DON'T WRITE ME OFF

Joho aims for bigger national role after leaving office

Coast leaders endorse Raila for president, Joho expected to step aside but play major role

In Summary

•The ODM deputy party leader likely to give way to Raila for president but hints at bigger role in Coast and national politics.

• He made the announcement as his closest allies on Saturday endorsed Raila for the ODM ticket to run for president in 2022.

Vibrant Democratic Party leader Hezron Awiti, ODM leader Raila Odinga and ODM deputy leader Hassan Joho, the Mombasa governor, at Wild Waters Complex on Saturday.
WELCOME: Vibrant Democratic Party leader Hezron Awiti, ODM leader Raila Odinga and ODM deputy leader Hassan Joho, the Mombasa governor, at Wild Waters Complex on Saturday.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho has told off critics who say his influence in the Coast region is waning ahead of the end of his two terms in 2022.

The ODM deputy party leader, who has said he wants to run for president, on Saturday hinted will step aside but plans for a bigger role in Coast regional and national politics.

“You need to know that I am not bankrupt of ideas,” Joho said at the Wild Waters Complex during the ODM Coast delegates conference. It is also the the Coast Leaders and Professionals Azimio la Umoja Forum.

It brought together by more than 600 ODM delegates from  the six Coastal counties and other political and professional leaders from the Coast and beyond.

Joho, who appeared to back down on his presidential ambitions in favour of Raila, said he is not afraid to retire from Mombasa politics as governor.

“I have a duty to speak for the Coast people,” the flamboyant governor said.

This came as  Coast leaders endorsed Raila for president, including Joho’s closest allies such as Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, businessman Suleiman Shahbal, Likoni MP Mishi Mboko and Jomvu’s Badi Twalib.

“We must be ably represented in government when decisions are being made,” Joho said.

“All of us are heading in the same direction.”

The declaration from the Azimio la Umoja Forum hinted at possible partnerships with other parties based at the Coast for a united front.

This was demonstrated by the presence of Vibrant Democratic Party leader Hezron Awiti.

Awiti, a close friend of Raila, began his active political career in ODM when he wanted to run for Nyali MP.

He moved to Wiper, however, after claiming there were plans to rig him out of the nominations. He won on the Wiper ticket.

In 2017, he wanted to succeed Joho as governor and sought the Wiper ticket. He was pushed aside and formed his own VDP party in an unsuccessful effort to capture the seat.

Raila personally invited him to Saturday’s forum.

“We must bring all the people together,” Raila said.

Awiti said Raila is best suited for the Presidency because of his wisdom.

He said Coast people want someone who understands their problems and can solve them.

"Raila will not let people down," Awiti said.

Joho led Coast leaders in declaring they want to be partners and not followers in government.

"We no longer want to be seen to be begging all the time. We want to get our fair share legally," Joho said.

Raila responded by declaring he is not interested in followers anymore.

"I am not here to look for followers. I am here to look for partners," the former prime minister said.

"We can do greater things together than as  a one-man show."

Also present were Governors Granton Samboja (Taita Taveta), Dhado Godana (Tana River) and James Ongwae (Kisii).

Lamu’s Fahim Twaha and Kwale’s Salim Mvurya sent apologies and representatives.

Kilifi’s Amason Kingi was also a no-show but Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi conveyed his greetings and apologies.

Godana said Kenya is enjoying peace because of Raila and said the ODM leader has fought for Kenyan people for a long time from outside State House.

"This time we want you to fight for Kenyans from inside State House," he said. "We are not going anywhere. We are with you to the end," Godhana said.

Mvita MP Nassir said Raila is being unfairly blamed for all the country's woes because he is the tree with the healthiest fruits.

He said the ODM leader is the only one that feels the pinch, like ordinary Kenyans and called him "the right saviour".

"Do not fear any spear directed at you. We are the shield that will protect you. Protecting you is protecting the people of Kenya," Nassir said.

Businessman Suleiman Shahbal said the suffering Raila has undergone fighting for Kenyans is unmatched.

He said being the longest-serving detainee in Kenya, Raila is the best to protect human rights.

Shahbal asked Raila to prioritise the Coast agenda, saying the region has the potential to drive the economy because of its natural resources.

"Many projects have been started and abandoned halfway at the Coast. In the first six months of your presidency, ensure the Pwani agenda is prioritised," Shahbal said.

Raila said the Coast has suffered injustices for a long time and it's time to right the wrongs once and for all.

Taita Taveta residents, he said, have felt abandoned by the government for a long time because of the frequent and uncompensated human-wildlife conflicts that have cost hundreds of lives. Many people have been maimed.

"They are owed over Sh14 billion in compensation," Raila said.

They also have not reaped benefits from Tsavo East and West national park, he said..

Pastoralists in Tana River county fight perennial drought, he said.

Forcible disappearances at the Coast have left families distraught and their trust in government is gone, Raila said.

These issues manifest a culture of impunity, he said.

"We are here to finish what we started years back — to give Coast people what they deserve," the ODM leader said.

He said Coast people were the major force pushing for devolution, but with BBI's nullification by two courts, the region stands to lose Sh22.6 billion.

He said should BBI fail [at the Supreme Court],nMombasa would lose about Sh4 billion, Kwale Sh4 billion, Kilifi Sh7 billion, Tana River Sh1 billion, Lamu Sh500 million and Taita Taveta Sh2 billion.

BBI had proposed a mandated increase in county allocations from the current 15 per cent to 35 per cent. Those funds would build more schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure.

With investment, the blue economy can spur development, the ODM leader said.

Raila said all Kenyan children must have equal opportunities in jobs and education.

In 30 years, he said, China managed to move 300 million people out of poverty.

Kenya can move 20 million people from poverty to comfort in the same period or less, depending how the country help its youth.

About 70 per cent of population is younger than age 35 and is the most productive human resource.

"These things are possible if there is someone who knows these things. I know these things," Raila said.

He later addressed crowds at Kengeleni in a roadside campaign.

(Edited by V. Graham)