By K’Onyango Ochieng Dennis
The orange Democratic Movement Party members go to the polls on February 28th, 2014 to elect office bearers who will lead the party for the next so many years. Surprisingly, the elections have not generated the usual excitement that accompanies such exercises. Perhaps we are suffering from elections fatigue. The campaigns are still muted and while the exercise is due in the next one month or so, the candidates have not begun active campaigns.
I am not so sure if the party is ready to conduct the poll. I have not seen a budget for the exercise. We have not been shown the register of delegates and we have not heard anything about the planning and the logistics. I have been scouring the papers for adverts on tenders for various services. I have been hoping to bid to serve the delegates soft drinks or tea. I have not heard if procurement of ballot papers, security and all those other necessities has been done. I am unaware if a body to manage the elections has been identified. Could the much maligned Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission be the one they are going to task to conduct the elections? However I being a perpetual optimist, I hope all will go well.
The above concerns however pale in comparison to the concerns I have about the pedigree of the candidates on the ballot and who we may get. I am concerned about their integrity, ability and capacity in terms of acceptability, public perception, clout, intellectual wherewithal, mobilization ability, loyalty to the party, energy, creativity and new ideas they bring to the table. Overall, their leadership skills and ability.
The position of Secretary General seems to have attracted the most interest in these elections. The outgoing Secretary General, the venerable Professor Peter Anyangâ€™ Nyongâ€™o and father of the new Hollywood sensation, Lupita Nyongâ€™o is certain to leave big shoes that will be hard to fill. The guy is a towering intellectual and a respected political scientist with unquestionable loyalty to the Orange Party. He has been accused by some as being arrogant and costing the party the previous two elections. However his supporters say that is a fallacious argument and suggest that he won the party the elections only for the victory to be stolen.
Folks who have presented themselves for this foremost position are:
Hon. Agnes Zani., Nominated MP
Hon. Ken Obura, MP, Kisumu Central
Hon. John Mbadi, MP, Gwasi
Hon. Ababu Namwamba, MP, Budalangi.
Hon. Eng. Nicholas Gumbo, MP, Rarieda.
These folks are fairly youthful and their faces would appease the constituency that has been calling for more youth participation in our politics. On whether they have the desirable traits to make the Orange party a winning outfit is a different story. I am eager to hear what ideas they have and what input they will bring to make our leadership and democracy more vibrant.
I am however excited about the candidature of Dikembe Disembe. He is gunning for the post of publicity secretary. I have not interacted much with the young man but he has wowed me with his writings on this media. His articles are lyrical and thought provoking. His writing projects him as widely read and knowledgeable, a trait that is hard to come by among the modern youth. I have most recently read about the vision he has for the party and while I will not campaign for any of the candidates vying for the other positions, I would vouch for Dikembe Disembe for secretary for publicity of the ODM. I hear his true name is Seth Odongo.
Without delving into the debate about whether or not the last election was free and fair, there is near unanimity that the campaigns were lackluster and not as brilliant as the 2007 one. It is because we lacked creativity in terms of disseminating information, something our rivals perfected. The folks who were placed in charge of publicity did a horrible job of it.
Our party lacked a public face and a credible mouth piece to project its message well. While the ODM party had a credible vision about where it wants to take the country in the next many years, there was no one to disseminate that message to the world. Instead, folks spoke at cross purposes in a disjointed and faceless campaign.
Disembe Dikembe says the art of formulating a vision, formulating a rallying call and strategically disseminating it well is his forte. He studies something to that effect and is in his final year at the University. His young age, enthusiasm, energy and deep understanding of the essentials of information technology and its dynamics are assets that the party could exploit to reach out to the large youth constituency which speaks Dikembe Disembeâ€™s language.
I have no idea who else is contesting for the position. Knowing our politics well, a number will emerge from the woodwork in the coming days. They will be wielding money and influence but time is nigh to break from the past and give meritocracy its pride of place in our politics. I hear Dikembe Disembe won a student election at Moi University some years ago. That gives him some experience in winning student elections but the elections out here are a different kettle of fish.
My advice to Dikembe Disembe is that if he had mustered the language of the Students of Moi University, he must now learn and muster the language of the Delegates. I hope and pray that the language of the delegates is not the dialect of money and influence because if that is so, then this brilliant young man will lose. I hope they will be true to the party ideals and look out for the traits we desire in our leadership, the traits of humility and the common touch, servant leadership, intellectualism, fidelity to the rule of law, hard work, creativity, and foresight. If they do that, the choice for secretary of publicity will be apparent. I take heart in the Right Hon. Raila Odinga’s assurance that no one is favoured in these elections and that there is no ‘list’. With that, I endorse Dikembe Disembe for the post of Secretary for Publicity, ODM 2014!
K’Onyango Ochieng Dennis is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya