Governor Hassan Joho keeps friend and foe guessing on next step

Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho has kept his political friends and foes guessing on his next move.

There are doubts whether he still has ambitions of running for the presidency in the 2022 general election.

Although his allies maintain that he was seeking the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket to run for the presidency, many have raised doubts that he was keen to challenge party leader Raila Odinga.

A fortnight ago, Joho said he will support Raila if he runs in 2022, a significant climb down from his early stance that he will battle it out with his party boss.

During Raila’s recent visit to the Coast, the governor appeared to slow down on his push to rival his boss.

Joho had in the past indicated that he could vie for a parliamentary seat of his choice in Mombasa, which was seen as aimed to make himself eligible for Cabinet appointment once the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) sails through.

But with BBI on hold, it is unclear whether Joho was drafting a post-Raila plan, especially after meeting other politicians like Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi.

While some of his allies maintained that the governor has his eyes on the ball, others said they could not tell what he was up to unless he speaks.

Joho’s trusted lieutenant and Mombasa deputy speaker Fadhil Makarani yesterday said the governor will be in the presidential race.

“Joho still wants to be the ODM presidential candidate. But he is ready to back Baba (Raila) if he wins in the nominations. He also expects him to reciprocate. That position still stands as far as I know,” said Makarani.

Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho at Churo Girls in Tiaty, Baringo County. August 26, 2018. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

He explained that Joho’s recent efforts to reach out to other leaders like Governor Waiguru was part of the efforts to unite the country, in the spirit of the Handshake and BBI.

However, another ally of Joho, Mombasa Senator Mohamed Faki, said it’s only Governor Joho who can confirm his next political move.

“Whether Governor Joho will run for the presidency is a matter that can only be confirmed by him,” he said.

Political analyst Maimuna Mwidau expressed doubt that Joho was serious in challenging Raila for the ODM ticket.

“Governor Joho has a democratic right to seek the ODM ticket, but I do not think he can challenge Raila who is the key player in the party. He can only become an ODM candidate if Raila steps down. And Raila has not indicated that he is stepping down for anyone,” she said.

“The chances of Joho or Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya are zero. Joho’s declaration to vie for the presidency is a strategy to position himself for a big position if his party or alliance wins.”

Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

She noted that this could be particularly possible if BBI comes to life and Raila’s side wins the next elections, that way, many seats including in cabinet can be distributed to the party members.

According to Mwidau, Joho has chances of being on the presidential ballot only if he runs on another party. “At the moment, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi has a chance to run for the presidency if he registers the party he has been pushing for. He is the only hope for Coast,” she said.

University don Hassan Mwakimako observed that Governor Joho could be looking for political relevance in his push for the ODM presidential ticket.

“Governor Joho has no chances of being a presidential candidate through ODM,” he said.

Prof Mwakimako said that if ODM wins the presidency and particularly if the BBI sails through, Governor Joho could be a beneficiary of a key seat. “I think his main game plan is to get a big seat in the next government if his party wins,” he said.