ODM candidate for Mombasa County gubernatorial race Hassan Joho is likely not to participate in a joint debate by all candidates seeking the position.
Sources have intimated to Kahawa Tungu that Joho will not participate in the debates, despite his bravado and positioning as ‘unbeatable’. Joho is taking cue from other incumbents who are opting not to debate their competitors.
In Kisumu, incumbent governor Jack Ranguma failed to show up to debate ODM’s Prof. Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o.
Only in Nairobi did all the top gubernatorial candidates face each other.
The Mombasa debate had been billed as a clash of titans, pitting Senator Omar, Jubilee’s Suleiman Shabhal and Joho in a pre-match to the August polls.
Signs of Joho pulling out of the debate started showing with increased hostility to his bid following a series of low key campaigns in the coastal port city, where residents accuse him of doing too little to improve their welfare while spending too much time bickering with President Uhuru.
As the incumbent, the debate is seen as a referendum on Joho’s five years, with the likelihood of the other candidates digging dirt on him.
A recent poll puts him ahead of closest rival Omar at 36% to 34%. Other candidates polled less than 10%.
Joho initially wanted NASA Principals to convince other candidates not to run against him, a ploy that failed as Wiper had already endorsed Senator Hassan Omar to contest for the seat. The decision was also opposed by Ford Kenya which saw it as ODM taking other NASA affiliates for granted.
Silently, Ford Kenya is supporting the candidature of Omar while ANC has remained non-committal with its leader, Musalia Mudavadi, opting to remain neutral.
In this charged environment, Joho had hoped Raila will publicly endorse him, a development that is yet to come. Raila himself is navigating Mombasa politics at a time his Luo/Luhya stronghold in Mombasa have publicly backed Omar, accusing Joho of sidelining them for the last five years.
Jubilee on the other hand now has a sieged constituency following Joho’s incessant spats with President Uhuru which has totally sidelined a section of Mombasa ‘upcountry’ people, especially the Kikuyu and Kalenjin bloc which is sizable in Mombasa.
It is unclear if Shabal’s runningmate, Anania Mwaboza, being a Mijikenda, will tilt the Mijikenda votes. Mwaboza, then backed by Kibaki-led NAK gave Joho his first defeat on LDP ticket following the demise of the then former Tourism Minister and Kisauni MP Karisa Maitha.
Shabhal, an investment banker alongside Omar and Awiti have made Joho re-election a herculean task, despite his new found national celebrity status.