Endorsement dilemma for party leaders

Friday, September 24th, 2021 00:00 |
ODM leader Raila Odinga. Photo/File

Kepher Otieno and Wycliffe kipsang

Leading presidential candidates will be walking a tight rope as their close allies seek their endorsement for various political seats in next year’s General Election.

The party leaders will be confronted with the tough decision of endorsing foot soldiers who have walked with them every step of the way and, therefore, feel entitled to a reward, or let them face new entrants in primaries.

Indeed, it will be a delicate balancing act of appreciating old loyalties, accommodating new players and listening to campaign financiers, while at the time ensuring free and fair nominations to prevent a fallout that could benefit opponents.

Chaotic and unfair nominations and endorsement of some candidates at the expense of others by party leaders has been blamed for loss of seats in past elections.

Those staring at the endorsement dilemma include Deputy President William Ruto, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga, Amani National Congress boss Musalia Mudavadi and Wiper Party’s Kalonzo Musyoka.

Staunch supporters

Herman Manyora; a political analyst says Ruto and Raila’s current dilemma is a common scenario that has always been there across the country and even in successive leaderships

Focus will particularly be on Ruto in his Rift Valley backyard, Central Kenya and Coast counties where his staunch supporters will be competing for seats under the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

This was illustrated recently when furious reactions greeted claims that Ruto had endorsed Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, Kirinyaga Woman Rep Purity Ngirici (Kirinyaga) and Faith Wairimu of Nyandarua for the governorship of their respective counties.

Wednesday’s signal that Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru could be headed to UDA triggeredt debate on who will be Ruto’s choice, Ngirici having been his vocal ally in the county for more than two years.

Aware of this dilemma, the DP who on August 22 endorsed Ngirici for the seat, was forced to clear the air.

“Everybody will be given a chance. We will conduct free, fair and democratic nominations.

It is the people who will decide who will be governor, senator, MCA and all other seats,” Ruto said hours after a chanting crowd told Waiguru to seek re-election on a UDA ticket.

He added: “You don’t have to know anybody. You only need to know the voters.” 

Waiguru’s case represents what could likely be a tough choice for Ruto between new entrants into the party and founding leaders such as Ngirici, national chairman Johnstone Muthama, his deputy Boni Khalwale and MPs Aisha Jumwa (Malindi), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Kimani Inchung’wa (Kikuyu) and Victor Munyaka (Machakos Town), who feel they have sacrificed more for the party.

In his backyard, the DP will be torn between his confidant and Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter and Senator Aaron Cheruiyot who will be battling for the Kericho governorship.  

The ground is being laid out for a similar battle pitting Labour CS Simon Chelugui and Governor Stanley Kiptis of Baringo.

Another major test for the DP will be Uasin Gishu County; where Soy MP Caleb Kositany, considered his political spokesman, will be fighting to succeed Governor Jackson Mandago in a race that will involve wealthy Mombasa-based businessman David Lagat. 

It will also be a tough choice for him in the Nandi governorship battle that will pit incumbent Stephen Sang, local Senator Samson Cherargei and former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Kosgey, a member of the Judicial Service Commission.

Like Ruto, Raila has also promised that ODM party will let the people decide on their future leaders but eyes will be on him during primaries especially in Nyanza region where his key allies will be contesting influential seats.

Raila recently told a meeting in Siaya County that the party had identified the gaps that led to its shambolic nominations in the 2017 elections.

“The issue of nominations has caused us a lot of challenges. Our nomination rules are that all party members must participate in the exercise,” he said.

Already there are murmurs that his elder brother and East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) MP Oburu Oginga has been endorsing candidates on Raila’s behalf.

In Homa Bay, for instance, Raila’s staunch allies including ODM chairman John Mbadi, former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and Woman Rep Gladys Wanga will be contesting the governorship.

And in Siaya, his close confidant Senator James Orengo and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi will be fighting for the governorship against former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo.  

Kisumu Senator Fred Outa is also seeking to unseat Governor Anyang Nyong’o,; one of Raila’s strongest defenders and advisers.

Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, one of Raila’s legal advisers, will be seeking re-election as well as Suna East MP Junet Mohammed who has created enemies by dint of his closeness to the party leader. 

Oburu has indicated that he would be seeking the Siaya Senate seat and has endorsed Orengo for governorship and pitched for Amolo’s re-election in Rarieda.

“I want to appeal to you to re-elect Amollo because he has done well.” Oburu posed as the crowd roared in the affirmative.

It is notable that ODM has lost critical seats in the past, such as the Migori governorship in 2013, Kisumu Town West constituency, and in all constituencies in Kisii County in the 2017 polls due to botched nominations blamed on favouritsm.

ODM deputy party leader and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya has cautioned Raila and other top officials against endorsements during nominations.

“Each candidate must be given an equal opportunity to seek nominations on our party ticket in a free, fair and open process,’’ he told People Daily.

According to Oparanya, endorsements will undermine democratic tenets and values that the party cherishes and advised that all candidates should face the ballot.

“ We must listen to what the people tell us and we as leaders will work hard to inculcate a culture of neutrality in the primaries,” he said.

In Kisii, Raila will be torn between Senator Sam Ongeri, Woman Rep Janet Ong’era and Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati, all of ODM, who have indicated they will contest the governorship.

Ong’era, who on Wednesday announced her candidature for the seat, said she will hold talks with Ongeri to reach a compromise on who among them will go for the coveted seat.

“Ongeri and I want the seat of governor.  We will sit and agree on whether it is me or him.

If we agree it is Ongeri, I will support him and vice-versa,” she said during the opening of the party’s new office in Kisii town.

Popular candidates

Raila will be facing a similar headache in Mombasa where his key backers, Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir and businessman Suleiman Shabhal, will be spoiling out for the governorship.

Raila has consistently resisted attempts by Abdulswamad  supporters to endorse their man.  

The two are also angling for the backing of outgoing Governor Hassan Joho.

But in his opinion, Oparanya argued that endorsements will deny the party a new crop of leaders and lock out would-be popular candidates to the benefit of opponents. 

In Kakamega, two allies of Mudavadi are fighting for his eye in their battle for the governorship.

ANC deputy party leader Ayub Savula and Senator Cleophas Malala have declared they will be seeking the party’s ticket.

There are fears that any boardroom deal that will not accommodate a local power-sharing agreement will lead to a fallout.  

The situation could be the same in Mudavadi’s Vihiga home county where Senator George Khaniri and Sabatia MP Alfred Agoi will be wrestling for the governorship through an ANC ticket.

It will also be a tough choice for Wiper’s Kalonzo, particularly in Makueni County where his friends, incumbent Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior and former Kibwezi MP Philip Kaloki, will be battling for the governorship.  Senetor Mutula is the Wiper Party national chairman.

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