Mombasa governor Hassan Joho is quietly identifying potential opponents to MPs who have announced their support for Deputy President William Ruto.
Joho plans to tour Coast counties to campaign against the MPs, as he prepares to launch his 2022 presidential bid.
Yesterday he held a meeting with MCAs from Kilifi and Mombasa in his county, where he told them he is capable of becoming President.
“Who said we are not able to call a meeting in Murang’a or Western Kenya? Let me tell you, if I tell the people of Kisii I’m coming, they will fill the stadium,” Joho said.
On June 23, the governor dismissed Ruto’s forays in the region, saying his 2022 bid is “doomed” and he will work with the DP’s opponents to scuttle his plans.
This followed concerns Joho was losing grip of the region in the wake of Ruto’s attempts to woo area leaders to back his presidential bid.
“We are not bothered. Do what you want and when you leave, others will come. The only way to deal with them is to work with their opponents,” Joho said.
Some ODM-allied MPs, notably Malindi’s Aisha Jumwa, have stopped supporting Joho’s 2022 ambition in favour of Ruto.
The ODM deputy party leader said the MCAs are close to the masses and “very vital” in messaging and mobilising support.
Joho urged the 200 MCAs – including those from Jubilee – to support the Building Bridges Initiative, which is seen as a launch pad for his bid, and told the ward representatives to remain united ahead of 2022.
He said only he will deliver the presidency to the Coast. The meeting was the first and Joho said it will be held yearly, adding that his agenda is to unite leaders.
“We shall listen to every county. Such meetings can be held twice or three times every year, “ he said.
He is taking on Ruto to block him out of the vote-rich Coast , which has 1.7 million votes.
Although the governor did not mention Ruto by name, his remarks left no doubt he was referring to him. He said the DP was using the ODM MPs to attain his goal, a plan he said should be thwarted.
“We have never sat to evaluate our strength. Are we sitting on the table or we just the menu?” he posed.
But the litmus test lies on how the governor will keep the bloc intact.
Already there is a scheme to persuade MCAs to leave him, and on Monday, two Kwale MPs allied to Ruto asked the local MCAs to boycott the meeting.
But Joho told the ward respresentatives,“You have the final say. I thank you for making it [to the meeting]. They said you wouldn’t come.”
Joho said Coast featured prominently in government talks before Independence.
“After that, we became just followers. We are not different from others. The handshake allows me to vouch for economic development and not endorse people on the podium,” he said.
Joho said if Coast gives its vote to a different candidate other than its own, economic marginalisation will thrive.
He cited the Kenya Ports Authority woes he has been fighting. He also said the Jumuia ya Kaunti za Pwani – an economic bloc -- was killed by outside forces.
“Why are we demeaning ourselves yet we have the capacity. Ever since you’ve been clapping for them. It can’t continue this way; you must stand to be counted,” he said.
Four Coast governors invited for the meeting did not attend save for Kilifi’s Amason Kingi.
Saalim Mvurya (Kwale), Granton Samboja (Taita Taveta) and Kingi have openly rooted for Ruto’s candidacy. Joho castigated them and MPs who said he won’t win the presidency.
“If you are in politics and have not ambitions, you have no business to be there. This is not a kid’s play or a joke. Our ambitions should not be killed by others,” he said.