Kenya: Raila Odinga's Headache in Hassan Joho Succession in Mombasa

The race to succeed Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho in next year's polls has put ODM leader Raila Odinga in a tight corner as the contest is pitting a perceived loyalist against a party hopper, with each of them seeking his backing.

Mombasa businessman Suleiman Shahbal, who announced his defection from the ruling Jubilee coalition and return to ODM, has sent back to the drawing board Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, who had all along expected to have an easy nomination to contest for the top county seat on the Orange party's ticket.

Mr Nassir has been an ODM loyalist, while Mr Shahbal defected to Jubilee when his attempt to unseat Mr Joho on an ODM ticket flopped after he failed to clinch the party's nomination.

Mr Odinga's visit to the Coast on Thursday last week raised the stakes as he maintained the party will conduct competitive nominations to choose the party's flagbearer for the county's top seat.

Mr Nassir has put on a brave face in the wake of the new competition, as Mr Odinga's meeting with Mr Shabhal and announcement of a competitive nomination contest appears to have rubbed him the wrong way.

Campaign season

Speaking at the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital, Mr Nassir castigated Mr Shahbal, who in the last campaign season made life hard for ODM members while he campaigned for Jubilee.

"We have seen some who have been at the forefront tarnishing Raila's name and his party claiming it's a tribal outfit are back. I would like to tell him, I will be the Mombasa governor on an ODM ticket since we know voters and the party is not short of mind. They can recall and know who is for his own interests and does not have the party in his heart," said Mr Nassir.

Earlier, Mr Nassir had expressed his hope to get a direct party nomination to run for the governor's position after Mr Shahbal announced his move to ditch Jubilee, saying "the cost of party loyalty is expensive."

During last week's event, Governor Hassan Joho, who is the party deputy leader, seemed to favour Mr Nassir as his successor.

National politics

"I have done enough during my two terms as governor, now I will leave the office next year and move to the higher stage of national politics and leave regional politics in Mr Nassir's hands. I don't know what he will do since I have done a lot," said Mr Joho.

Mr Nassir has been an ODM member and a close ally of Mr Joho but recently Mr Shahbal has been getting cosy with the county administration, raising questions on just who will succeed the outgoing governor.

A number of Mr Joho's 2017 campaign team members have also become involved in Mr Shahbal's campaign strategies.

Mr Shahbal has maintained that he left ODM because he had no space since Mr Joho was in the party's inner circle.

"As you know we cannot have two leaders in one house and that is why I moved to Jubilee but now that there is a vacancy, I will return where I belong," he said.

Details of a closed-door meeting on Thursday between Mr Shahbal and Mr Raila in Nyali have remained scanty, but sources familiar with the discussions said Mr Shahbal was promised free and fair nominations.

akitimo@ke.nationmedia.com

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