Sonko bid stirs debate as jobless youth see saviour

Wiper Leader Hon Kalonzo Musyoka and former Nairobi governor Mike Sonko received in Changamwe. [Dennis Kavisu]

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko yesterday postponed the launch of his bid for Mombasa governor seat, amid debate on effects of him joining Coast politics.

Tononoka Grounds where Sonko was scheduled to launch his bid to succeed Governor Hassan Joho had been booked by Wiper Senate aspirant Abdulsalaam Kassim.

Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo who is also Sonko's running mate claimed the event was postponed following intelligence reports of plans to disrupt it.

"We were informed that some youth had been given money to disrupt our meeting. We are planning a bigger launch," Mbogo said.

A receipt issued by the County Government of Mombasa indicates that Kassim booked the venue for a boxing match.

"It is not true that they were denied access. One of their aspirants paid Sh12,000 to hold a boxing match there," said Mombasa County Secretary Job Tumbo. 

Meanwhile, debate is raging at the Coast over the impact of Sonko's candidature on Joho who has dominated Coast politics for the last 15 years through ODM.

Political analysts concur that Sonko could be a catalyst to the shifting political landscape at the Coast, gradually tilting to the disadvantage of the Orange party.

“The dynamics of politics are rapidly shifting. It started last year with Deputy President William Ruto's forays,” said Mbwana Abdalla, a political analyst.

Before Sonko joined the race to succeed Joho, Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir’s path to governor's seat appeared clearer after he secured ODM ticket on April 20.

Nassir’s quest was also bolstered after Joho and some Mombasa tycoons publicly backed his bid. Significantly, banker Suleiman Shahbal also rejected calls from his supporters to run as an independent candidate and rallied them behind Nassir.

In an interview, Prof Halim Shauri of Pwani University said Nassir links with Joho and ODM's bungled nomination could be the proverbial Achilles Heel on his candidature.

"Sonko will continue from where Shahbal left in referring to Nassir as Joho's project. It looks like Joho incumbency has more disadvantage than advantages," said Shauri.

Former Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association chair Peter Otieno said Sonko found a fertile ground of frustrated voters and traders.

He said in the last 10 years, the cost of doing business in Mombasa had doubled or tripled and traders could easily be swayed by Sonko's rhetoric.

"Rates for single permits in Mombasa are higher than in Nairobi. A showroom with up to 25 vehicles is charged Sh50,000 in Mombasa and Sh25,000 in Nairobi," said Otieno.

He said unemployed youths in Mombasa will see the Sonko Rescue Team as a God sent opportunity to eke out a living and "this could make a difference in the election."

But Sonko has come under attack for trying to tap into the alleged frustrations of 65 per cent of upcountry businessmen especially owners of bars and other entertainment joints.

In recent years, Joho has been torn between supporting the entertainment industry and radical proposals from religious groups to reduce the number of bars.