Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho is becoming a force to reckon with in the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) and in national politics.
His steady rise and quest for the presidency in 2022 was once again evident when he joined Cord leader Raila Odinga and other leaders in the Kisumu prayer meeting held in the memory of anti-IEBC protest victims two weeks ago.
Mr Joho rode into the Kirembe grounds in the same car with Mr Odinga and gracefully waved to the enthusiastic crowd.
Mr Joho’s presence attracted wild cheers from the crowd.
He later sat on the seat reserved for Cord co-principal Moses Wetang’ula on Mr Odinga’s left. The former Premier and Mr Joho could be seen exchanging pleasantries throughout the occasion.
His close relationship with the Cord leader and his steady rise in the country’s politics puts him, pundits say, in vantage position in the race to succeed Mr Odinga when he retires from active politics.
At the prayer rally, Mr Joho gave the latest hint that he is keen on succeeding Mr Odinga in the Orange party.
He spoke after Kisumu Senator Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o and Governor Jack Ranguma and his Siaya counterpart Cornel Rasanga had addressed the gathering as well as Cord co-ordinators Senators Johnstone Muthama (Machakos) and James Orengo (Siaya).
Mr Joho seems to command respect from his fellow governors and other Cord leaders despite holding the position of deputy party leader in ODM and not the coalition.
Whether it was deliberate or not, Prof Nyong’o introduced Mr Joho as the de facto vice-president after many speakers referred to the former premier as the president.
When he took to the podium, Mr Joho took on Deputy President William Ruto, warning him against insulting Mr Odinga at the slightest opportunity.
“Just like Uhuru who was elected by millions of people demands respect, it is the same way Raila who was elected by millions of people deserves the same respect. Ruto should stop making demeaning remarks against our coalition leader; let him address me, I am his equal,” said Mr Joho.
The Mombasa County boss presented himself as the best bet for Cord, saying that the current struggle is to ensure they push for the necessary electoral reforms that will steer Mr Odinga to State House and later hand over to him in 2022.
“Raila is a loving, caring, patriotic and a good leader, that is why we want him to lead this country. The people of Nyanza region must register as voters in huge numbers to propel Baba to State House. As Coast, we will support you and also ask for the same when I contest the presidency in 2022,” said Mr Joho, amidst cheers from the crowd.
Having delivered Malindi to ODM, 40-year-old Joho seems to have increased the affection and confidence of party supporters and leaders towards him. His position as Mr Odinga’s deputy is critical to the Coast region which he has managed to rally behind the Cord leader.
Before that, he seemed to be on the opposing side during the period when ODM party elected new leaders to the executive council. He was in “Team Fresh” with ODM secretary-general Ababu Namwamba while Mr Odinga was said to be allied to “Team Zani” whose leader was the late Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang’.
But he stood his ground and this bore fruit after an alternative office proposed by Mr Odinga was approved.
His outspoken nature seems to have earned him a place at the helm of the Cord coalition. This was illustrated when he stood firm and even dared the Head of State earlier this year in Mombasa for by-passing him and taking two weeks in the region without involving him in the tour.
Political analyst Dr Adams Oloo says Mr Joho has been a darling to many owing to his loyalty to ODM.
He says the Mombasa County boss remains the kingpin in Coast region.
He argues that Mr Joho has been able to neutralise the influence the Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro-led rebel team had started gaining in the coast region.
“Love him or hate him, Joho has shown he can stand up to anybody including the President. Of all Cord governors, it is Joho and Amason Kingi (Kilifi) who have stood out as courageous enough to take on the President and that makes them more attractive to opposition supporters,” said Dr Oloo.
While lauding Mr Joho’s move to go for the presidency, Dr Oloo, however, felt that those who are talking about the 2022 presidency are being unrealistic as it is still a long way that could witness re-alignments in politics.
He gave examples of Mr Joho, Meru Governor Peter Munya, Deputy President Ruto and Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto.
Mr Joho’s aggressive nature was evident in the way he handled Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko and Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu during the Malindi by-election. He also differed on various occasions with Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa on security matters.
Mr Marwa is known nationally as a no-nonsense administrator. Then came Joho’s tussle with Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery over the withdrawal of his firearms, a matter that went to court and the Mombasa governor won. Mr Joho also organised the first protests at the Coast over the IEBC issue after he returned from a trip to Turkey.
In recent weeks, he has announced a series of projects when he unveiled a masterplan for Mombasa.
As part of the plan, Mr Joho says he intends to oversee the construction of tens of thousands of new houses on the Island town to position it as one of the region’s key cities.
He has faced several challenges brought against him, from his university degree credentials being questioned, to his family port businesses being closed down.
The Bachelor of Economics graduate is said to be wealthy and well connected.
Mr Joho’s moves are definitely being watched with interest by other politicians both among Jubilee politicians and also within Cord.