ANXIETY has gripped ODM over the political intentions of its firebrand secretary general Ababu Namwamba amid suggestions of impending defection to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Alliance Party.
The disquiet has been triggered by Ababu’s new-found camaraderie with Jubilee, cozying up to the President and recent remarks said to belittle the opposition.
Ababu’s defection would be a blow to ODM where he is popular and influential as a young leader, considered by many to be a rising star. He was poised to succeed in the party’s internal elections disrupted by the “men in black” in 2013.
It is feared he could become Jubilee’s newest point-men.
The revelation that Uhuru may return to Ababu’s Budalang’i constituency next month has further heightened speculation the high-profile lawmaker was planning ditching Cord Leader Raila Odinga.
Yesterday, several top ODM officials were emphatic insisted Ababu would decamp, while others said he would remain. The critics spoke on condition they not be quoted by name.
“We expect our SG to lead in putting a check on the government but he has turned into a Jubilee apologist and sycophant,” one official said, referring to Ababu’s declarations that he would work with Jubilee for the sake of development.
“As did Musalia Mudavadi [who left ODM for UDF], Ababu appears to be preparing us psychologically for his imminent departure,” the official added.
However, Ababu has denied suggestions he plans to exit, saying he is in ODM to stay.
“This is absolute rubbish,” Ababu said. “I wouldn’t dignify this with a response.”
If Ababu does cross over, his mostly likely replacement would be Funyula MP Paul Otuoma. replacement.
In 2013, Ababu, commonly referred to by supporters as Gererali (general), teamed up with youthful leaders and vigorously campaigned for Raila under ODM Reloaded, a lobby group within the Orange Party.
ODM officials complain, however, that on June 22 Ababu led 25 MPs from Western to State House Nairobi where they met the President who then announced a Sh1 billion bailout for struggling Mumias Sugar Company.
Two days before, Ababu gave a wide berth to the Western Kenya ODM strategy meeting with Raila
At the State House meeting, Uhuru’s Presidential Strategic Communications Unit widely distributed photos of the MP and President in close conversation, interpreted as a deliberate move to show their personal and political affinity.
Ababu’s ODM critics also cite his central role in Uhuru’s tour and the protocol at Mumias where Namwamba was one of the keynote speakers, preceding Deputy President William Ruto.
“This special treatment was deliberate. Jubilee is positioning Ababu as their next point-man,” one MP said.
However, it was Ababu’s speech during the President’s tour last week that most angered Raila’s inner circle.
The MP is said to have asked the crowd whether he should leave ODM or not, signalling that departure was an option ahead of 2017.
Contacted for comment, Ababu said suggestions about his departure stem from the “fertile imaginations of people with nothing to do”. He suggested these “idlers” should be writing Hollywood scripts.
Earlier this week, Ababu publicly dared his critics, saying he can win his Budalang’i parliamentary seat without ODM.
“I have heard the propaganda that I cannot survive without ODM in Budalang’i, but the party failed to win the seat until my entry in 2007,” he was quoted as saying.
At the same time, he announced he had invited Uhuru to lay the foundation stone for Sigiri Bridge next month.
Some top ODM officials in the National Executive Council downplayed the suggestion of a defection.
“As a party, are we to be worried? Ababu has always been reasonable, well informed and of sound mind,” Treasurer Timothy Bosire said.