Homa Bay county party affairs and was in the process perceived by majority of those who failed to clinch the party ticket as having had a hand in the chaotic primaries where several winners, mostly economic powerhouses from the area, were later shortchanged by Kajwang himself.
Kajwang’ had teamed up with the current Homa Bay governor Cyprian Awiti and the embattled women representative Gladys Wanga to wage a formidable challenge against  Okundi and Roselyne Onyuka, where Kajwang’s team grabbed the ODM ticket and later carried the day.  Nevertheless, the late Kajwang had a hectic time in his campaigns as his key rival for the post of senator, Alila. The late senator as usual, was quick to blame the state for interference in his bid, alleging that the National Security Intelligence operatives had invaded the area to “finish him” politically for being Raila’s ardent follower. He eventually carried the day.
Back to the botched December 15 ODM party Homa Bay branch Delegate Convention in Homa Bay to nominate the party candidate, chaos reigned. With eight candidates aspiring for the ODM ticket, over 400 delegates drawn from the eight constituencies in the county shoved and pushed as rival camps sought to have their way and say.
 In the twinkling of an eye, a gun shot by Moses Kajwang’s bodyguard disrupted the process. At one point, even the county commandant completely lost control as the rowdy goons became wilder, forcing some of his boys to temporarily take cover at the police station nearby to work on a formation to combat the highly militant youths. The ODM national election board commissioner representing Nyanza Peter Odoyo, a former MP for Nyakach, who was the returning officer, was roughed up by the enraged delegates joined by rowdy youths who had earlier posed as delegates. Amid the fracas, a goon attached to governor Awiti’s office, Joy Ambasa, sustained serious injuries when he attempted to frog-match Monica Amollo who calls shots as the ODM branch chair.
In anticipating the chaotic situation, the election board had earlier warned that any aspirant found in any act likely to incite or cause a breach of peace would be liable of such offence that may lead to summary disqualification. Odoyo laid down the rules of the game by saying that only delegates whose names appeared in the authenticated list from the party head office would be allowed to vote.  In that process, Odoyo twice found himself in difficulties.
Some delegates claimed that the list from the Orange House had been doctored to suit a certain candidate whose brother is an ODM party legal officer. All these time, as Odoyo was arguing with the crowd, the agents of chaos must have been smiling from wherever they were as the unfolding scenario was creating a loophole on which the “men in black” would ride on to disrupt the exercise.
Apparently, aware that officials from the party head office supported by some MPs from the county had fixed their mind on rigging in favour of a certain aspirant using a doctored list, some delegates from Kasipul subbranch threatened to eject some people they claimed were not delegates. Led by their party branch chairman Evans Ndege, the delegates surged toward the podium and grabbed the microphone from Odoyo halting the proceedings.
They complained that the former Kasipul subbranch chairman Ken Okoth’s name was inserted in the list as the secretary replacing one Aggrey Omondi who was elected during the last party election.
Goons masquerading as delegates moved menacingly towards the podium and without a warning, kicked the ballot boxes and overturning tables, making security details of each aspirant rush them to a safe area at the basement of the county hall where they took refuge as police struggled to disperse the rowdy delegates.
Homa Bay MP Opondo Kaluma found himself in more trouble as rowdy youth commandeered his vehicle forcing his gun-totting bodyguard to lead him to a hotel where he was held hostage for hours. The late Kajwang used to have sour relations with a number of politicians in Homa Bay County. He rubbed most politicians the wrong way during the party primaries in the 2013 general elections.
Incidentally, before his death, the late Kajwang’ had become a “lone ranger”, completely isolated. Being the only person in the senate, the eight MPs were always together in the National Assembly and could easily consult on matters that affect them and their constituencies.
In April last year, ODM delegates from seven constituencies assembled at Homa Bay Farmers Training Centre and replaced  Kajwang’ and Monica Amolo as ODM Homa Bay branch officials accusing him of laxity since he was elected in office, a situation they said had culminated in closure of the Homa Bay branch office that had been earlier opened officially by the party leader, Raila.
Branch secretary and MP for Karachuonyo Rege is said to have paid the required Sh100,000 for the office rent then, but no subsequent payments were made since 2011,  leading to the subsequent closure of the facility by the landlord. “It is unfortunate that ODM is the largest party in this country and county but our office was closed several months ago due to failure to pay rent yet many people are enjoying their salaries because of the party,’’ added Mayora.
Former Rangwe legislator Martin Ogindo bounced back into politics after being appointed the interim branch chairman to replace Kajwang.  Kasipul politician Charles Ong’ondo was named the faction’s vice chairperson, Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo was elected organising secretary and Kabondo Kasipul MP Sylvance Osele as the deputy secretary.
The faction whose members are sometimes referred to as  rebels or Jubilee moles had Achila Gogo, Oner, Ndhiwa MP Augustine Netto and Rangwe politician Everest Okambo. They have all defied the party choice and are supporting Okundi.
Aware of the hostile hunting ground, Raila planned three campaigns rallies for his party candidate before D-day.