Coast political leaders are in a dilemma over their choices for political parties in readiness for the 2022 election.
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi, in particular, face the most difficult of these choices since their two-terms come to an end in 2022. They also must decide who between them should vie for President, if their public pronouncements are anything to go by.
The party issue is especially vexing for Joho, the man who has been behind ODM’s successive electoral victories in the region. The Mombasa governor is so attached to ODM that he views it as the only vehicle for his ascendancy to regional and national politics.
Indeed, after attending Raila’s controversial swearing-in as the People’s President on January 30, Joho has become the darling of many ODM fanatics across the country. Some have even suggested he should succeed Raila as the party leader while others have suggested that if Raila runs again, Joho should be his running mate.
However, Joho faces difficult choices. Presently, there is a strong clamour among the native coastal communities for a homegrown party. The idea itself is not new, it has been raised repeatedly before. What is new, however, is that, this time round, it is supported by Joho’s closest political ally and friend: Governor Kingi.
According to Kingi — and many others — a coastal regional party is overdue. Such a party should enable the region to play its rightful role in national politics. The target for this change is the 2022 election, and the overall concern is that the Coast produces its own presidential candidate.
Certain compelling factors must have fueled the Kilifi governor to re-think and support a homegrown party. One of these factors is that he wants to remain relevant after 2022.To keep the momentum, Kingi has raised the issues of Coast secession and his interest to vie for the presidency. If this should happen, the only option available to Kingi is to seek for an alternative party to vie for President. He is aware he has no chance vying in ODM.
The other factors about Kingi rethinking ODM are the frustrations from within, in particular Raila. As the ODM chairman and point man in Kilifi, Kingi has done his part. He has continually delivered electoral victories to the party, the latest being the August 8 General Election, in which over 90 per cent of the elective seats were won by the ODM. Kingi went an extra mile to please the party: He persuaded the Kilifi assembly to nominate two MCAs from Raila’s backyard, despite massive protests from the locals.
Despite these glamorous successes, Kingi’s efforts have gone unnoticed. There have never been any public acknowledgements by ODM leaders about Kilifi’s sterling electoral victories or Kingi’s role in all this. For the ODM national leadership, what happened in Kilifi is business as usual. Governor Kingi feels isolated. Comparatively, Kilifi is the largest and most populous county in the region, yet the region and its party leader, Kingi, hardly feature anywhere in national party politics. They have been conspicuously absent in ODM events at the national level.
But if Kingi can easily wriggle out of the ODM frustrations, it is not the easy option for Joho, who has already made a mark in the party and looks forward to using it to achieve higher political goals, regionally and nationally. Joho has repeatedly stated he is in ODM to stay. This means if Kingi is serious about his support for a homegrown party, his politics is drifting away from Joho’s.
The choice of political parties risks their political careers, especially after 2022. Within ODM, if Raila opts to run again, the Joho and Kingi presidential bids will be stillborn. The region will wait for another five years or more to have a candidate. Even if Raila runs again, the chances of Joho becoming his running mate are also remote, given ODM has other competitive political alternatives in other regions such as Western and Lower Eastern that have more voters. Raila would be persuaded to nominate a running mate from one of these regions.
Further, Joho and Kingi still have the difficult task of fusing together the diverse coastal communities that have remained divided in every election cycle. Wycliffe Oparanya, one of the ODM deputies and Kakamega Governor, has already proclaimed his interest to contest the presidency under the party. Therefore, Joho’s political future under ODM is not really forthcoming. He must decide to either support a homegrown party or face an uncertain political future in ODM.
I am not asking ODM leaders in the Coast region to leave the party. I am urging Joho and the others to support and empower a local party and link it to the ODM as an affiliate.
This would ensure for the first time since the Kadu days in the early 1960s, the Coast will play its unique role in regional and national politics in an arrangement that should see it produce its own co-principal in a coalition of parties, such as NASA.
These are the hard choices facing Coast ODM leaders. The problem is the political will to do surmount them.