By The Weekly Vision Team
ODM Party leader Raila Odinga camped in Nyanza last week to supervise the recruitment and registration of new members, the big question however, is why Nyanza, traditionally his political bedrock? Analysts say the reason behind the early registration exercises is a growing feeling among the party’s top hierarchy that the party is under attack from President Ruto’s UDA party, and that ODM should counter the president’s increasing influence in the region by registering new members.
William Ruto has made several trips to the region since he was sworn into office as president. By using some elected leaders from the region or individuals he has offered state jobs, the president has already made huge political inroads in the region, and this has not gone down well with Raila Odinga and his ODM party.
The high number of registered UDA party members in Luo Nyanza has forced Mr Odinga and his party to go back to the drawing board to lay fresh strategies to counter the UDA, which is steadily making political inroads in the region. Raila Odinga and ODM are working on statistics showing that the majority of the youths aged between 18 and 25 have not registered as members of ODM; some are not even registered as voters.
It is this age group that Mr Odinga and his party are targeting for registration to lock out UDA. It has also been discovered that UDA has targeted non-registered voters and youths under the age of 25 for registration. According to sources, there is fear in ODM that if Raila Odinga is not on the presidential ballot in 2027, there will be voter apathy in the region. Without an ODM presidential candidate, the advantage will swing the UDA way.
Mr. Odinga therefore wants to ensure the majority of youth, who will be voting for the first time in 2027, are locked in ODM. Again, he is aware that without his name on the ballot paper, there will be no wave, as has been experienced in previous elections, and the absence of an ODM wave, the party might lose its popularity in the region. The truth of the matter is that in the absence of Raila Odinga’s name on the ballot, he will not have any political influence on who is elected into office. For him to take control of the political situation in 2027, he has to ensure he recruits the youth into the party.
The truth be told, if elections are called today, President Ruto will receive more votes than he did in 2022 from Luo Nyanza. And if the race is between Ruto and another candidate who is not Raila, say Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, as has been speculated, analysts say the president can be guaranteed not less than 30% of Luo votes.
It has also been discovered that there are camps that have emerged within ODM in Luo Nyanza. One camp is led by politicians and professionals who are pushing Raila Odinga to run for office in 2027, while another camp is of the contrary opinion in support of Kalonzo Musyoka. The camp pushing Raila Odinga to run in 2027 has forced him to camp in the region; it’s made up of ODM elected leaders, the majority of whom rode on Raila’s back to win the seats.
The other camp is pushing Mr Odinga to work with President Ruto in 2027 by supporting his second-term bid on the understanding that the President should agree with their party boss on Ruto’s running mate; this idea has received very little support.
During the registration exercise, Kasipul MP Charles Ongondo Were was categorical that Raila’s name must be on the presidential ballot in 2027. He is the one leading the team dubbed “Baba the sixth”. This is the group that has always benefited from Raila’s endorsement, and in the absence of such political endorsements, they cannot win any political seats. The group pushing Raila to run in 2027 is aware that in the absence of Raila’s name on the ballot, Luo Nynaza voters will not be under any obligation to vote for ODM candidates, as has been the case. The fear is that independent candidates as well as politicians from other parties could easily humiliate ODM candidates.
It has also been discovered that Raila is aware that the ODM party has lost popularity in Luo Nyanza following botched party nominations during the last elections. The truth of the matter is that the majority of party nominations were full of anomalies and rigging, where unpopular candidates were either rigged in or given direct tickets.
It is for that reason that Raila wants to reactivate the ODM structures to make the party vibrant in his political backyard, and if he runs in 2027, he will have the entire community behind him and support his 2027 bid. Further, if he wants to enter into a coalition arrangement with Kalonzo, as has been speculated, he must be able to prove that he has the numbers and solid backing from his Luo Nyanza backyard. As to whether Ruto and UDA will make serious inroads into Luo Nyanza or if Raila will counter and deconstruct all their political moves in the region, only time will tell.