Joho ambition to take over Raila's mantle remains a daunting task

ODM Leader Raila Odinga shares a word with former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho during the Azimio la Umoja rally at Bamba Sokoni grounds in Kilifi County on February 19, 2022. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Former Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho faces a daunting task in his ambition to take over the mantle of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in his quest to contest for the presidency.

However, Joho fancies his chances in the race to take over the post of ODM leader after Raila Odinga declared his intention to run for the Africa Union AU Commission chairmanship.

Last week, Joho dared his co-deputy party leader and former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya to brace for a major political battle for the post of ODM party leader.

“I want to send a clear message today to Oparanya to be ready for a political battle,” said Mr Joho, who described himself as Raila’s oldest loyal student, supporter and financier.

During last week’s tour of Mombasa, Raila rejected Joho’s overtures for an endorsement for the ODM presidential ticket, telling the former governor to seek the support of party delegates.

Raila appeared irked after Joho persisted with his call for the former prime minister to pave the way for him, and at one-point lamenting how he had supported the party in kind and money.

Seeking endorsement

“I joined ODM as a young man and I’ve supported Raila in cash and kind, during good and bad times. Is it bad for me to tell him as our father to now endorse me as his child?” asked Joho.

He added: “It is time for a coastal candidate to run for the presidency in ODM. Kama mbaya, ni mbaya. Kama ni noma ni noma (If it’s bad, so be it. If it’s chaos, so be it.”

Now, Coast political analysts interviewed agree that it was Joho’s democratic right to contest for any political seat in the country but differ on whether he has what it takes to win the post.

They say Joho’s waning political base, past miscalculations, and current political and business wars with the Kenya Kwanza regime are some of the challenges that could derail his bid.

Firstly, some analysts say Joho’s major undoing was his inability to reinvent or rebrand his modus operandi like his “political father” Raila.

“Joho failed to learn one key lesson from Baba. Raila understands the fluidity of Kenyan politics and sees opportunities from afar. Raila never misses them,” says Maimuna Mwidau, highlighting the NDP merger with Kanu, LDL joining NARC, the formation of Grand Coalition, the handshake, or the current reconciliation talks that has bred an opportunity for Raila at the African Union Commission.

Ms Mwidau, a women’s advocate and political analyst, says unlike Joho, Raila quickly mends the fence with his perceived sworn political nemeses after a loss to revamp himself.

“After almost 18 months’ absence of the country’s high-octane politics, Joho’s should have rebranded his politics but I saw the same political bravado and chest-thumping from his speech. 

“He is young with means and will to lead ODM but must shed off old habits that portrayed him as aloof and reach out to other Coast politicians to establish a political base,” she said. 

Mr Salim Yahya, a policy analyst in Mombasa, said Joho has a following among the youth across the country, but politics was local and the numbers one brings to the table count.

Mwidau and Yahya said Senator Ali Roba of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) sits at the table of national politics because he has support from parts of North Eastern.

“Joho, like Ali Roba, should at least have three of the six counties at the Coast behind him. It will not be easy given we now have new faces of these counties’ politics,” said Mwidau.

Secondly, Pwani University’s Prof Hassan Mwakimako said Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir’s rising star in Coast politics could eclipse Joho’s past glory or power in the region.

“Nassir and other Coast governors would not wish to be controlled by Joho or to allow him to be a major factor in their re-election bid,” said Mwakimako.

In Mombasa, Nassir has had an easy connection with the County Assembly and enjoys the support of all the six Coast MPs, including Nyali’s Mohamed Ali of (UDA).

During Raila’s tour in Mombasa, it was clear that some MPs were opposed to Joho’s re-emergence in the politics of the county, sparking debate on what his true intentions were.

“People must accept that there are no two governors in Mombasa. We elected Abdulswamad Nassir, not anyone else,” said Jomvu MP Badi Twalib during the meeting.

During his 10-year reign, Joho had an on-and-off relationship with most of the MPs like Badi and Changamwe’s Omar Mwinyi. He could not however see eye to eye with Nyali’s Ali.

“Other than Kilifi’s Gideon Mung’aro, Joho opposed all other five governors in the 2022 election, including Nassir at the initial stages. I do not know if he has reached out to them,” said Yahya.

But his critics say Joho thrives in the politics of confrontation that characterised the Coast between the 1980s and 90s during the era of Governor Nassir’s father, the late Shariff Nassir, Salim Mwaruwa, and the late Karisa Maitha and former MP Said Hemed Ibrahim.

Evans Mayaka, a political and human rights activist in Mombasa’s Kisauni, said Joho was a student of confrontational politics, which he had practiced since 2004.

The 51-year-old Joho joined politics in 2004 after Karisa Maitha’s death. Maitha died as Kisauni MP, and he is said to have been a close friend of Joho.

Joho launched a flamboyant campaign for the Kisauni seat, moving around with a long line of sleek cars under the sponsorship of the then Liberal Democratic Party of Raila.

He lost to Anania Mwaboza after Coast leaders led by the current Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana, former ministers Morris Dzoro and Chirau Ali Mwakwere ganged up against him.

Joho’s family is fabled to be immensely rich having engaged in the import and export business, including operating Container Freight Stations in Mombasa and Nairobi.

Thirdly, Joho is not new in battles for the control of ODM, having previously teamed up with the current Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba in the botched party elections in 2014.

Prof Mwakimako argues that Joho will also have to contend with forces in ODM who look at him suspiciously after the botched 2014 “hostile takeover” of the party from Raila.

“He may think people have forgotten but ODM leaders from Nyanza would see his aggressive bid for ODM as the extension of the 2014 Namwamba-Joho plan,” said Mwakimako.

Joho has had a good relationship with Namwamba. Last Sunday, a day before he declared his presidential bid, he was captured on camera with the CS at Vipingo Ridge Golf course.

Meanwhile, the business empire of the family of Joho has come under threat following the cancellation of leases and contracts worth billions of shillings linked to the Port of Mombasa.