By Dikembe Disembe
The Orange Democratic Movement party is set to hold its National Delegates Conference later this month. Already, a lot of canvassing is going on; politicians, professionals, young people (like myself) and business people have shown interests in different positions.
Lobbying and canvassing has taken different forms and tactics. For the politicians, because they got means; exclusive hotels away from the penury and public needs of the party’s populous support base has been the best venues. The party youth, with no means to afford the Laico Regency or the Serena, have opted for budget hideouts in Nairobi, like City Classic hotel, and other village places.
Elsewhere in the countryside, grassroots lobbying is in top gear. From the NDC news making headlines in Kenya’s print and broadcast, there seems to be a deliberate editorial slant to depict ODM as a Luo community affair. From the people constantly quoted as talking on behalf of the party, the disproportionately high numbers of the O-somethings has given to that perception. In such a media environment, one would be persuaded that indeed, this is a Luo affair, but here are the numbers, at least from one source:
“In the last general election, ODM managed 96 seats in the National Assembly in all Kenyan (former) provinces apart from Central, followed by TNA’s 89 concentrated in Central and parts of Rift dominated by Kikuyus , URP’s 75, concentrated in the Rift Valley. Wiper’s 26 and Ford Kenya’s 10. In the senate, ODM has 17 seats same as TNA. URP has 12, Ford Kenya 5 and Wiper 5. Gubernatorial: ODM 16, URP 10, TNA 8, Wiper 4”.
Luo Nyanza has four counties. ODM won in Kisumu, Siaya, and Homa Bay. The party lost Migori. The same can be said of the parliamentary seats where the party, despite its ‘Luoness’, lost various constituency within that Luo setup. Of the 96 seats, less than 20 is held by Luo Mps. Take for example Kisumu County which 7 constiuencies. This can be said to be the heartland of Luo politics. of the 7 constituencies, ODM won five. Of the 5, Luos occupy 4. Kisumu East is home to Shakeel Shabir (not Luo); Muhoroni is in the hands of PDP where Otieno K’Oyoo floored Prof Ayiecho Olweny. Kisumu West is safely with Olago Aluoch, a Ford Kenya MP! Meaning Luo and ODM controls only 3 posts in Kisumu County!
Now, let’s turn to Kisumu’s ‘twin’ towns. How is party democracy doing in Eldoret (Uasin Gishu)? In Kisii? In Murang’a? In Nyeri? I mean, in towns whose ethnic mix favour, in massive numbers, one homogenic community, say Luos, Kikuyus, Kalenjins etc. . .how is the community to party ration in these areas?
Peddlers of this “ODM is a Luo party” propaganda only looks at the ‘noisemkaers’ in ODM. Just because Luos make the loudest of party noises, even if they are only but 5 MPs, it consumes the whole lot, and the media loves it and people, especially party opponents, make a big deal out of it. But Luos make noise because to others, ODM seems to be a vehicle to get to power; thereafter, ‘tutafanya kazi na serikali’ blah blah blah begin to sound.
In this same breadth; let us turn to another aspect of this propaganda: ODM party leadership. How does Luos fair against other communities? Raila Odinga was (is) the party leader; Anyang’ Nyong’o was the Secretary General. Where are (were) the other Luos? How many party positions exists or existed? Who served in these positions?
To other communities in ODM, there seems to be a feeling that being in the party is doing Luos a favour.
To these purveyors of one of the worst ethnic hatred ever; Raila seems to be carrying in his individual person the ideas, numbers, views, hopes and votes of all Luos. Below Raila, no other Luo should cough, belch or pee! Such things will ‘fukuza wageni’.
These are the people making the loudest cries about the ‘Luonization of ODM’ regardless of the shocking contrary facts proven by ARITHMETIC on party composition. The payoff has been that ODM is run (sometimes down) by other communities ‘on behalf’ of Luos! When Raila lost the presidency, essentially, it’s Luos who lost, not the ODM party base that stretches from LungaLunga to Busia border. That’s how it is played out.
