By Dikembe Disembe
Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba exclusively spoke with Nation newspaper over his quest to make ODM a formidable party that will send President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy William Ruto to a life in the opposition benches. Saying 2017 is for Raila Odinga, Namwamba said the two, Uhuru and Ruto, Â have failed to run the country and are being run over by the country!
Jenerali opens up the dirt in ODM and the sweeping changes the party rank and file should expect when his team – Team Fresh – takes over the running of Kenya’s biggest landmass party.
Here is the interview with Nation journalists Justus Wanga and Julius Sigei:
Q. The renowned essayist Francis Bacon wrote that reading maketh a man. What kind of literature made you what you are today?
A. I was an early bloomer of sorts, always inquisitive from a tender age.
When I was a little boy, I loved mystery tales, Arabian nights and Greek mythology. The story of Daedalus and Icarus fashioning wings and flying out of the prison was fascinating.
I have also read a lot of African Literature. Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Grain of Wheat, Petals of Blood, and The River Between are most memorable. Equally inspiring were The Concubine by Elechi Amadi, and Land Without Thunder by Grace Ogot.
In terms of politics, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s Not Yet Uhuru shaped me in a big way. Other all-time favourites include The Bible, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela and The Godfather by Mario Puzo.
Do you still find time to read?
Reading something before going to bed soothes me into sleeping peacefully. Any little moment I get, I read. Sundays are a no-go day for work and even my constituents know that. I spend it with my family and catch up on reading. I also read in Bunge (Parliament) and while travelling.
What body of knowledge most fascinates you?
Politics, literature and history. Reading about world’s great leaders like Napoleon Bonaparte and the Crusaders travelling long distances really intrigues me. Stories like that of Robin Hood who wants to fight for the defenceless in the society are also inspiring.
What are you reading now?
The Odyssey by Homer. Odysseus, on a journey from Troy to Ithaca, runs into winter, searing heat and fire eating cannibals, his ship capsizes, but he survives it all because he believes in the awesome strength he possesses as a man.
Who brought in the men in black suits who disrupted the elections at the Kasarani gymnasium last week?
We have our fears and suspicions. On that Friday, we noticed there were a lot of strangers in the auditorium who were not delegates and registered this concern with the outgoing secretary-general Anyang’ Nyong’o who was the chaperon of the event.
We had told the leadership to hire professional security providers with a central command but this did not happen. Police officers were outside the gymnasium. The lapse was therefore meant to allow forces who were hell-bent on disrupting the event to achieve their goal.
Are we staring at a split in ODM?
There are no two groupings in ODM. What is happening now is very normal in any democratic institution. You remember the battle for Labour Party leadership in the United Kingdom, it was fiercely fought between two brothers, Ed and David Miliband but the party did not split up, it strengthened it in the end.
Such competition you are witnessing here is a sign of a maturing party and is healthy.
Where did you summon the massive resources to mount the unparalleled airborne assault that shook ODM to the core?
What money? Are you saying we are so pauperish? I was already campaigning in a chopper in the islands of Budalang’i as far back as 2007. As Team Fresh we pooled resources together. This was a 10-day campaign and although I may not give a global figure now, it ranged from between Sh250,000 and Sh600,000 per county. For your information, that’s how I want to run the Raila Odinga campaigns in 2017. This was a dress rehearsal.
Why do you want to take over ODM?
My primary agenda is to see ODM in power. ODM holds the dream of the people of this country and we must not disappoint them. In the last two elections, I have been like a woman in the village who travels 20 miles to fetch water in a pot, down valleys and up hills, but when she gets home to hand the husband the pot, it drops and breaks, forcing her to go back to the river. I want to fetch the water and safely hand it home.
Any sincere party member knows that I have done well as a foot soldier. I now want to mount the horse like Napoleon did and lead the onslaught from the front. I want to be the general and I am itching to dispatch the likes of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to the Opposition.
But your critics charge that you actually want to wrest ODM from its “owners” and hand it over to Mr Ruto.
