Two allies, one seat but who will Joho support?

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir during Eid Ul Fitri prayers in June. [File, Standard]
As Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho carves himself a central place in 2022 politics, a carefully crafted succession plan is rolling out for the seat he currently occupies.

Yesterday, Joho led a group of Coast leaders to meet former President Daniel Moi at his Kabarak home in a move seen as a continuation of his “handshake” with Baringo Senator Gideon Moi.

In Joho’s delegation to Kabarak was one young man in a blue suit and dark tie who on January 13, 2016 triggered a wave of events that defined politics of the Coastal city.

On that day, Joho and a host of MPs stormed Coast Region’s Police Headquarters to demand the release of the man, then just a Coast businessman. Among the MPs was Mvita’s Abdulswamad Nassir who missed out in yesterday’s Kabarak event.

Joho wanted the unconditional release of his friend whose arrest sparked a fierce dispute between himself and the then Regional Coordinator Nelson Marwa.

Fight for ODM

Harub Khatri had been thrashed into the limelight after Marwa sensationally linked him to violent crime. Khatri has since been elected Speaker of the Mombasa County Assembly.

Now, the 35-year-old car dealer is said to be the apple of Joho’s eye as far his succession politics is concerned.

The political grapevine suggests that Nassir may also be interested in this seat, a situation that will put him in contest with Khatri for the ODM party ticket.

Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo (Wiper), who has since shifted allegiance to DP William Ruto, also wants to be governor. There is no indication yet that Joho’s deputy William Kingi wants this seat.

Khatri, Nassir and Mbogo can be said to have sufficient finances to mount serious campaigns, but many factors will determine who succeeds Joho.

These include party affiliation, political connection and Joho’s support.

“Whoever secures the support of the political party popular in Mombasa at that time will prevail. At the moment, ODM is that party, which means Nassir and Khatri will go head to head to secure the primaries,” says political analyst Mohamed Alyaan.

Nassir enjoys name recognition. His father Ahmed Shariff Nassir was a national figure and a Kanu regional power broker in his days. The MP is serving his second term and his oratory skills are well established, according to his supporters who also point to his leadership of the Public Investment Committee (PIC) of the National Assembly as evidence of his impeccable and clean record.

Mbogo won his seat in a close race against Joho ally and former MP Rashid Bezimba, beating a strong ODM wave in Mombasa. Mbogo’s estrangement with Joho was never in doubt and no sooner had he secured the seat than he began to demonstrate his ambition for the governor’s seat. “The Joho camp cannot allow him to beat them in 2012,” says Alyaan.

Mbogo is said to be the preferred choice of Joho’s rivals within the business sector. 

“They (Joho axis) know that I’m a force in the 2022 governorship race,” he says.

It is no clear whether Joho is grooming a successor. Already, he is estranged with many MPs including those he assisted to secure seats in 2017 but who have since rallied to Ruto’s side. Joho has publicly denounced them.

Trusted friend

Lately, Nassir appears consumed with his role as PIC chairman and rarely travels with Joho, in part also because the governor has scaled down his functions.

Khatri, on the other hand, appears to be very close to Joho, attending most of the governor’s functions.

The wealthy Khatri, who is pursing university education, is cagey about the specifics of his political ambitions. But behind-the-scenes, Khatri’s political maneuvers portray a man keen to succeed Joho. “A politician without ambition has no business to be in politics,” he told Sunday Standard.

According to lawyer Abubakar Yusuf, Joho will back a “trusted friend” who will safeguard his political and business interest, not necessarily a political ally. Yusuf believes the governor will cast his lot with Khatri.

Joho’s friendship with Nassir has been mixed, ranging between strong alliance through estrangement to suspense. But the Mvita MP appears to be on solid ground within ODM and even among powerful forces in Kanu.

“When you look at the history of the three prospective aspirants, Khatri stands out as the most loyal to Joho. Remember that Nassir was once seen to be close to President Kenyatta when Joho could not see eye to eye with Jubilee’s mandarins. The Johos don’t forget easily,” said Yusuf.

Mbogo, an oil merchant, is a wealthy man in his own right, a fact that ensured his victory last year. In the past, ethnic Mijikenda politicians have fared badly in this race, despite the tribe enjoying a 39 per cent share of the vote. 

“A candidate from the Mijikenda can only win or mount a serious challenge if he is a Muslim and wealthy due to entrenched tribal and religious factors,” Prof Hassan Mwakimako told Sunday Standard last year.

Mwakimako and Yusuf agree that Mombasa County is heavily influenced by national politics because it is home to many upcountry people.

Governor Hassan Joho2022 politicsPresident Daniel MoiGideon Moi