Once the bastion of Opposition politics, the Coast appears fatigued.
This weariness or burnout is captured in this week’s poll by national pollster Infotrak, which found that the Coast leads with 56 per cent of those surveyed saying the Opposition is not doing a good job. Some Kenyans polled suggested the country no longer has an Opposition.
ODM has been the region’s dominant party. According to Infotrak, ODM’s popularity has dwindled to 21 per cent, down from 50 per cent in previous ratings. This should worry Coast voters who have since 2007 consistently voted ODM and its party leader, Raila Odinga.
Recent developments within and outside ODM point to a party on the decline in cross the Coast region. Simply put, people are tired of the Opposition and want change. They want to be in government in 2022. This is the challenge facing ODM here.
This demand for change is particularly strong in the more populous and Mijikenda-dominated counties of Kilifi, Mombasa and Kwale that for decades have been the backbone of the ODM electoral wave here. And now the party of choice is gradually losing its grip.
When 56 per cent of coastal communities cited in the poll feel that the Opposition is not performing, it is a message to ODM and its leadership about 2022. After decades, it is time for change.
What is causing ODM’s decline in a region it has dominated for decades? The first factor is the famous handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga. Some people view the handshake as a blessing and a curse.
For starters, it has brought peace and tranquillity among communities, but it has also killed Opposition politics. The once-vocal Coast politicians who thrived on the politics of name-calling and personal vendetta, and fiercely criticised the Jubilee Party and its leaders — as well as imagined threats of secession of the Coast, have all suddenly gone into slumber — thanks to the handshake.
The rebellion recently witnessed among ODM elected leaders is also attributable to the handshake. They are protesting against exclusion from the process, prompting some MPs to work in cahoots with Jubilee and Deputy President William Ruto, in particular, to influence change. To the chagrin of the ODM leadership, some rebel leaders, notablyMalindi MP Aisha Jumwa, have been at loggerheads with the party.
ODM’s popularity is also declining because of apathy the party leadership has shown to the voters after winning elections. In other words, the voter is only used to win the ODM elections but not to benefit from the party gains
Whether it is nominations for parliamentary seats, or party leadership positions in both Houses of Parliament, or even nominations to foreign service positions and statutory boards, indigenous coastal communities have been the losers under ODM.
Here is one example. During the five-year Grand Coalition government of President Mwai Kibaki and Raila as the Prime Minister, native coastal communities who had massively voted ODM in the disputed 2007 polls, in the end, accounted for nothing. They were neither appointed to government policy-making positions nor any other public positions of influence. They lost.
Contrast this to Kibaki’s PNU wing of the coalition government that appointed several native coastal communities to influential positions, including in the foreign service, even though PNU had been rejected by coastal voters.
Similarly, the ODM leadership in the coalition government. For example, even though the party was handed the Ministry of lands docket, it failed to try to resolve some of the land problems facing the Coast.
Beyond this, the 2017 General Election also undermined ODM’s popularity. Take the example of Kilifi, the only Coast county that delivered all but three MCA elective seats to ODM.
Today, however, Kilifi voters, including Governor Amason Kingi who orchestrated the ODM victory, are quietly mourning their actions. No one within the ODM hierarchy has ever publicly acknowledged, appreciated, or celebrated the party’s victory in Kilifi. Morally and materially, Kilifi has been left out of the ODM national leadership.
Not even the handshake has changed this. As state and public service openings have been offered by the Jubilee government to Opposition parties under the Building Bridges Initiative, no single person from Kilifi county has benefitted from the appointments.
contributing to the visible decline in ODM at the Coast. Similarly, these factors have also given rise to the rebellion by some ODM elected leaders.
The untold story among Coast natives is that they feel neglected by the ODM leadership. The leaders, on the other hand, are angry that the party leader has crossed over to Canaan alone, without them.
The rebellion against ODM is real and it is on the rise.
In the midst these unfolding events is the strong feeling that the region should be in government in 2022. This is particularly the case among the indigenous communities who have suffered the brunt of Opposition politics.
The problem, however, is to identify the drivers of this anticipated change, given the fractious nature of Coast politics