Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho is putting a brave face and is buoyant that he is retaining his seat but beneath the exuberance of the man who has single-handedly created the image of a “Sultan” is a man clutching at every straw to survive the August polls and retain his Mombasa gubernatorial seat.
And he has been long time lucky.
Joho rose around the same time another ODM rear-guard, Ababu Namwamba, former Secretary General and Budalangi MP, started sinking. The two were political buddies in a ‘team fresh’ formation that generated more light than heat, and eventually fizzled, having failed to wrestle the ODM grassroots machine from the more experienced historicals led by the late Otieno Kajwang’.
Granted, Joho quickly saw the folly of trying to torpedo ODM oldies, and sought audience with ODM Party Leader Raila Odinga who re-baptized him in the fold. Of course, for the ‘mistake’, he parted with millions, which culminated in him organizing an ODM 10th anniversary bonanza in Mombasa.
But what propelled him more to national notoriety was the penchant to pick wars with national government officials in Mombasa, especially Coast Regional Coordinator Nelson Marwa, and, thereafter, President Uhuru. Matters were made better for him by a series of missteps and false starts by a number of law enforcement agencies who joined in the anti-Joho political onslaught, making him dangle the victim card.
The Joho phenomenon has however suffered massive setbacks starting with his fallout with his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi, which sources say was over a woman. The two no longer see eye-to-eye and appear on the same podium only when summoned by Raila.
Joho had earlier fallen out with Senator Hassan Omar, more educated and reserved in his public differences with national government officials. Omar accuses Joho of running Mombasa County as his personal fiefdom, and also of presiding massive corruption.
During the ODM nominations, Joho engineered something of an anti-Luo coup in Mombasa, with nearly all Luos who had vied on ODM losing to Joho candidates, many of them his chosen stooges. The same fate nearly fell Luhya candidates who chose to vie on either Ford Kenya or ANC.
Kamba candidates had chosen Wiper, and got a boost from the welcoming attitude of Hassan Omar, the Wiper Secretary General.
All these three forces are supporting either Omar, Awiti or Shabhal.
While Joho projects a national image of a “can’t beat, can’t lose” candidate, in Mombasa, his candidature is facing real opposition from Senator Omar, former Nyali MP Awiti Bolo and Jubilee candidate Suleiman Shabhal. Observers say Joho will make it just because three are likely to divide the votes thus give him easy sail.
Joho’s recent call for ‘six piece’ in Homa Bay appeared more directed to the Luo audience in Mombasa than in Homa Bay. While he is desperate to win over the ‘upcountry’ vote, which is sizable in Mombasa, particularly the Luo and Luhya vote, the bloc appears to have fell off his grip.
So bad is the situation that Joho at some point roped in Raila to persuade the Luo to back him, a ploy that fell flat as the Luo group told Raila off. Since then, the ODM Leader has avoided campaigning in Mombasa.
Considering that the Kikuyu vote bloc may likely vote Jubilee entirely; or, at worst, vote either Omar or Awiti; Joho cannot bank on it. He can also not bank on the Kamba vote, which is likely to vote for Wiper’s Omar.
His appeal to young people and first time voters appear more cosmetic and national, rather than in Mombasa, where again Omar, Awiti and Shabhal seem to be doing just as well.
Joho is weak on the ground, but the final verdict will be on August. Our conclusion is that Mombasa race is open, and the incumbent can lose.