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Hassan Joho, Hassan Omar rivalry a duel that never was

By Daniel Wesangula | Published Sun, August 13th 2017 at 00:00, Updated August 12th 2017 at 23:18 GMT +3
Hassan Joho and Hassan Omar. (Photo:Courtesy)

An upset looked likely.

For the first time, it looked like Mombasa’s self-proclaimed Sultan would lose his Sultanate to an abrasive, bare-knuckled challenger to his throne.

But after the dust had settled and the results tallied, the much-touted race for Mombasa’s top job was an anti-climax.

Mr Joho got just under 220,000 votes while Omar garnered just under 44,000 votes.

The official Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) results showed it was a no contest after all.

But what went wrong in Hassan Omar’s seemingly well-oiled campaign machinery that seemed certain to unseat the incumbent?

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First instant

Political operatives in Mombasa say there was never a contest in the first place and that the Omar candidacy was stillborn from the first instant and that he never quite shook off the ‘spoiler’ tag attributed to him.

This lack of trust and perception among Mombasa residents played out during the last National Super Alliance (NASA) rally at Mama Ngina drive grounds when hordes of Joho supporters chanted down the former senator and tried to block him from accessing the venue.

It took the intervention of the NASA co-principals and the police for Omar to make it to the grounds and address the crowds.

But that was not the end of his tribulations. When the NASA leader tried to tell Mombasa residents to exercise their democratic right and chose either of the two, the crowds only called out Joho’s name.

Omar, however, soldiered on believing he stood a chance.

Sources close to Omar say one of the blunders his campaign team committed was trying to be the bigger man.

Joho managed to curve out his image as a public defender largely through antagonising the State.

He was the main protagonist in a dance that often walked the thin line between political rhetoric and what others perceived to be disrespect to the presidency.

This move endeared him to the majority of coastal residents who have for generations felt slighted by successive governments.

Anyone with any ambition to dislodge him, could only succeed if they played up these emotions and going further than the in-your-face tactics employed by Joho.

But Omar grossly miscalculated by trying to appeal to the voter’s common sense.

The choice

From where he stood, the choice between him and Joho was a no-brainer.

He continually painted himself as a more educated, better suited and more sophisticated choice, forgetting, to his detriment, the power that comes with the masses seeing a reflection of themselves in the candidate of their choice.

In an emotionally charged election, where even the top contenders opted for mud-slinging instead of reason during most of the campaigns, Omar never came out strongly against Jubilee, the common enemy, and remained mum on speaking out against alleged Jubilee ills.

Instead, he concentrated on his rivals track record, attacking Joho’s educational history and tearing apart Joho’s track record and terming his stint as governor a disaster for the county.

Some say he thought this move would endear him to the neutrals in the county and guarantee him a huge chunk of the Jubilee vote thus edging him closer to unseating Joho.

This does not seem to have worked as even the Jubilee candidate Suleiman Shahbal, beat him by more than 20,000 votes.

Omar has been a fierce critic of the Mombasa governor and has on several occasions accused him of mismanaging the county as well as abuse of office and misappropriation of county resources.

Joho on the other hand, has described Omar as a power-hungry leader who is always advancing selfish interests.

The last opinion poll by polling company TIFA, predicted a 63 per cent win for Joho.

IEBC results show Joho got 64 per cent of the vote. The same poll put Omar at slightly over 6 per cent, a fact that he dismissed.

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