Jimi Wanjigi warns Raila Odinga over ODM's grassroots elections

Jimi Wanjigi warns Raila Odinga over ODM's grassroots elections

ODM leader Raila Odinga with businessman Jimi Wanjigi during a fundraising in Bondo, Siaya County, on October 11, 2020. 

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

ODM presidential aspirant Jimi Wanjigi has protested against the party’s mode of grassroots elections, terming it undemocratic and a recipe for unnecessary litigation.

In a letter to Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna, the aspirant opposes the party’s plans to use consensus in picking its branch officials.

“It’s in the interest of the party that these processes at the grassroots and branch levels be conducted transparently since these officials will comprise the National Delegates Conference that will elect national officials and the presidential ticket-holder," Mr Wanjigi states in the September 9 letter copied to ODM leader Raila Odinga and Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu.

The protest came barely a day after the party's National Election Board (NEB) chair Catherine Mumma announced that they had abandoned plans to hold grassroots elections and instead asked branches to pick officials through consensus by Saturday, September 18.

She said the decision was the result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We’re giving them two weeks - until September 18. All we are doing is talking to them, and walking away to let them agree because we don’t want it said that we influenced their decision. Let the members on the ground decide their leadership first,” said Ms Mumma.

Internal democracy

In the letter, Mr Wanjigi warns that the move could tear the 16-year-old orange party apart.

“The upshot of contaminated elections is that your office will drag the party into unnecessary litigation processes as members seek justice and try to correct wrongs, and ultimately tear the party to pieces,” he said.

“It is my considered view that we need to sustain and build on these democratic credentials so that ODM sustains its contribution of governance ideals long after we, the current members, have exited the stage.”

He further said that one of the goals of offering his candidature for the party ticket is to support it in enhancing internal democracy in a more transparent, accountable, and people-driven process.

“The ultimate character of true democracy is to let the people decide their leaders," he declared.

ODM constitution

Mr Wanjigi went on to say that the NEB’s approach of picking party officials through consensus is a gross violation of the party’s constitution.

“It is vague, improper and clearly flies in the face of the mood of members who wish to participate in a transparent, democratic process to reinvigorate the party for the 2022 election,” added the businessman.

“As matters stand now, your office and the National Elections Board are acting contrary to the party constitution. This is the highest form of sabotage, the consequences of which will be consigning Kenya’s most vibrant party to political oblivion.”

He demanded that all members of the party be allowed to participate in its activities, take a full and active part in discussing, formulating and implementing party policies, and receive copies of party documents including the constitution, Members’ Guide, Election and Nomination Rules, manifesto and available information about their local branch upon request, as per Article 5.2.1 of the said constitution.

“Members also have a right to receive and impart information on all aspects of party policies and activities, save where such a right has been lawfully restricted; offer constructive criticism of any member, official, policy, programme or activity within the party and its structures; submit proposals or statements to the branch, region or National Executive Committee, provided that such proposals are submitted through appropriate party structures; and take part in elections through voting and be eligible for party and national elections at all levels upon nomination.”

Special cases

Ms Mumma clarified that the party was leaving open the possibility of using the ballot to pick officials, where the branches could agree or where more than one candidate was fronted for the same seat.

She said Tharaka Nithi, Meru and Embu branches had already presented names of officials to the board for publication.

This week, the board virtually met officials from Tana River and Kwale, with delegates familiarising themselves with party rules.