Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho is savouring his new-found status as the political supremo of Coast region following ODM’s victory in the Malindi by-election early this month.
His growing popularity was evident at a public function he attended on Saturday in Mombasa, with two local leaders endorsing him for the presidency come 2022.
Kisauni MP Rashid Bedzimba and Mombasa County Assembly Speaker Thaddeus Rajwayi said Joho’s successful campaign that saw ODM retain the hotly contested Malindi seat is proof of his growing popularity.
“The by-election showed that, God willing, the presidency will one day come from the Coast. In 2022, Joho could be the president of this country,” said Mr Bedzimba.
He criticised the government for withdrawing Joho’s bodyguards and for asking him to surrender his guns, adding: “Hapa ni tingisho walipata, wameleta vitisho bado vituko mpaka wengine wanasema wameweka red line (They see a threat in Joho and that is why he is being given warnings here and there). We are governed by law, not threats.
“Mr Kenyatta was nurtured by his supporters until he became President, same with Kalonzo Musyoka, Raila Odinga and others,” he added while urging Nyanza, Western and other regions to support the Coast bid.
Mr Rajwayi said, “Mr Joho went to Malindi as deputy leader of ODM and the campaigns he held were on behalf of the party. The year 2017 is Raila’s turn, after that it is Joho’s.”
Mr Rajwayi dubbed Mr Joho “Nyarwath,” Luo for mature cow that fights off aggressors.
Mr Joho had on Thursday been forced to prevail upon his supporters not to hold a planned procession to escort him from Moi International Airport to his Nyali home.
A meet the people tour had also been scheduled for Friday but Mr Joho advised against it, saying it would raise political temperatures unnecessarily, stated his political advisor, Mr Idris Abdirahman.
Pundits list instances where Mr Joho, 39, has displayed rare defiance to the powers that be - from telling President Kenyatta to his face in January that he ought to respect county chiefs, to leading the successful Malindi campaigns despite a strong local team of Jubilee-leaning leaders led by Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro, the deposed chairman of the Coast parliamentary group.
Many now see Mr Joho as a heir apparent to Mr Odinga, who for long has been criticised for not grooming a successor.
Mr Odinga’s spokesman, Mr Denis Onyango, has not spared any opportunity to feather Mr Joho’s cap.
In one occasion he said: “When a man is on his way up, only a fake regime and fake generals can pin their hopes on withdrawal of bodyguards and guns as a way of stopping him”.
Whereas the national government insist its order to surrender the guns is not malicious, the county chief says he is being harassed over the Malindi outcome where Jubilee’s Philip Charo was floored by ODM’s Willy Mtengo.
“Tell him if he has not surrendered his guns by 2pm today we will arrest him. Today 2pm he is in jail,” Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery told a Senate committee last week. Mr Joho later obtained a court injunction against the order.
Jubilee’s Nairobi senator Mike Sonko says, “What we are demanding, as the government of the day, is total respect for the President. We will not allow Joho to talk at the President and get away with it.”
To the Orange party, what the governor has gone through is political persecution.
This could work in his favour as he seeks to defend his seat in 2017.
Nyali MP Awiti Bolo and vocal Senator Hassan Omar have their eyes trained on the governor’s seat.