Raila in new bid to revive ODM ahead of 2022

ODM Raila Odinga speaks during the closing session of the AfroChampions Boma on Infrastructure financing and delivery on April 17, 2019.

ODM Raila Odinga speaks during the closing session of the AfroChampions Boma on Infrastructure financing and delivery on April 17, 2019. 

Opposition chief Raila Odinga has embarked on a plan to salvage his ODM political machine after an explosive internal report delivered a damning verdict on its bleak future.

The report says that among other problems, ODM’s three top organs have dealt it a staggering blow through deliberately bungled party primaries that left the party “bleeding”.

Offended by revelations that ODM could be on its “deathbed”, Raila has formed a three-member panel to devise a rescue strategy to steady the party as he lays the ground for the 2022 polls.

The team is comprises nominated senator Judy Pareno, Nyando MP Jared Okelo and ODM executive director Oduor Ong’wen.

The team has three weeks to draft a plan to save the party from itself. It will table its report to the National Executive Committee by at a retreat early next month.

Its mandate is to review the process of party nominations and propose the best ways to implement recommendations in the report.

For the first time in five years, ODM is also biting the bullet and preparing for genuine party grassroots elections next year.

“The NEC also gave the nod for secretary general Edwin Sifuna and the National Secretariat to start the preparations for grassroots elections next year (2020) as provided by the party Constitution,” Communications director Philip Etale was quoted by the Star announcing.

ODM’s national election was violently disrupted in 2014.

However, the inclusion of Secretariat head Oduor Ong’wen and Pareno in the three-member panel has caused jitters. The Secretariat and National Election Board chaired by Pareno have been indicted in the same report for being part of the mess at Orange House.

Although once seen as a behemoth like South Africa’s ANC juggernaut, ODM’s future look grim.

In the damning report tabled before the powerful National Executive Committee on Monday, the task force headed by Catherine Mumma identified a litany of problems bedevilling the 14-year-old outfit.

The NEC also gave the nod for secretary general Edwin Sifuna and the National Secretariat to start the preparations for grassroots elections next year (2020) as provided by the party Constitution

The report also warns that ODM may not outlive Raila.

It said, this is because “it has failed to harness its big following to transform itself into the best political vehicle in Kenya.”

“Nearly all the interviewees do not believe ODM can survive without the current Party leader: this is clearly a problem,” concludes the panel which says the party’s lifeline relies on Raila’s charisma.

The committee identifies a dysfunctional secretariat dogged with accountability issues, chaotic and predetermined nominations, lack of structured communication, opaque decision-making and claims of internal graft.

The panel says party structures, especially the National Executive Committee, the National Elections Board and the Secretariat, are not transparent and accountable.

“They are thought to be in the business of deliberately staging chaotic and violent elections as a way of facilitating favourites to end up as ODM nominees for general elections,” the report says.

Orange House has been accused of dishing out tickets to the highest bidders and often staging nominations as a formality.

The report also warns that some governors and other elected leaders are holding the party hostage because they are the ones funding offices and activities.

It accuses the Secretariat of systemic inefficiencies, incompetence and endemic corruption that has cost ODM dearly. The Secretariat is detached from the grassroots because it lacks a cascaded reporting structure to build its knowledge base.

The report adds,”Most staff of key organs like the Communication, Political Affairs, Research and Strategy of the Party are kept in the dark on matters related with elections.”

The task force said recruitment of secretariat staff is questionable due to lack of publicised vetting qualifications, or any semblance of competitive recruiting.

The committee wants a secretariat board established to recruit competent staff to avoid a situation where employees are recruited by tribe. 

Some secretariat officials have been employing or nominating their relatives or cronies, ruining the party’s image.

The panel recommends ticket hopefuls must be registered members for at least three ears before a general election. This is an attempt to bar losers from rival parties from switching to ODM ahead of primaries, at the expense of loyal members.

A few exceptions are possible where the party is not strong.

The report recommends the party leader be allocated one slot each in the National Assembly and the Senate and three positions in each of the county assemblies to nominate dedicated ODM members.

It calls on all national and grassroots officials to relinquish their positions before running for election.

“ODM should consider objective formula to ensure it nominates the strongest candidates who meet all minimum requirements for nomination for every elective position,” the report says.

To ensure only the most popular candidate flies the party flag, the team says the NEB must establish a special unit to conduct an intelligence assessment to determine candidates’ strengths.

The results should inform NEB’s decision to on direct nominations.

The panel recommends disqualifying any aspirant for bribery, influence peddling, violence and other unlawful means of influencing nominations.

Raila would be required to communicate to the public on weighty national matters while the chairperson and secretary general’s statements will be harmonised to avoid confusion between, the report says.

The report recommends a permanent Strategic Planning Unit of at least six people to guide ODM on research into ideology, electoral strength, opportunities and threats.

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