If you are in Kenya and you have ambitions of occupying one of the powerful and most coveted positions in the political parties, you better re-think about your machinations. Our political parties are well known to be personal and private property and it is very common to hear the statement that they have ‘owners’.
In the past few days, Orange House has witnessed a storm that was started by Members of Parliament from Western Kenya who have become an unease lot due to their marginalization in the Orange party arguably by the ‘who-is-who’ in the political outfit.
Notable officials who are among the disgruntled voices include Dr. Paul Otuoma who is one of the Vice Chairmen of the party and Mr. Ababu Namwamba, the Secretary General. Of key focus, however, has been Hon. Namwamba apparently because of the position he occupies in the party. Earlier on seen as a personality that could transform the party, Namwamba suddenly disappeared from the public limelight raising eyebrows on what might have happened to the flamboyant Member of National Assembly for Budalang’i constituency located in Busia County.
He resurfaced few weeks ago giving two reasons to justify his absence from the party’s public activities. One, he claimed that his efforts in transforming the party into a vibrant political behemoth have been frustrated by some individuals who are big wigs within the Orange Democratic Movement. Secondly, he stated that he was on paternal leave.
The first reason concerning frustrations has elicited a lot of criticism and accusations directed towards the self-styled General. But in any case his frustrations are very true. In the run-up to the party elections in early 2014, Namwamba orchestrated a very lively campaign under the auspices of Team Fresh, whose other notable member was Governor Ali Hassan Joho. The party elections didn’t take place after a melodramatic scene occasioned by the Men-In-Black who, in my own opinion, were agitating for the status quo. In other words, they were anti-reform and would never allow the Team Fresh to take office.
Fast forward, faced with the stark reality that holding another election would drain the party’s finances, the rival factions that had sprung up during the party campaigns met with the Party Leader the Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga to share the party’s positions through consensus.
Coming into office as the new Secretary General, Namwamba declared that he was competent and would put in place major reforms especially concerning the party’s primaries that are usually marred with chaos. However, his efforts seemed to have fizzled out as soon as he began swinging his reform axe.
The smartly dressed lawyer was casted into a partial oblivion state and this gave rise to the Secretary for Political Affairs, Opiyo Wandayi and partly Senator James Orengo to assume the role of spokespersons for the party, a role that is reserved for the Secretary General.
Namwamba’s silence and his subsequent claims of being frustrated are signs that perhaps the eloquent legislator is on his way out of the Orange party. With profound hindsight, other political leaders who were in ODM and then departed came up with similar claims before they left the Raila Odinga led party. Recall the Pentagon that comprised of William Ruto, Joseph Nyaga, Musalia Mudavadi, Charity Ngilu and Najib Balala? Why did they leave? Can you remember how the former Executive Director of ODM, Magerer Lang’at was roughed up and hounded out of office? What did he say days before he was dragged out of office? Frustrations, frustrations and frustrations.
At the moment, some members of ODM are telling Namwamba and the other frustrated officials from Western Kenya to quit but they need to revisit their simplistic thinking in relation to the political costs. These are the same individuals who dared William Ruto and Musalia Mudavadi to quit. The effect: Raila bid fare-thee-well to the presidency. And somebody at Orange House hasn’t learnt any lessons from past occurrences. Already there are rumors that the disgruntled camp is on its way to the Dr. Julia Ojiambo led Labour Party of Kenya. But why do people always leave ODM? Machine politics.
Ababu Namwamba on his part ought to have cemented his control as the SG and fight from within. But who knows may be the ghosts of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) are haunting him because his absence from the face of the party began soon after he was replaced by Engineer Nicholas Gumbo, the Rarieda Member of National Assembly, as the chairperson of PAC. So the machine politics within ODM seem to have discovered the soft belly and Achilles’ heel of the son of Busia and he needs to act like the proverbial cat with nine lives so as to resuscitate his political career.
However, Namwamba’s radical and reformist nature will never be accommodated in ODM lest he establishes his own party. Parties in Kenya are owned by individuals and one’s assertion as a heaven sent reformist can be one’s own undoing and bright political minds will have their wings clipped. In any case which party leader wants to witness a party official who is stronger if not mightier than him or her? It doesn’t just work out in Kenya, at least for now. After all, political parties in Kenya aren’t havens for radicals, reformists and visionaries.