Jimi Wanjigi tells off Raila Odinga over ODM consensus plan for primaries

Jimi Wanjigi tells off Raila Odinga over ODM consensus plan for primaries

Jimi Wanjigi (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi & File | Nation Media Group

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga’s plan to pick 2022 election candidates through consensus instead of competitive primaries has drawn sharp reactions from members, threatening to divide the 16-year-old party.

Whereas a majority of ODM aspirants who spoke to Nation.Africa preferred anonymity for fear of reprisals, ODM presidential hopeful Jimi Wanjigi took the bull by the horns, telling off Mr Odinga on the plans.

The other aspirants told Nation.Africa that they feared Mr Odinga’s plans would advantage incumbents.

“If you say consensus is the first preferred option, tell me, how will the incumbents allow a new entrant to fly the party’s ticket? Is it even sensible? Isn’t this a plot to lock all aspirants out and retain all those defending their seats,” an ODM gubernatorial aspirant from the Nyanza region said.

Aspirants eyeing parliamentary seats in the Western and Coast regions, all perceived ODM strongholds, questioned how they would recover the finances they have spent on campaigns for the past five years if they are compelled to drop their bids for one individual without a competitive process.

Read: Storm in ODM over Ida Odinga consensus proposal

“Will we be refunded this money?” they posed.

But Mr Wanjigi told Mr Odinga that ODM is a democratic party and members would not allow it to be stifled.

“My party leader Raila Odinga made a comment about nominations being a consensus arrangement. ODM is a people’s party and they must decide who they want and when they want them,” he said during his meeting with ODM leaders in Thika on Thursday.

“Let it not be a situation where people lock themselves in a room and pretend to be making a decision on who are the candidates for MCA, MP, governor, President. No.”

The ODM constitution, he said, gives members the right to participate in party primaries and not have a few aspirants sitting down to decide for them.

“This is established in ODM’s constitution - how that process is to be done - and it’s to be conducted by delegates and members of the party,” he said.

Read: ODM secret line-up fuels jitters among aspirants

He said the people decide who their leaders should be.

“That is what democracy is all about. Don’t be afraid of contests, some of us are not afraid of it,” he said.

Mr Wanjigi, who is planning to face off with Mr Odinga in the presidential nomination contest, said he was ready.

“We are prepared to face you whoever you are, wherever you are. The young people of this country are not going to be taken through a process where democracy is something negotiated in a room. We won’t allow that,” he declared.

Mr Odinga, addressing a public gathering in Kibra, Nairobi, on Wednesday, ruled out ODM competitive primaries ahead of next year’s elections, saying he prefers consensus as the first option for picking candidates.

Mr Odinga said the party will deploy four options, top among them dialogue among aspirants to reach a consensus on the best bet to fly the party’s flag.

But he noted that in the event of disagreements among aspirants, delegates and party members will select candidates, and direct tickets can be issued.

He said delegates will be chosen by party members to participate in the nominations.

“The third option will involve the use of strictly party members with membership cards and not just IDs. Therefore, those who want to be members of the party should take advantage of the ongoing free registration to be able to participate in the coming primaries,” said Mr Odinga.

The ODM leader, who spoke after hosting a delegation of political leaders, business people and religious leaders from Marsabit County at Chungwa House in Nairobi, said the party will also not hesitate to give direct tickets to aspirants as the fourth option.

This, he noted, will be the last resort if there are prolonged disputes among aspirants.

The four options put on the table by Mr Odinga now mean that aspirants must be bona fide ODM members and not just ID card holders as was the practice in the past.

ODM primaries have over the years been characterised by chaos, especially in its strongholds, with officials saying this has hurt the party’s image.