BY DANNISH ODONGO
I loved ODM. With the entire fiber of my being. I was a fanatic of this movement. I believed in the agenda of this party and I was willing to die for it. I’m never a lukewarm person; it’s either I love something or I don’t. I don’t have grey area challenge. I was convinced that this party was sent from heaven to deliver this nation from the hands of those who are determined to enslave it. I believed in this party so much so that in 2007 general elections, I volunteered in my college to be among the ones who were going to help in distribution of branded party t-shirts. I helped in coordinating with names of those who wanted to travel upcountry to vote. We even facilitated their fare through the ODM party secretariat. I defied the repercussions of supporting a particular party so openly because to me, taking the risk seemed so easy.
I used to live in Kariobangi south, just near light industries; a place that was perceived to be a PNU stronghold. I would wear my ODM T-shirt and proudly engage in acts of ‘evangelism’ to win people over to our party. I basically risked my life for the party, but it never looked like it was much because after all, the benefits were certainly more lucrative than the risks.
When we lost, I was hurt deeply. I felt like a hot blunt rod had been driven into my heart and it consequently melted it into small pieces. I questioned the motive of God. Why did He have to dangle the carrot and keep it so close yet snatch it from us when we were just about to take a bite? I developed a passionate hate for the regime that allegedly stole a victory from us. In fact, I could have been a donor of hate if anybody needed it because my reservoir of it was overflowing. My journal saw me through that dark period. The content of my broken heart was poured on the pages of my journal book.
Fast forward to 2010, I started to notice that maybe this party wasn’t going anywhere after all. The symptoms of a failing entity were written all over the affairs of the party. It’s leaders were too clueless to save the sinking ship. And the following observations led me to dump the party that I once loved:
Ladies and gentlemen, if there is a party that epitomizes poor leadership, it is ODM. As they say in PR, “a skunk is killed by its own publicity,” ODM has been a victim of its own foul and negative publicity. The party has formed a regular habit of washing dirty linen in public. When Magerer Langat, the former chairman of the party was flushed from ODM headquarters by rowdy youths, I had to pick my jaws from the floor due to the magnitude of the shock that had hit me. How can a party that claims to be progressive allow mob justice to be meted on one of their own who had risked a URP wave in his backyard to stick with the party? The party leader was standing right there while everything was unfolding before him. I know the kind of influence he has and if he had intervened, those goons would have responded to whatever direction he gave them. While it’s claimed that they were penalized for their acts, it’s hard to convince the world whether it was genuine or not because the party is known for hooliganism and acts of intolerance.
A party that doesn’t embrace dialogue and difference of opinion has no business wanting to lead the nation. A party that cannot conduct a successful internal nomination cannot go anywhere. Charity begins at home. If the party cannot show excellence in its own house, how can they show it on the national level? Men in black, botched elections, dead supporters, and postponed elections among others are some of the issues that cleaned scales from my eyes and launched me into my Damascus experience. This party was not built to win any election. It is simply a ragtag outfit meant to advance the Odinga dynasty. Maybe the party should consider rebranding to Odinga Dynasty Movement because that is what it is.
As an idealist, I can’t be part of a team that doesn’t believe in some values. Values like democracy, unity of purpose, excellence, diversity and progressive ideals. The party has failed to hand over the baton to a more youthful leadership. Instead of harnessing the strength and the creativity of the youth while anchoring those decisions on the wisdom of the old, ODM has successfully managed to run in an analog manner in a digital political landscape.
The party has failed to incorporate youthful ideologies in their manifestos. Old men who are supposed to offer advice to the youthful engine of the party have clung on like desperate leeches on the driver’s seat. The likes of Ababu Namwamba are the ones who are supposed to lead the party to a place of prosperity. But instead, they are the ones who are being persecuted left right and center. Simply because he hasn’t mastered the art of wagging his tail while licking the masters’ feet.
I can’t believe that in the 21st century, we have a party whose sole agenda is to please the master. If you hold any divergent view from the demigod, you are branded a mole and, therefore, treated with suspicion and contempt initially before goons are unleashed on you. People are different. How then do you expect ideas to reflect only that of the demigod individual? There must be a level of democracy where individuals are free to contribute their independent thoughts to advance the party. Once you clamp down on individuality, you are basically left with a moribund, archaic rusty outfit that cannot take anybody anywhere. The party doesn’t believe in the letter of their name and neither its spirit. The party should be producing oranges, but it’s clear that its members have only been served a steady diet of malnourished and bitter half ripe lemons. The shortcut to win any election in any ODM’s stronghold is to ensure that you lick clean the feet of the master regardless of your record of performance or how sound your manifesto is.
Lack of vision
The role of the opposition is indispensable. It is crucial for any democracy to have a visionary opposition party with leaders who are capable of making the next government. The United states of America has managed to advance because of two strong parties. But that is missing in the Kenyan political scene. ODM, which is the biggest single party by representation is quickly losing focus. The party has turned to a scavenging kind of mentality where they are preying on misfortunes of the government to drive their agenda. While that can work in the short run, it will not take anybody anywhere in the long run. We need a visionary opposition that is able to challenge the government in key areas that they are failing at. The party must be proactive rather than being reactive to what the government does.
The party should invest more in factual and strategic rebuttals to challenge the government. Whining and constant complaining have never catapulted anyone to power.
If there is a party that enjoys a cult like following, it is ODM. But it has failed to convert the massive following into presidential election victory. In ODM strongholds, voters have a chronic apathy to acquiring voter’s cards and rising up on the voting day while they faithfully attend rallies as they shout ‘Yes Baba.’ When the party loses, the majority of the fans who did not vote are the ones who are quick to claim that the elections were rigged as they shed crocodile tears while burning tires on the road. Because the party leadership gets so excited by the euphoria at their political rallies that they forget that elections are won at the ballot. Massive fans during rallies are a good indication of the popularity of the party, but the ultimate victory is won at the ballot.
The party has failed to bridge the gap between a vote rich population to victory in the presidential election. If ODM managed to rally its voters to the ballot, JAP would loose the elections at noon.
Like the bible says, there is hope for a living dog than a dead lion. If ODM really wants to change the awful image it has managed to cut for itself, they must change their mentality. It is excellent madness when you do things the same way and expect different results.