Unease in ODM as Raila allies in State House talks with Ruto

Written by on 8 February 2023

Opposition leader Raila Odinga was last evening facing a revolt after a section of MPs in his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) pledged to work with President William Ruto.

However, in a swift rejoinder, which laid bare the fallout in Raila’s camp, ODM dismissed nine lawmakers who met President Ruto and his deputy, Rigathi Gachagua, at State House, Nairobi, as “selfish.” 

ODM said the leaders had betrayed the will of the electorate in exchange for handouts.

The fallout comes at a time Raila is leading an onslaught on President Ruto’s government, claiming that last year’s General Election was stolen.

In a rebuttal, ODM called on its supporters to “ignore such selfish leaders who only care about their stomachs and not the wellbeing of millions of poor Kenyans.”

“This is a people’s movement aimed at defending the Constitution. History will judge harshly leaders who betray Kenyans by accepting handouts to scuttle ODM’s activities,” reads the statement.

The fallout deepened after ODM National Chairman John Mbadi threatened to relinquish his position as party chairman, citing interference from individuals close to the leadership.

The nominated MP claimed that the same clique of individuals who schemed to have him edged out of the position of the Minority leader in the National Assembly in favour of Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi were hell-bent on pushing him out of the party’s helm.

‘Ready to leave’

Mbadi was responding to queries over his commitment to the party after snubbing rallies called by Raila.

 “Those who think being chairman is so important to them, let them offer themselves to lead. I am very ready to leave the position to them. Right now I am the chair but I am not dying to hold on. I have done my bit; they took away my position as the minority leader, I am still alive,” Mbadi told the press at Parliament Buildings.

“They can still take away the chairmanship, I will still be alive. I want to repeat it for the record, I will be leaving the party position any time.”

He said his party leader is already aware of his intention to quit which is now a matter of time.

He said he would have long resigned had the party had a vice chairperson to run the party in his absence.

 “I am not a person to run away from the office before we get good succession, I want to be succeeded and still I will serve the party in whatever capacity. You know some people think being a chair is something I am dying for. Far from the truth, I have done my bit,” he said.

Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o, waded into the storm over the State House visit.

“I am not surprised that an amalgam of self seeking MPs went to State House today without the blessing of our progressive party. 

“After all, in a revolutionary situation such as the one currently staring us in the face in Kenya it is helpful for the leadership to remember Lenin’s warning. In a revolutionary situation, Better fewer but better.” Nyong’o wrote in a statement.

Sources say cracks have been emerging within ODM following its announcement of mass protests, with a section of leaders uncomfortable with the idea. Some leaders from the Nyanza region have kept off the rallies, with murmurs that they had fallen out with their party leader over allegations that he did not recognise Ruto as President on grounds that he did not believe he won the election legitimately.

For instance, party national chairman John Mbadi has not attended even one rally organised by Raila. However, he played a key role in welcoming President Ruto during his recent visit to Nyanza.

The Minority Whip in the National Assembly, Junet Mohammed, who doubles up as the Director of Elections, has also stayed away from the rallies — which will this Friday be held at Mavoko, Machakos County.

Others who have “deserted” the party include national vice-chairman Hassan Joho, former Kisii Governor James Ongwae and former executive director Janet Ong’era. 

Of late, governors elected on ODM tickets have also shunned party engagements and have been seen at government meetings. Some like Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir and his Kisii counterpart, Simba Arati, have frequently been seen with President Ruto. Sources say more MPs are set to declare their support for the government.

Follow-up meeting

A dispatch from State House said that President Ruto held a meeting with a section of MPs from Nyanza as a follow up to his recent tour of the region.

“The leaders explored the mechanism of working together to address both national and county issues,” read the dispatch.

Legislators who joined the President and his deputy for the breakfast meeting were Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Shakeel Shabir (Kisumu East, independent), Felix Odiwour alias Jalang’o (Langata), Paul Abuor (Rongo), Walter Owino (Awendo) and Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda.

They pledged their support to President Ruto and his government, adding that they were focused on service delivery.

President Ruto said: “The elections are over; we do not want a polarised country. We will work for all Kenyans irrespective of their political affiliations”.

 Service delivery

The MPs thanked him for his visit to Nyanza, adding that their constituents were interested in service delivery.

The Orange party was quick to dismiss yesterday’s State House visit by its MPs, saying it did not come as a surprise to the party and the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Movement.

“The party and Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Movement has been monitoring closely the behind-the-scenes activities of some of them and today was just the climax,” read a statement signed by Director of Communications Philip Etale.

The Minority Leader in the National Assembly, Opiyo Wandayi, who doubles as the Director of Political Affairs, said the MPs’ move was expected.

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