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Joho electrifies NASA base, but what lies ahead for his rising star?

By Patrick Beja | Published Sat, February 3rd 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 2nd 2018 at 22:45 GMT +3
Governor Hassan Joho
Governor Hassan Ali Joho

The political star of Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho is on a steady rise, with his appearance at NASA leader Raila Odinga’s ‘swearing-in’ ceremony adding to his fortunes.

Joho not only attended the function but spoke to invite Raila. In tow with Joho at the Uhuru Park function were Mombasa Senator Mohamed Faki, Mvita MP Abdulswamad Sharif Nassir and other vocal Coast ODM leaders.

As expected, his security as well as that of Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi and other ODM leaders has been withdrawn in apparent retribution for his audacity.

Many analysts believe Joho’s stature within Opposition ranks has grown to a new high. Some even allege he is a leading contender in the Uhuru Kenyatta succession contest, with a Jubilee leader claiming Joho should team up with DP William Ruto for the 2022 contest.

Joho’s supporters refuse to discuss this matter but dismiss a union with Ruto as off the cards. Sticking by Raila’s side, his rare show of bravery, driving the ODM agenda and fighting Jubilee for political space in the region has made him stand out as a politician.

Notable politicians

After months of relative quiet following the end of the electioneering period last year, Joho made the most of NASA co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula’s absence at Raila’s big day at Uhuru Park, Nairobi.

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Being the senior most ODM member at the function as deputy party leader, he got the privilege to invite Raila to take the “oath of office”, stealing the show.

Other notable politicians who stood with Raila at the forum were Siaya Senator James Orengo, Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang and activist Miguna Miguna.

Besides his appearance at the tension-packed event, Joho had sent a large delegation of 30 buses to the function.

Since 2013, the governor has stamped his authority in Coast politics after successfully leading the onslaught against Jubilee and maintaining ODM’s dominance, particularly in Mombasa County. In the August 8, 2017 elections, ODM clinched the governorship, senate, woman representative, four of the six parliamentary seats and 27 of 30 county assembly seats in Mombasa. The party almost swept the board in neighbouring Kilifi County where he has had a firm grip. With Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, Joho has had numerous run ins with the Jubilee government.

Now, Coast leaders led by MPs Mishi Mboko of Likoni and Malindi’s Aisha Jumwa have began a campaign for Joho or Kingi to be elevated to the position of NASA principal owing to their efforts to maintain Opposition dominance in the region.

Observers agree that Joho’s style of politics has elevated him to a dominant position at the Coast. Pwani University lecturer Hassan Mwakimako believes the absence of Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula at Uhuru Park only served to brighten the Mombasa governor’s rising star.

“By being at Uhuru Park, Joho again made himself stand out, particularly with the absence of other senior opposition politicians. It also proved his closeness to Raila. What he did is what many people look out for in a leader,” Prof Mwakimako told Saturday Standard.

“Although some have opposed his leadership style, Joho has proved his power and control of Mombasa after maintaining a firm grip on the county assembly,” he adds.

Mwakimako considers Joho and Kingi independent politicians who only come together to fight for a common cause such as the current secession campaign at the Coast.

“Kingi has not contributed anything to Joho’s rise in politics. The two only walk together when addressing issues of common interest. They are their own men,” he said.

Maimuna Mwidau, a political analyst, said the Mombasa governor has proven to be dependable and trustworthy to Raila.

“Joho has proven himself a hero particularly in his Coast political base. The only problem he may run into is the ongoing government purge for elements who took a leading role at Uhuru Park, “ Ms Mwidau said.

But others believe his star will soon dim. Former Kisauni MP Ananiah Mwaboza told Saturday Standard Joho was “dying’ for Raila for nothing as he will gain nothing in a party dominated by influential people from Nyanza region. “Joho is being used because of his ability to fund party activities and his position in the party. He will get nothing in return because ODM has its owners,” Mwaboza, the Mombasa Jubilee Party governor running mate in the last election, said.

Mwaboza said there are no permanent enemies in politics and urged the Mombasa governor to start working with Ruto in preparation for a “bigger” political stake in 2022 general election.

“I am urging governor Joho to look for political avenues where he will reap big in 2022. He should turn to Ruto,” Mwaboza argued. Joho has had to fight many battles with outgoing Coast Regional Coordinator Nelson Marwa who withdrew his security detail on more than one occasion and threatened to lock him up over the violence that occurred during the 2016 Malindi by-election.

As an incessant thorn on Jubilee’s neck, Joho was once barred from a presidential function to launch a ferry in Mtongwe, Mombasa, last year.

At the function, the President accused the governor of trailing him like “his wife” and “chest thumping to appear a hero by attacking the President”. “They should stop following me. I am not his wife. He should come here and explain what he has done for this country,” an agitated Uhuru said, warning to teach him a lesson.

Speaking later to journalists, Joho revealed how he managed to get into town in a private vehicle which was eventually impounded at the bridge.

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