NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 20 – He was not looking to come out of retirement, former Westlands MP Fred Gumo told reporters on Wednesday, but the latest cause of ‘strife’ in the party he says he helped found, had hit too close to home.
The calls, “by loud mouths,” he said, for Budalangi’ MP Ababu Namwamba to be removed as PAC chairman or worse ejected from the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) for reportedly taking a stand against the party’s call for a referendum was too much.
He had kept mum, he recounted, when the party issued nomination certificates to persons who did not garner the most votes prior to the General Election, when the party elections were disrupted by men in dark suits and even when Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro was removed as Minority Whip but he drew the line, he said, at the attempted black mail of a Western Kenya leader.
And he took no prisoners when he informed Party Leader Raila Odinga that ODM was not irreplaceable and if they (Western leaders) continued to be slighted, they might as well go and form their own party or join another.
“Don’t think that because you are a party leader you can dictate and tell people that this is what I want. People must work together as a team,” he said.
As with a democracy, Gumo said party members should be allowed to make their own minds up and consultations be carried out before a party position is taken.
“If you ask me about this referendum I’ll tell you I don’t know and yet I am ODM. Do we need a referendum to address corruption and insecurity? If it is simply a way to remove the government then just come out with it,” he demanded.
He said party members should also not be punished for working with the government either, as had been done Mung’aro.
Odinga had said those elected on an ODM ticket were free to work with the government, but the act of replacing Mung’aro as Minority Whip, Gumo said, told a different story.
“Mung’aro must have told his people that ODM doesn’t want them to benefit from the government. You can’t just do things and not think of the repercussions. Do you know how difficult it was for us to gain a foothold in Western and Central? But then again those who are mouthing off were not present during the struggle but I was and so was Ababu,” he said.
Ironically – given he didn’t speak out on, “ODM going wrong,” until a ‘Western leader’ was threatened – he said there was no room for tribal politics in ODM as it is a national party and its party leaders should therefore reflect the face of Kenya. “I have noticed certain members of a certain community assuming that ODM belongs to them,” he observed.
And with Namwamba as his favourite to win the post of Secretary General, he went on to demand that the party elections be speedily re-organised to give the young turks a chance to assume the party leadership.
“The party leadership is yours,” he assured Odinga, “but these other posts are up for grabs.”
As it is only with an injection of fresh blood, he explained, that the party would stand a chance of beating the Jubilee coalition.
And for that to happen he said, Odinga had to (again contradicting himself given his calls for democracy), “control his people.”
“I mean how does an old man like Oburu (Odinga) claim to know who Ababu is in bed with,” he pointed out.
But he, he was keen to make clear, had not been, “sponsored,” by anybody to point out what was going wrong in ODM.