Raila allies in blame game over election losses

In Summary

• ODM entangled in a bitter blame game as allies tear into each other

• Jubilee welcomes ODM's Wajir pullout but says the party had sensed defeat


Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s key allies are playing a bitter blame game following defeats in last week’s twin by-elections and calls for radical surgery at Orange House.

The details emerged as ODM pulled out of the April 25 Wajir West by-election amid claims the party had sensed defeat.

"The party has arrived at this decision following consultations with the top leadership of the Jubilee Party during which we agreed to reciprocate Jubilee's earlier decision to withdraw from the Migori, Ugenya and Embakasi South by-elections," ODM campaign director Junet Mohamed said.

There were, however, unconfirmed reports that the ODM candidate Mohamed Yusuf Elmi had decamped from ODM to Jubilee, dealing the party a staggering blow.

It has emerged that Raila’s lieutenants are engaged in supremacy battles and backstabbing that could have exposed ODM to the humbling defeats in Ugenya and Embakasi South by-elections.

Interviews pieced together from multiple sources indicate that ODM’s chances in the two by-elections were diminished by 'an incompetent secretariat and a fragmented National Executive Committee.

Some members of the NEC have come under scrutiny for pursuing business deals with the State by exploiting the handshake even as ODM fortunes dwindle.

Some of these officials reportedly advised Raila to keep off the by-election because of his 'continental stature.', a reference to his position as AU High Representative for Infrastructure.

"If Raila campaigned in by-elections when he was Prime Minister, what would be the wisdom in advising him to keep off in these elections? "a source within ODM asked.

On Monday, Raila played down the impact of the twin losses last Friday as "no big deal".

However, party insiders are calling for radical surgery to re-position ODM to reclaim its days of grandeur.

“We are currently in a hole and it is time we stop digging,” a source familiar with the behind-the-scenes intrigues told the Star in confidence for fear of reprisals.

Part of the criticism is that Mohamed, the campaign director, did not set foot in either Ugenya or Embakasi South to campaign.

"So what is his role? Yet he was the first to issue a statement after the loss," a source questioned.

Shortly after the humiliating defeat, Junet released a statement saying, "the Party will certainly review its performance in the two by-elections with a view to establishing what could have been done differently."

Yesterday Junet said the two by-elections are over and the party should focus ahead.

“The two by-elections are now behind us. We should focus on important matters that require our attention,” Junet told the Star.

A section of MPs has accused the party’s top leadership of bungling the campaigns through uncoordinated messages some of which worked against its candidates in the polls.

For instance, when Siaya Senator James Orengo, who was leading the by-election campaigns, threatened to impeach Deputy President William Ruto will he was politicking, ODM chairman John Mbadi disowned him.

There were reports that ODM's troubles could have forced its candidate for the Wajir West Parliamentary seat, Mohamed Yusuf Elmi, to decamp to Jubilee ahead of the April 25 poll.

There are also reports that Mbadi and ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna are working at cross-purposes

Some insiders are calling for re-constitution of the Central Management Committee, a closely knit group of officials that is chaired by Raila, to reflect the face of Kenya.

Members on the committee include Sifuna, Mbadi, Orengo, Junet, Treasurer Timothy Bosire and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi.

Another concern is that the ODM Women's League and its Youth League have become moribund and have not held elections since 2012.

The secretariat, which is the nerve centre of the Orange Party, is seen as another weak link

Each of the ODM directors earns about Sh400,000 a month to spearhead party programmes.

But it has emerged that despite pocketing hefty salaries only a few of them report to work.

Yesterday, there were conflicting reports on whether ODM had pulled out of the Wajir West by-election as a goodwill gesture to Jubilee, or the candidate had ditched the party.

But Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju said the move was good in the best interests of the Building Bridges Initiative.

“We welcome and appreciate the gesture as it will defuse the political temperatures that could have been witnessed during the confrontation,” Tuju said.

But National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale fired back, saying ODM had already sensed defeat “equivalent to [those] in Ugenya and Embakasi South.”

He said Jubilee never reached out to ODM.

“It is impossible to win a contest with a hapless opponent since if you win you will have won nothing,” Duale said, adding that the Jubilee candidate Ahmed Kolosh defected from ODM because of Jubilee’s popularity in Wajir county.

But Sifuna defended the party’s decision to pull out of the Wajir West by-election saying the request came from Jubilee’s top leadership.

“Jubilee has been very magnanimous in the two by-elections and we want to reciprocate their goodwill gesture. Jubilee makes a lot of sense to us in the way they have approached the two by elections, [more] than our partners like Wiper,”  Sifuna said.