How Uhuru, Nyong’o, & Balala came up with the name ODM

Retracing ODM roots

How Uhuru, Nyong’o, & Balala came up with the name

The ODM party has recently been the subject of political talk especially among Jubilee leaders allied to Deputy President William Ruto.

In an interview last week, Ruto said ODM leader Raila Odinga and his team was causing division in the ruling party by luring members who previously belonged to the orange party.

The sentiments were repeated last night by Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa who accused his colleague in Jubilee, Ngunjiri Wambugu, of having gone back to Odinga’s ODM - a party which he branded as "synonymous with chaos".

What many Jubilee politicians and members may not understand, however, is that both President Kenyatta and Ruto have deep roots in ODM.

Kalonzo Musyoka

Indeed, Kenyatta was among the three politicians who came up with the idea and coined the name ODM.

In 2005, at the height of the campaigns to have a new constitution, Kenyatta led the side opposed to a new constitution to counter President Mwai Kibaki who was leading the yes team.

In Kenyatta’s corner was also the LDP wing of the NARC coalition that was led by Odinga and included among others, Kalonzo Musyoka, Anyang’ Nyong’o, the late William Ntimama, and Najib Balala.

According to Nation journalist Billy Muiruri, on September 25, 2005, Kenyatta led the no campaign in Kisumu and happened to have been seated close to Balala and Nyong’o.

The three were chatting about the need to create a political movement that would unite them – given that they were from different political parties but had common political goals at the time,

Nyong’o, then a Cabinet Minister and now Kisumu Governor, is said to have proposed the Orange Democratic Front (ODF).

Orange was the symbol that the no side had been given by the electoral body, while the yes side had a banana for their symbol.

Balala did not like ODF and suggested that it was likely to be associated with communism.

Let’s call it Orange Democratic Movement…a movement of ideas and good governance,” he went on to explain.

Kenyatta immediately liked the name and Nyong’o agreed that the name would be easy to sell.

For the next year, ODM was a political force but it only existed informally as a formation bringing various leaders.

Mugambi Imanyara

At this time, a strategic city lawyer Mugambi Imanyara, quietly registered ODM as his political party.

On August 24th, 2006, the movement was registered as a political party - ODM Kenya through lawyer Dan Maanzo (current Makueni MP) and a close ally of Kalonzo Musyoka.

It was at this time that Kenyatta walked away from ODM, as he wanted to keep the Kanu as an independent party under the orange movement.

Ruto also defected from Kanu and went to ODM.

Musyoka maintained an upper hand as he had been in competition with Odinga for the party’s ticket in the 2007 presidential election was quickly approaching.

In late 2007, Odinga walked out of ODM Kenya and joined ODM – leaving ODM Kenya with Musyoka.

Odinga did not only walk away with his loyal troops, but he walked away with other presidential candidates – William Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi, Joe Nyaga, and Musalia Mudavadi – after convincing them that Kalonzo would not give them a fair chance in the nominations.

The five formed what became the ODM pentagon whose only remaining member in ODM is Odinga.

Kalonzo’s ODM Kenya later rebranded to become the Wiper Democratic Party of Kenya. 

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