ODM sets plan for 2021, declares new war on Ruto team

Stung by the recent loss in Msambweni parliamentary by-election by an ambitious but party-less Hustler Movement associated with Deputy President William Ruto, Raila Odinga’s Orange party is now talking about new tactics and plans in 2021.

After largely reducing their political activities since the March 2018 ‘handshake’ between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, the party now says they are getting into the campaign mode ahead of 2022 elections.

“We wanted to give the President time to implement his legacy projects. That is why ODM kept off high-octane political activities. But that is changing in 2021 and we have formulated the course to re-energise the party,” Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, who is also the ODM Director of Elections told the Sunday Nation.

For nearly three years since the ‘handshake’ , Dr Ruto has dominated the campaign trail ahead of 2022 elections. Before the Covid-19 pandemic reduced public political activities, the DP would hold several rallies in a day, sometimes traversing up to four counties in a day.

Within ODM, there has been concern that Dr Ruto and his Tangatanga brigade has been breaching the walls of what has been the Orange party’s strongholds. The Coast and Western regions have been the most worrying for the party’s faithful.

In the Coast, ODM MPs have shifted to the DP’s side and are talking of forming a coast-based political party to be used as a bargaining platform in the 2022 General Election.

Kilifi North MP Owen Baya and his Malindi counterpart Aisha Jumwa have been leading the effort to get a Coast-based party. A number of Dr Ruto’s supporters have been registering political parties with the aim of taking over ODM and Jubilee turfs.

Performance evaluation

The Msambweni by-election loss has now pushed ODM’s hands to implement measures to re-invigorate its supporters and revamp the party.

As the BBI constitutional changes are set to be put to a referendum, and Mr Odinga’s statement that the plebiscite will mark the end of the ‘handshake’ deal, there is also an urgency to reposition the party ahead of the polls.

On Sunday, December 27, 2020, Mr Odinga flew to Coast with a handful of his close advisers to begin nearly a week of “brainstorming” on the party matters and the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

The retreat ended on December 31, 2020. Among those who were with Mr Odinga were Mr Mohamed, Leader of Minority in the Senate James Orengo, and ODM deputy party leader Hassan Joho.

The retreat was also meant to evaluate ODM’s performance in the Msambweni by-election in which their candidate Omar Boga, lost to independent candidate Feisal Bader, who was backed by Dr Ruto.

Kwale Senator Issa Juma Boy, Woman Rep Zuleikha Hassan and the county ODM Chairman Hassan Mwanyoha were invited for the evaluation at Diani Reef in Kwale County.

The Sunday Nation has learnt that arising from the retreat at the Coast, and following recommendations from strategists who have been working with ODM, the party has lined up a number of mobilisation and image-building activities.

First, ODM has planned a retreat for all its MPs this month on a date that is yet to be agreed on to brief them on a countrywide mobilisation drive.

Delegates conferences

ODM has also planned to hold eight regional party delegates conferences along the boundaries of the former provinces from March. “The regional conferences will culminate into the national delegates’ conference (NDC) sometime after June,” Mr Mohamed said.

The party is also talking about a return to countrywide rallies “as soon as is practicable” and guided by the Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 restrictions.

In the meantime, ODM has currently embarked on filing vacant positions at its county, branch and grassroots offices.

Plans for party elections, however appear low on the party’s priority. ODM last held its party elections in 2014. The elections however did not go down well after the infamous disruption by the ‘men in black’ , and the contest at the national level was finally settled through boardroom agreement. The reorganisation, which is being spearheaded by experts, seeks to prepare the party for BBI campaigns and the 2022 General Elections.

For those attending the retreat, their mobile phones were confiscated to prevent leaks from the closed-door meetings.

Mr Odinga had told the press that the outcome of the Msambweni mini-polls offered the party an opportunity to re-look at itself and organise better for the bigger political dwell that awaits the party from 2021 onwards.

He had also observed that the retreat offered the party an opportunity to get a clear picture of what went wrong, leading to the dramatic loss that its candidate suffered in the mini-polls.

“Most of our members here have had an opportunity to freely express themselves so that we can talk as a family and reach a conclusion. They have been able to identify a number of issues which need to be addressed,” noted Mr Odinga.

The party has maintained that it is still popular with the electorate and is warning Dr Ruto’s group not to use the outcome of the mini-polls to believe they are more popular than ODM. For Mr Mohamed, 2021 is the year ODM plans to lay the ground ahead of 2022 elections.

“Based on the plans we have, you will see my party leader in his best form, shape and element,” the legislator said.

ODM is a member of the Nasa coalition whose other principals — Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula —have been talking on the way forward to 2022. The Orange party, however, says it is not really bothered by the talks among the three Nasa co-principals.

“They are talking among themselves but also with us. Remember we are the big brother in Nasa and while the small brothers are free to talk amongst themselves, they will want to talk to the big brother at the very crucial moment ,” said Mr Mohamed.

ODM’s revamping plans could , however, be hurt by its plan not to field a candidate in the forthcoming Nairobi gubernatorial by-election. The party has indicated that it would support the Jubilee candidate to succeed Governor Mike Sonko, who was impeached.

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