Monday, September 20, 2010

Voting for ODM in the Makadara By-Election

A Work In Progress by Onyango Oloo (meaning it will be updated after the winner has been announced later in the day)

NB:This posting is lifted from my response to the following discussion thread on the Jukwaa platform:

At around 10:30 am, Monday, September 20, 2010, I walked into the Bidii Primary polling station and cast a vote for Reuben Ndolo- even though I am NOT a member of ODM.

I must say publicly that I did NOT vote for Abok Odera- a comrade and friend of mine who was running on a SDP ticket- the party that I served as Secretary General until about eight months ago.

Unlike August 4th when literally thousands of voters lined up for what seemed like miles, today there were virtually no queues- people were just strolling in, briskly casting their vote and dashing off to attend to other things.

No surprise there- by elections in Kenya and elsewhere have normally been punctuated by low voter turn out.

The winner is usually the candidate who has managed to get his or her voters to the polling booth- or alternatively bribe them to stay from participating in elections.

My vote today was strategic.

Even as a non-member, I have more than a couple of misgivings about the way things are going on inside the ODM. I was not in favour of the direct nomination for Reuben Ndolo- and I told him as much directly when I had a chance to meet him to do a media interview with him recently. Overall, the behind the scenes wrangles within a section of the leadership plus other policy moves has deeply alienated large swathes of ODM's grass roots membership- if what I heard from certain key ODM operatives in Nairobi and other parts of the country are to be believed. Some of the dalliances at the very top of the ODM hierarchy may end up pitting one part of the ODM mass base against another- but this is not the place to dwell on that.

Still I chose to vote for ODM over my previous party SDP after considerable thought.

True the latter is openly and unabashedly social democratic while the former has valorized the voices of its liberal democrats over the concerns of its social democratic zealots.

In terms of Makadara, voting for SDP would have been for purely sentimental reasons. Sadly, since I left the party in January this year, a cabal of PNU schemers have been trying to wrest control of the party from Mwandawiro Mghanga and other socialists and anti-imperialists. The people who are trying to steal SDP from its socialist custodians include (if my inside SDP sources are to be believed) former Information Minister Mutahi Kagwe; former Tourism Minister Raphael Tuju and former Cooperatives Minister Peter Ndwiga. If these guys have their way, a vote for SDP is a vote for PNU.

And what exactly is my beef with PNU?

Well apart from the fact that their 2007 candidate Mwai Kibaki stole the Presidential vote, I believe that PNU as a party is the one organism in the country most deadset against reforms and the full implementation of the constitution.

PNU was responsible for watering and distorting the original harmonized draft which would have given Kenya a parliamentary system and three tiers of devolved government; PNU is responsible for sneaking in Omar el Bashir to come and defecate on our tumultous August 27th promulgation proceedings; PNU is leading the rearguard war to retain the provincial administration structures by crook or crooks (no typos there folks, that was deliberate).

In this context, the by election dog fights cease to be mere pissing contests between politicians with inflated egos and becomes a crucible which plays out in microcosm the bigger struggles for against change; for and against reform; for and against democracy.

The implementation of the new constitution will to a large extent depends on which party or constellation of forces controls the parliamentary agenda. Nairobi with its eight seats is crucial to this. With two of three by-elections taking place in the heart of the Kenyan capital, it will make a difference whether it is ODM or PNU who wields the upper hand.

It is simply a game of numbers. Which party can rally the most MPs to support its parliamentary agenda?

With all its short falls, pratfalls and pitfalls, I am convinced that AS A PARTY, the Orange Democratic Movement holds the biggest potential of making significant steps towards pushing forward the reform agenda.

Its nemesis PNU is populated by politicians with very tainted pasts, didgy presents and questionable futures.

To its discredit, ODM allowed the political blood letting between Reuben Ndolo and his foe George Aladwa (serving Deputy Mayor of Nairobi City) to go hammers and tongs at each other for far too long. Today, a rueful Ndolo supporter was telling me in Buru Buru that it may be a case of too little, too late.

What complicates matters for both Ndolo and Dick Wathika is the entry of Mike Sonko who has deep pockets and has criss crossed the constituency handing out oodles of cash.

The ODM received a fresh boost when the ODM-K aspirant Joshua Kitivi pulled out at the twenty-third hour- meaning his name will still be on the ballot and many of his supporters may go to the polling both totally ignorant of the fact that their own beloved son has gone to sup and sleep with the proverbial devil.

This coming on the heels of another defection-by the DP candidate- means that two PNU affiliates have lost their candidates to ODM? Kalonzo was not happy about this-even though he is a founder member of the original ODM.

Dick Wathika is banking on what his supporters call his "strong development record" in terms of building or upgrading schools and improving the infrastructure in Makadara constituency. He was born and raised in the Maringo estate of the constituency and is well liked for his grass roots approach, folksy humour and familiarity with local conditions.

Who will win?

Nelly, die hard Kalenjin ODM campaigner with roots in Eldoret was telling me just before I came to dispatch this essay around the world told me some IIEC insider (she said it, not I, OK?) confided in her that Mike Sonko had opened up a strong early leader and was likely to spring a shock, according to her. She said she spent a night at her aunt's place in Kaloleni ( a presumed Ndolo strong hold) and witnessed with "her own two eyes) Sonko's agents dishing out oodles of cash the whole night to neighbourhood youths.

Franklin Imbenzi, a former boxer who now promotes the sport and a Ndolo aide was breezy in his confidence and optimism that Ndolo would prevail at the end of the day because Raila and Mudavadi's recent intervention at the peace brokering meeting that brought Ndolo and Aladwa to the reconciliation table meant a closing of the ranks to deliver a united ODM bloc of votes at the by-election.

Well, as I wrap this up around a quarter past three in the afternoon, voting is still underway so it will be way premature to deliver any final verdicts.

It is ironic that all these guys who are tearing each other apart now- Wathika, Ndolo, Aladwa- were once part of the victorious NARC team that turfed out KANU in 2002.

Of course I do HOPE that Dick Wathika- an amiable guy who makes a point of greeting me when I bump into him around Mama Nginga and Wabera Streets-LOSES, even it is narrowly. It is not about Wathika and his ethnic group, but about the party of counter-reform that sponsored him, PNU.

Let us wait for the final tally.

I will of course have my ndururu tatu to add- at that time.

Onyango Oloo
Nairobi, Kenya