PARTY MISSTEPS

ODM should learn from Msambweni, crack whip at Chungwa House

Not much has changed in ODM character and operations, it fumbled in Ugenya and bumbled in attempted removal of Obado

In Summary

• Ranks filled with disloyal leaders who jumped parties for expedience, don't understand ODM's ideology and are hell-bent on milking the party dry. 

• The loss of Mwambweni by-election should be a wake-up. It's time to rethink and put Chungwa House in order. Recruit young passionate members.

A year ago ODM moved house,  now operates from the leafier suburbs and changed the name of the party headquarters from Orange to Chungwa House.

It seems, however, not much has changed in terms of its character and operations. Parties, as people ensembles, need to be organic and thus dynamic. Systems also require regular servicing, including replacement of parts. And after some time, they most certainly require reengineering for reorientation and market positioning. This makes them remain relevant and competitive.

The best moment for ODM was the 2007 General Election. Almost everything went for it except for the invisible 'deep state'. Unfortunately, the party appeared to have entered a comfort zone almost immediately after the formation of the Grand Coalition government.

It suffered annihilation and political haemorrhage on an unprecedented level.

Party mobilisation is key but ODM recruited more turncoats than new members. The danger of filling the party’s ranks with defectors from other parties lies in having disloyal leaders. Many of the current ODM leaders at the national and county levels bear less pledge allegiance to the ounding principles of the party.

Many of these key officials have little faith let alone knowledge of the party’s ideology. That is why the majority of them resort to sycophancy and hero-worship.

This has been largely responsible for reckless utterances attributed to the leaders to the detriment of the party success. The lack of strategic leadership at the management level was responsible for the carelessness witnessed during the Ugenya by-election campaign, while the attendant bravado was responsible for the debacle in the attempted removal of Migori Governor Okoth Obado.

These leaders are hell-bent on milking the party dry pretending they are close to the party leader. Their interest in the party leadership is more for personal gain than development of the outfit. ODM may not be alone in this challenge but as the party that has fronted itself as pro-change, a lot is expected of its leadership.

As noted above, it is not easy to remould old dyed-in-the-wool politicians. They have been acculturated into defined social norms and other party traditions. They therefore profess different political orientations from the ODM values. They join ODM for political expediency to achieve their short-term selfish interests and they could care less what happens in the future.

ODM has not engaged in party membership recruitment of young people in the recent past. These young recruits would be inducted into the party and taught its doctrines through party trainings and programmed activities. They then become the vanguard of party philosophy and champion its agenda through faith. They are the ones who are nurtured to develop the party and provide stable leadership succession.

Since ODM has not been recruiting young cadres into its ranks, it has more supporters than members, yet the former are not warriors to take into war. Members will die for the cause and stick with the party in spite of the outcome. Supporters, on the other hand, will weigh their options and find safer grounds in times of adversity.

The Orange party has been deluded in recent times by the crowds that throng its rallies. Its management has been unable to translate the crowds into political capital and votes. Political organisations, like a party, rely more on volunteers than paid staff for success. Volunteers can only be recruited from within a structured and loyal membership, not people whose main motivation is travel allowances.

Many previous holders of ODM leadership positions have variously complained about imprudent management of resources. These claims have been captured in various reports of internal reviews. The party should not overlook these concerns  if it intends to inspire confidence among the rank and file.

The ODM Secretariat should employ and deploy professionalism to consciously deploy the party’s resources to its core mandate and strategic activities. The party should prioritise and invest more in the functional units than operational. The units that deliver what matters most should be ranked higher to make a difference.

The party must, therefore, establish which of its organs delivers the vote: Is it the polling station or Chungwa House?

The leadership also must establish clear structures of resource mobilisation. If the sources of its resources are neatly mapped out and well-known, it is much easier to expend them efficiently and effectively.

Where the left hand claims to be sidelined by the right hand, then the outcome of resource utilisation may remain unaccounted for. Openness in resource management is also a key ingredient in confidence building and trust infusion among allies and cadres.

ODM must have suffered infiltration of its structures and ranks by failing to determine how and where to source support for the party programmes and activities. Many people of questionable character must have taken advantage of the party’s goodwill to leverage on its resources at its expense.

Finally, ODM must reevaluate its position within the current political environment. Has the party reviewed its policy positions since the Nasa  crusade? Parties rely on their policy positions to guide their response to emerging political issues. In the absence of policy positions, the party leadership begins to respond incoherently.

The policy position documents would guide leaders at all levels to communicate a shared stand on any development. Party leaders across the country should trained on these policy positions so they are able to engage the membership and general citizenry constructively.

These policy guidelines will also assist the secretariat and the leadership in developing strategic communication briefs that resonate with the vision of the party. For instance, does ODM have channels for sincere feedback from its stakeholders?

The party's risks engaging in pursuit of its agenda may not only be misplaced but also counterproductive to its mission. The outcome of the Msambweni by-election should be a wake-up call to the party leadership to reevaluate its strategies. How did the party lose an important election that was theirs to lose? 

In other jurisdictions, the officials who were in charge of the process should have already submitted their resignation letters to the party leader.