Mombasa county succession politics has begun in earnest with Governor Hassan Joho embracing his former bitter foe Suleiman Shahbal. Recent events suggest Joho may have settled on Shahbal who was his main challenger for the much coveted governor’s seat in 2017 on a Jubilee party ticket as his preferred successor with blessings from ODM leader Raila Odinga. Raila has since hosted Shahbal twice in Nairobi and vice versa. The return of the Mombasa gubernatorial loser into Mombasa county political limelight has poured cold water into Joho’s succession battle. This was evident when Shahbal donated assorted food he claimed was from Raila to Mombasa county emergency response committee on corona virus co-chaired by Mombasa county commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo and Joho. Mombasa deputy governor William Kingi avoided the function despite attending two other functions where he presided over and during Joho’s media briefing on the same day and at the same venue at the governor’s media centre.
Kingi skipped Shahbal’s handing over of the corona relief donation with county speaker Aharub Ibrahim Khatri also keeping his distance. From the body language, they were not happy with Joho’s former political rivals being given preference to succeed him yet they have not been part of Nasa’s formation. Before the drama unfolded, Kingi was left to preside over food donations from other organisations and individuals towards assisting county residents and families economically affected by the corona virus bug.Last month, Shahbal became one of the beneficiaries of Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila’s handshake after he was awarded a tender to uplift and renovate county estates. The development of the estates is to cost Sh2 billion and, 2000 families are expected to be evicted at any time when they are served with notices. But it is the same new owners who had moved to court to oppose the project who have now given it a go-ahead. The move comes after the architect of the project pulled out.
This new development was revealed during a joint exercise of disinfection of houses as a measure to curb the spread of the corona virus in the county. Shahbal who now wears a new hat from being Joho’s critic to his ally has been showering praises on him for his development projects in the county. He assured his former political rival of his support against the pandemic in the county during a brief ceremony at the launch of the project which was snubbed by Joho’s allies who had just after attended his earlier function at his office. Shahbal announced he will donate four ventilator machines to the county government apart from jointly funding a disinfection spray booth project. Joho on his part extended an olive branch to his other bitter political rivals to join him to defeat the deadly virus. The housing scheme project has thrown Joho’s succession race into disarray with potential frontrunners being forced to go back to the drawing board. The governor’s political adviser Idris Abdulrahman has been seconded to oversee the project.
Even though Joho has not yet gone public about his preferred successor, his body language is such that the likes of Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo, his deputy William Kingi and Khatri among other pretenders to the Mombasa governorship seat stand no chance. Mbogo who was elected on a Wiper party ticket had abandoned William Ruto’s Tangatanga faction and embraced Joho in the hope that the Sultan would endorse his candidature at the hour of need. However, since the romance between Joho and Shahbal blossomed from the start of the corona virus pandemic, Mbogo seems to have been politically wounded and is nowhere to be seen. Mbogo’s abandonment of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka after the elections is bound to negatively impact on him in the next general elections as Wiper supporters in Mombasa have vowed to avenge at the ballot.
Shahbal has been keen to work with Raila as evidenced by the overzealous manner he has been sharing photos he takes with the opposition leader. On the other hand, Raila wants Shahbal on his side to disable DP Ruto’s political prospects in Mombasa politics as there would be no other serious contender with resources on the other side capable of penetrating the port city. Former Mombasa senator Hassan Omar who is one of Ruto’s political advisers has lost political clout in the port city politics due to his long absence from social activities in the county. Many even think he has quit politics. Political observers also think Tourism CS Najib Balala will not be able to successfully challenge Shahbal for the governor’s seat if he has the support of Raila and Joho. Balala had initially mended fences with Joho but there are claims of fallout over the Mama Ngina water front renovations that allegedly saw individuals pocket millions of shillings in kickbacks.