- It is not yet clear what Shahbal, who had mounted a formidable campaign, has been promised.
- This is Nassir's first attempt to be governor but was Shahbal's third—he ran against Hassan Joho in 2013 and 2017 and came in second both times.
I have been aspiring to be governor of Mombasa for the last 10 years, but the objective was not for Suleiman Shahbal, but to bring change and development to the people of Mombasa.Suleiman Shahbal
On Friday, Mombasa businessman Suleiman Shahbal quit the governor race in favour of Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga intervened and brokered the deal.
It is not yet clear what Shahbal, who had mounted a formidable campaign, has been promised.
This is Nassir's first attempt to be governor but was Shahbal's third—he ran against Hassan Joho in 2013 and 2017 and came in second both times.
In 2013, Shahbal ran on the Wiper ticket and Jubilee in 2017. Last year, he decamped to ODM and was battling for the party ticket with Nassir and Deputy Governor William Kingi.
Other politicians who are looking to take over from Joho include former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar (UDA), Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo (Wiper) and former Nyali MP Hezron Awiti (VDP).
However, the contest was seen as a two-horse race between Shahbal and Nassir, both of ODM.
Their rivalry had already divided the Mombasa county assembly and other elected leaders.
More than 30 MCAs and MPs Badi Twalib (Jomvu), Mishi Mboko (Likoni) and Asha Hussein (Woman Rep), and Senator Mohammed Faki were in Nassir’s camp, whereas Shahbal had the support of Changamwe MP Omar Mwinyi and former Kisauni MP Rashid Bedzimba together with a few MCAs.
On Friday, after weeks of insisting that ODM must conduct party primaries, Shahbal announced he was dropping his bid during a press briefing in Nairobi.
In a statement, Shahbal said after long deliberations with ODM leader Raila and advice from Azimio la Umoja chairperson Uhuru, he had decided to shelve his ambition.
“I have been aspiring to be governor of Mombasa for the last 10 years, but the objective was not for Suleiman Shahbal, but to bring change and development to the people of Mombasa," he announced.
"However, it is not important that Suleiman Shahbal leads those changes, but what is important is that those changes have to happen.”
He [Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir] had better chances of winning the election, even if Shahbal was still in the race. Three polls showed that he was leading and he also won the Mvita MP seat twice without any serious competitionProf Rocha Chimera
Political analysts at the Coast now say the governor race is for Nassir to lose.
Prof Rocha Chimera of Pwani University predicted a landslide win for Nassir because he now enjoys the support of his biggest competitor—Shahbal.
He said before Shahbal’s decision, Nassir was already leading in three polls conducted by ODM.
“He had better chances of winning the election, even if Shahbal was still in the race. Three polls showed that he was leading and he also won the Mvita MP seat twice without any serious competition,” Chimera said.
On Friday, Nassir promised to deliver the seat and unite the people of Mombasa.
“It is with humility and a deep sense of service that I accept the nomination from the ODM party to vie for governor of Mombasa in the upcoming general election. I have been bestowed this responsibility and my reciprocating pledge is we shall fly the flag as a team,” he said.
Nassir said he intends to carry on with the many sectors that have excelled during Joho’s stewardship at the helm.
The MP said he equally intends to learn from the obstacles Joho’s regime encountered.
Joho, who has served his two terms in office and is now joining national politics, praised Shahbal for sacrificing his political ambition.
“My appreciation goes out to Suleiman Shahbal for his show of magnanimity and prioritising party unity ahead of his personal ambitions,” he said.
He said they now need to work as a team and ensure that Raila becomes the fifth President and ODM wins all the seats in the region.
The decision by ODM to front Nassir has however been criticised by the UDA brigade in Mombasa.
Nyali MP Mohammed Ali, a critic of ODM, said it is a plot to continue with Joho’s regime.
Ali has blamed Joho for failing to stop the national government from transferring port services to Naivasha.
“It’s time to remove power from the power brokers and give it back to the good people of Mombasa county. Farasi sasa ni wawili, wa kuregesha Bandari Pwani (UDA) na wakuuza bandari kabisa (ODM) [It is now a two-horse race between those who support the resumption of port services in Mombasa (UDA) and those who support the transfer of port services to Naivasha (ODM)],” he said.
Some have praised the new formation.
Abdi Daib, Jubilee’s Changamwe MP aspirant, praised party leader Uhuru for brokering the deal between Nassir and Shahbal.
He said the move will strengthen Azimio la Umoja in Mombasa.
“With him [Shahbal] accepting to support Nassir, the coalition becomes stronger and is assured of clinching all seats in Mombasa,” Daib said.
He urged Raila to appoint Shahbal to his cabinet if he wins.
Meanwhile, Mbogo, who is Wiper’s candidate, has said he is still in the race and disputed rumours that former Nairobi Governor Gideon Sonko had been shortlisted as a candidate on his party's ticket.
“Treat whatever you hear as propaganda. There will be no nominations for the Wiper gubernatorial candidacy in Mombasa. I am the sole candidate,” he said.
Mbogo told his opponents to get ready for a fierce duel.
“I have seen that they [ODM] have picked Nassir. I want him to know that I am ready for him,” he said.
Wiper is a member of One Kenya Alliance, which has entered a coalition agreement with Azimio la Umoja.
Vibrant Democratic Party leader Hezron Awiti also said he aims to clinch the seat despite the developments.
His party is expected to hold its National Delegates Congress soon when Awiti will seek the mandate to contest.
“VDP will hold its NDC in Mombasa before the end of April. I will seek the delegates' mandate to be the next Mombasa Governor,” Awiti said.
Edited by Josephine M. Mayuya