The Deputy President and I have a history right from my days in the civil society when he was in the opposition/Kanu. The fact that he is my political rival does not make him an enemy. However, I would rather quit politics than go to bed with Jubilee. My ideological grounding is completely at variance with theirs.
We are social democrats with a human face. On the other hand, it is never clear what they stand for. The last time I spoke with William was in April after the Supreme Court ruled in their favour. I had called to wish them well. But now they have failed so terribly that instead of running the country, the country is running them. Things are going wrong in all spheres.
How did you kick out Eliud Owalo?
I didn’t kick out Owalo. But Owalo cost us the elections because of his inept handling of the presidential campaigns. If you have headed a presidential campaign that was not successful why are you still hanging around? He needs to get a life and it’s good he has finally done it. He could not get a tallying centre or even hire agents.
Why would they be scared of you?
They know I will destroy the cartels that control nominations at Orange House which they have widely benefited from. There is a lot of rot and opaqueness there. In 2007 for instance, I was given my certificate at a petrol station in Yaya Centre at three o’clock in the morning. This is regardless of the fact that I had won the nominations clean.
Why would someone be moving around with certificates in his car? These are the kind of things they know I will destroy because winners at party primaries will not be shortchanged. They have been peddling falsehoods about me and during the Cord retreat in Naivasha I dared them to come out in the presence of the party leader and MPs and say all these things, but they could not.
A host of Luo politicians like Dalmas Otieno, Evans Kidero and Ken Obura withdrew from the race, precipitating talk that their move was their way of talking back to powers that be.
There is a saying in Budalang’i that the more the dancers the merrier the dance. When only a few people are on the dance floor, it does not rock. They ought to have stayed put like I have.
Why are you opposed to the party leadership’s idea of creating more positions?
ODM has always advocated for a lean structure in government, a lean cabinet, civil service, lean everything. Why then make proposals for a bloated party management structure? The buck has to stop somewhere. When you have so many officials in the same seat, there is the tendency of assuming that somebody would do the task, but in the long run, nothing happens.
You have come out to project Dr Agnes Zani as a greenhorn who should not be elected as the secretary-general.
You may be the best story teller but you cannot tell the story you do not know. She does not know the ODM story. Our story must be told by somebody who has been there, someone who knows exactly what the problem is and how to fix it.
Would you stay in ODM if you lost your quest to be the secretary-general?
In a free, fair and credible exercise, I will win this race hands down. There is no turning back on this. If you had a way to conduct a quick opinion poll, whether it is just restricted to the 3,000 delegates or the ODM rank and file, I would be confident of 90 per cent win. My popularity is not accidental, neither is it incidental. I have stood with the ODM party since its birth after the 2005 referendum.
I have waged battles for this party and even the party leadership knows this and they appreciate it. But even then, losing the post would not be the end of the world. I will support whoever shall have been elected. Who said that I must be the secretary-general? I will continue serving ODM irrespective of the outcome.
Are you banking on party delegates drawn from regions considered Jubilee bedrock to clinch the seat?
That’s far-fetched. I am banking on delegates from all parts of the country. This is a national party.
Do you see a Jubilee hand in the mess that was the Kasarani convention?
I have no proof of that but Jubilee as our political rivals may be interested in what is going on here.
In 2007 ODM came a breath away from the presidency. Its show in 2013 too was formidable. Has the orange party reached its zenith?
ODM was at its peak in 2007. Since then, we have suffered a fall in fortune but there is room for improvement. We want to exploit all our potential in our strongholds and new territories so as to surpass the 2007 peak.
Is time for Mr Odinga to hang his political boots?
Not just yet. Raila’s gun still has one lethal bullet, a bullet of all the bullets and we need to revamp the party so we can aim at the bull’s eye and score.
Which way Ababu in 2017?
Not necessarily, I would still be happier as an MP with Raila Odinga in State House as President in 2017.
Are you a one-wife man?
The very idea of polygamy goes against the grain of matrimony. How can I even think bwana when my hands are full even with one?
Read Nation for more of this interview.