Crowded race for governor’s seat puts Joho in the spotlight

ODM, Wiper find themselves in tight spot as titans vow to run against former ally, citing pressure from business and religious leaders.

Wednesday February 3 2016

Cord leader Raila Odinga (left), Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho (right and former Chief Kadhi Hamad Kassim (Centre) at the unveiling of Prof Ali Mazrui Road on January 27, 26. Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar and Nyali MP have announed they will contest for the governor's seat in 2017 polls. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Cord leader Raila Odinga (left), Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho (right and former Chief Kadhi Hamad Kassim (Centre) at the unveiling of Prof Ali Mazrui Road on January 27, 26. Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar and Nyali MP have announed they will contest for the governor's seat in 2017 polls. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MWAKERA MWAJEFA
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The  race for Mombasa governor’s seat has become crowded after Senator Hassan Omar and Nyali MP Hezron Awiti said they would be seeking to dislodge Mr Ali Hassan Joho next year.

Former Gulf Bank boss Suleiman Shahbal is also expected to formally announce his candidature. Mr Shahbal lost the seat to Mr Joho in the March 4, 2013 general elections.

Only last month, he caused a stir when he said Jubilee would win next year’s election by whatever means, remarks that attracted criticism from opposition and ruling coalition politicians.

While announcing his interest in the governor’s seat, Mr Omar said he was responding to pressure from the business community, professionals and religious leaders.

Mr Joho is the Orange Democratic Movement Deputy Party Leader while Mr Omar is the Secretary-General of Wiper Democratic Movement. Mr Awiti is the National Treasurer.

Should the two parties conduct separate nominations, then Mr Omar and Mr Awiti will have to square it out first.

However, if ODM and Wiper combine their nomination under Cord, the three will meet at the primaries with the winner facing off with Mr Shabhal in the elections.

Tuesday, Mr Omar told the Nation that pressure from Mombasa residents had made him rescind his earlier decision to defend the senatorial seat.

“People cannot take it any longer,” he said by phone in reference to Mr Joho’s leadership. “Nothing is moving forward and this is what we want to correct in 2017.”

(READ: Awiti: I will vie against Joho in 2017)

JITTERS

According to Mr Omar, the calls for him to go for the top county seat were “too many for me to resist”.

The senator’s decision to throw his hat in the ring has caused jitters among Wiper supporters in Changamwe and Likoni constituencies where the party enjoys a huge support.

In a phone interview, Likoni Uwezo Fund Chairman Salim Abdalla asked the party leader to ensure that the two politicians do not undermine each other if Wiper is to get an upper hand over Orange.

“Wiper is the party to watch, come next year so we cannot spoil the party by undercutting our chances to take the gubernatorial seat from ODM,” he said.

Mr Joho’s political adviser Abdurahman Idris, declined to comment on the development, saying the attention of the region was on the Malindi by-election to be held next month.

He said Mr Joho was concentrating on helping the party to retain its seat during the Malindi by-election.

Welcoming Mr Omar’s entrance into the race, Shirikisho Party of Kenya Organising Secretary Adam Mbeto said it would open the democratic space for the electorate to make wise decisions next year.

According to him, this would eradicate ‘party blocks’ and created other alliances that would compete on equal footing.

“As it is, there is no Opposition in Mombasa. There is no alternative voice that can question the governor,” he said.

Former MP Mohamed Jahazi welcomed Mr Omar’s decision, saying it would offer “a very interesting” political scenario when campaigns begin.

“Most of the leaders we have now are one-term politicians who use foul language and chest-thump without caring about decency or decorum,” he said.

Kongwea MCA Jabass Oduor of ODM said the announcement of Mr Omar and Mr Awiti to vie for the governorship was a blessing for the Cord family as it would create competition from within.

“Accountability and transparency will be the buzzwords for those eyeing any elective seat next year,” he said.

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