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Raila changes tack in revamping ODM, shuns old guard


Sept. 21, 2019

•Raila has undertaken wide consultations within the rank and file of the party's hierarchy, beyond traditionally trusted allies.
•He plans a purge at Orange House to rer Raila plans a major purge at Orange House to overhaul the Secretariat.
•Raila has undertaken wide consultations within the rank and file of the party's hierarchy, beyond traditionally trusted allies.
•He plans a purge at Orange House to rer Raila plans a major purge at Orange House to overhaul the Secretariat.
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has adopted a completely new approach to manage ODM and a radical plan to revamp the outfit ahead of 2022.
The Star has established that the ODM leader has undertaken wide boardroom consultations with the rank and file of the party's hierarchy — beyond traditionally trusted allies.
Raila is said to have started shunning party officials and politicians who have been rocking the party from within as he aims to rehabilitate the outfit that has been in decline.
The opposition leader has assembled a team of advisers comprising  MPs, governors and a few other trusted allies to map a long-term strategy to regain grassroots support.
He wants branches activated and grassroots officials involved in e decision making in matters affecting members.
Raila's new more democratic approach is said to have informed the largely peaceful and fair nominations for the Kibra parliamentary seat by-election.
ODM's previous nominations have been marred by violence and claims of massive interference and bribery blamed on the Secretariat and a few senior officials.
For Kibra, the ODM leader gave express instructions to the party's National Elections Board led by Judy Pareno to involve all aspirants throughout the exercise.
The move saw rare unity post-primary among losers.
In Kibra, Raila also adopted a totally different approach by letting grassroots leaders run their own campaigns with minimal involvement of the Secretariat.
The Orange Party's women's leaders, the youth league and sub-branch officials have taken charge of campaigning for Bernard Okoth and have been going door to door.
“It's is a new approach for us. We want to involve grassroots leaders as much as possible. These are our foot soldiers on the ground and who understand the real issues,” said Nairobi ODM chairman and Makadara MP George Aladwa.
A meeting on Tuesday brought together 300 grassroots delegates from the five wards in Kibra to strategise on how to win the seat.
Embakasi East MP Babu Owino, who attended the strategy meeting, told the Star that ODM was pulling out all the stops.
“We will not only win but win with a commanding margin. We will hold more such meetings so members can feel part of the campaign process,” he said.
Raila who traditionally has attended — and naturally dominated— campaign rallies, appeared to change tactics and expand consultations with other leaders.
“It was surprising and unusual for the party leader to call leaders to take their views on how best to approach the by-election as a team. He has only been attending big rallies during campaigns,”  a senior ODM official who sought anonymity said.
Earlier, the ODM leader met grassroots leaders at his Karen home and met ODM elected leaders in Nairobi at his Capitol Hill office to strategise.
The party leader also met all the nomination losers to rally the party behind Okoth. The move was crucial in averting falling out that would have benefitted rivals.
Raila is said to have given the defeated candidates  Sh250,000 to support Okoth and resist pressure from rival parties to jump ship.
On Wednesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta threw a spanner in the works after he endorsed football star McDonald Mariga for the seat during Mariga's courtesy call. It's not clear whether the head of state will actually campaign for him.
The surprise endorsement by Uhuru hiked the stakes in the race that has also attracted Musalia Mudavadi's ANC party through Eliud Owalo and Moses Wetangula's Ford Kenya, which has fielded Khamisi Butichi.
“We have no doubt that we shall deliver the Kibra seat for ODM. Remember, we are talking about ODM and this is Kibra,” ODM chairman John Mbadi said.
The ex-PM's new approach is part of his strategy to restore confidence among disillusioned supporters who have felt excluded accused the party's top brass of opaqueness.
A section of Raila's confidants has previously been blamed for sacrificing party interests for their own ambitions, resulting in blame games that have caused ODM's fortunes to plummet.
ODM has trained its sights on 2022 and insiders suggest Raila will take on Jubilee's William Ruto and other contestants.
Raila has remained tight-lipped about his personal ambitions as he focusses on making ODM the behemoth it was before the 2013 General Election.
During 2013 to 2017, ODM was the single largest political party after sweeping more than half of the 290 parliamentary seats. In 2017, ODM won only 66 seats.
“The party leader, if you have been keenly watching, is focussed on addressing systemic issues within the party, including far-reaching reforms at the Secretariat,” a senior ODM official who sought anonymity said.
Raila is currently consulting former senior party officials, including ex-Cabinet minister Franklin Bett, who served as the party's NEB chairman, former executive director Janet Ong'er.
The two held positions during ODM's heyday when it enjoyed massive support across Deputy President William Ruto's Rift Valley backyard.
To broaden the consultation level and create checks and balances, Raila has proposed a new organ within ODM called the Secretariat Management Committee (SMC) to take charge of overhauling the Secretariat.
The party was recently awarded Sh4 billion by the Court of Appeal as Political Parties Fund arrears and entitlement. It intends to use these massive resources to revitalise ODM before grassroots polls mid next year.
The Secretariat landed in trouble after an internal audit indicted Oduor Ongw'en's team for failing in their mandate and blamed them for some financial problems.
The audit team also reported that the Secretariat was out of touch with the grassroots.
“ODM party primaries have been described as the party’s biggest vice. Party elections are thought to lack credibility and do not meet the standard of being free, fair and democratic,” the internal audit report read.
On August 29, Wafula Buke, a  political strategist, was fired under controversial circumstances. He stated that he had rubbed senior party officials the wrong way.
A couple of directors at Orange House including Ongw'en, Joshua Kwino (finance and administration) and Rosemary Kariuki (director of membership, recruitment, and retention) could be facing the axe in the overhaul.
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