In Migori County, the governor is not ODM party member; the senator, though ODM, is not a Luo! One of the MPs in that same county is Somali. Senator is Kuria. In Homa Bay County, there is also the ‘little identity issue’ of the Abasuba, where John Mbadi and Millie Mabona belong, also (sometimes) putting a wide distance between them and Luos!
Outside Luo Nyanza, other communities first qualification on matters ODM seem to be this: “I’m not a Luo, you see, I’ll give this party a national outlook. . .a national face’. So what has Luos given ODM now that the “national face” is to be achieved only by the other communities? Ooh, is it the “national anus”?
To other communities, the maxim ‘anyone but a Luo’ seems to be their lot. We have seen though how this plays out: Other communities can have their way, even with some of the most mediocre of leaders AND party officials, so long as they are not Luos. To other communities, latter day converts can rise in the party ranks very quickly, and sit atop very comfortably, by just playing this ‘anti-luo’ card.
It often amazes me that ODM party forgave Wilfred Machage and Amos Wako and even sponsored them to be Senators while the same party has never ‘pardoned’ ‘Luos’ like Raphael Tuju, Shem Ochuodho and even William Oduol. Meaning, you can be against ODM and Raila for all your legislative and political career (if you are not a Luo) but a late ‘baptism and transfiguration’ will automatically assure you a table at the top echelons of the party and inner cabinet seat in Railadom.
For the Luo, it seems, ours is to give the firewood that keeps the ODM flame alive so that other communities can come and warm themselves. If the fire gets too hot, they can always leave and create their own fires; like Kalenjins did, and, like Luhyas (Mudavadi, Marende et al) also did and continue to do. If the fire is too cold (sic), they pour blames on the Luo, even when it is evident that ni wao ndio wameimwagilia maji!
In ODM, Luos are to be the flower girls, or the party waitresses. To be ambitious, to think you can also contribute; however strategic your worth can be; should ‘wageni’ in the party get wind of you; so long as you are Luo, that automatically suffocates you.
I went to Orange House in many occasions during the period of the last elections. What amazed me was the “window service” where you couldn’t meet and sit any of the people who were running the ODM communications, or the whole campaign team down. To meet Janet Ongera, the then Executive Director of a ”people’s party” was like meeting God in heaven. Etale gave me his phone contacts but every other meeting was to be on ‘the next day’. The Raila Odinga Presidential secretariat was a no-go zone for ‘unknown Luos’ like yours truly.
In ODM, this fear of the Luo is so real that even Luos themselves who have ‘got in’ deliberately cut their links with the ‘firewood’ Luo. It is as if the ‘firewood’ Luo will take over their places.
Looking back at that ordeal, I realized why young Luos like JSO Ouma Kodhek opted early for TNA (I wonder if he will ever be forgeven); or why friends like Babu Owino who vied for one of the Nairobi ward seats performed shockingly dismally. I also took away why youths from other communities walked out en masse when their communities had ‘warmed themselves’ fully with the Luo firewood keeping ODM alive.
What future lies for the Luo in ODM? You know, if they can dismiss the Luo Mps exercising their democratic rights to seek elective party positions in a party where their own people are firewood; they can also dismiss you. By the way, I was dismissed yesterday! And there is no guarantee they won’t dismiss Raila in 2017. Being the perpetual optimist that I am, I remain party to this party.
No community is doing Luos a favour by being in ODM. By the way, even Luos are not doing themselves any favour by remaining in this party, especially with the ‘goat mentality’ of other communities! If we must rebuild ODM, each community should contribute to the well-being of the party. The idea that one community is going to be FIREWOOD for the rest to warm themselves is as pathological as the self-adhesion of the Luo to ODM.
The Luo will endure. With or without ODM that fish eating community inhabiting the banks of Nam Lolwe shall overcome so long as Nyasaye and Nyawawa still roam here on earth.
I urge other communities to build ODM not for Luos but as a political party where everyone has a high stake.