Day Raila almost lost ODM party to Ruto cronies

Friday, October 29th, 2021 00:00 |
The so-called Men in Black at Kasarani stadium, the venue of the aborted February 28, 2014 ODM elections. Photo/File

As Deputy President William Ruto and opposition chief Raila Odinga brace themselves for next year’s presidential election contest, fresh details have emerged on how the former almost took control of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

It took the last-minute intervention of party loyalists to thwart Ruto’s secret mission to take control of the Orange party through proxies. 

The scheme was being coordinated by then Budalang’i Member of Parliament Ababu Namwamba.

The planning was meticulous and even involved some unsuspecting ODM leaders. It is only that the schemers could not hide their footprints.

According to ODM insiders who spoke to People Daily, DP’s well-coordinated coup was to take place at Kasarani national stadium on February 28, 2014, about a year after the March 2013 elections which saw Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto elected on Jubilee Alliance. 

On this Friday morning, party delegates had assembled to elect new officials after a protracted campaign by a youthful wing led by Namwamba, who was seeking the position of party secretary general against what they described as the old guard.

That is the day political activist and former university student leader Wafula Buke was hired as ODM director of political affairs.

There was strong concern among the party rank and file that Ruto was working closely with Namwamba behind the scenes to engineer a takeover of ODM through election of officials who would have been amenable to him.

“I was employed on that day with the sole mission of neutralising the Ababu forces,” says Buke. 

“Ababu’s association with the Deputy President was obvious. The guy started moving around the country in helicopters and dishing out money to delegates which was suspicious for a man not known to own a kiosk anywhere.

There was financial evidence that he had power from without,” Buke told People Daily.

The former ODM official, Ababu was working in cahoots with then party executive director Magerer Langat, who he alleges to have manipulated the delegates list ahead of the polls which were famously disrupted by “the men in black”.

“Ababu was very close to Magerer and could attend harambees with Ruto people and donate as much as Sh200,000 which was unlike him.

During a meeting of the political parties liaison group in Nakuru, Magerer declared that Raila was too old to lead the party,” said Buke who revealed he was among the forces that disrupted the Kasarani meeting.

“It was noted that a good number of delegates at Karasani were new. The stage was set for a coup.

It was dawning on us that we were settling at Karasani to hand over the party to the Namwamba group,” said Buke.

The alarm bells rang when the delegates embarked on the first item in the agenda.

The gathering was supposed to make an amendment to a certain article in the party constitution and when it was put to a vote, the Namwamba group registered roaring victory.

Magerer ejection

“It was clear that Ruto had managed to take over the party,” said Buke. It took protests by then Tigania East MP Mpuri Aburi and his nominated colleague Isaac Mwaura who seeking the post of deputy secretary general for Buke to execute his mission. 

“A list of delegates was circulated and MPs like Mpuri Aburi could not find their names.

There were protests and quick action was initiated to prevent a coup,” said Buke, revealing that the men in black who disrupted the meeting were sneaked into the stadium by former Makadara MP Reuben Ndolo, ODM Nairobi county chairman George Aladwa and then Karasani MP Elizabeth Ongoro.

After the chaotic polls, Namwamba was appointed secretary general but resigned after a bitter fallout and defected to Jubilee Party in the run-up to the 2017 General Election. 

He lost his parliamentary seat but was appointed Foreign Affairs Chief Administrative Secretary.

Magerer was later violently ejected from the party and replaced with Odour Ong’wen.

In an interview yesterday, Magerer denied knowledge of the Namwamba plot and blamed the disruption on senior members of the party who were nervous that they were going to lose their positions.

“I worked hard to ensure everything went on smoothly. Everything was peaceful until the elections began and Jakoyo Midiwo whispered to the party leader that an external powerful hand was meddling in the party affairs.

It is then that we realised that  some MPs from Nairobi including Ongoro, who was opposed to the Namwamba group, had sneaked in individuals into the plenary to disrupt the elections,” Magerer recalled.

“Nothing can be further from the truth. I was never in contact with Ruto. If Ababu was interacting with Ruto, then I am not aware.

Our intention was to democratise the party and give it a new face as we had been tasked by the party leader.

We were very focused in making the party attractive to young people,” said, Magerer, who is gunning for the Kericho county governorship.

The key faces in the Namwamba group included Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, who wanted to be deputy party leader, his Turkana counterpart Josphat Nanok, who was seeking the chairmanship which was held by former Funyula MP Paul Otuoma while Mwaura sought the position of deputy secretary general.  

Nanok is a strong ally of the DP while Mwaura later defected to Jubilee and was nominated to the Senate. Mwaura is one of Ruto’s staunchest supporters in Central Kenya today.  

Efforts to reach Namwamba for comment about his role in the alleged coup did not bear fruit. 

Reached for comment, Ruto’s spokesperson David Mugonyi said: “We cannot comment on that.

Ruto was in Jubilee and the Deputy President there is no way he was involved in ODM matters. Leave us out of that.”

Otuoma recalls that chaos erupted after Mwaura realised that his name was not on the list of leaders that was being circulated.

“If I recollect well, it was Mwaura who raised alarm saying his name was not on the list of delegates. Then all hell broke loose,” said Otuoma.

Contacted by People Daily, Mwaura whose nomination was recently revoked by Jubilee due to his association with Ruto, said he was protesting being left out in a list circulated by a group that he had campaigned with.

“I had been left out of ODM Fresh whose name we had coined in Kisumu, together with young politicians in their 30s and 20s for whom I had become their leader.

I had used millions of shillings to get to be ODM’s deputy secretary general since I had more time as a nominated Member of Parliament of the party,” he said.

According to Mwaura, the elections were deliberately bungled after it was realised that a group of aspirants coalescing around Namwamba was more popular than the preferred line up led by Agnes Zani.

Senator Zani was also gunning for the post of secretary general then held by Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o who had indicated that he was retiring.

“Some people weren’t comfortable that I had become my own man and I was fought by both my team and the opposing one as well.

That’s why when a preferred list from my camp was circulated to guide delegates to vote in a certain way, I had no option but to protest.

That’s how the men in black came in. My protests were a perfect trigger to what had been planned in advance,” Mwaura recalls.

“This was my point of departure from ODM as I felt betrayed and shortchanged. The party had even promised Kenyans that they were going to teach IEBC how to conduct elections. It wasn’t to be.”

The election was disrupted when men dressed in black suits overturned tables, smashed ballot boxes and destroyed poll materials, insisting that the  exercise could not proceed unless they were furnished with party registers.

Amidst the chaos, Raila and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka who was the chief guest were whisked out of the venue.

Raila announced that he had set up a tribunal to probe the matter but its findings have never been made public.

In fact, men in black at one time stormed a meeting of the tribunal and disrupted a session.

“Those men were smartly dressed, and we never knew they were mafia,” he reportedly said.

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