• In many ways, the defeat was an acute embarrassment to Jumwa and her many supporters in Malindi.
• The political star, the Iron Lady of Coast politics or the ‘Mekatilili’ of the Mijikenda community, appears to have dimmed and faltered.
Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa is agonising about her future.
She has major work to do to restore her political image and character damaged by the defeat of her independent candidate who lost to ODM in the Ganda by-election.
The defeat was an embarrassment to Jumwa and her many supporters in Malindi. She used to be the political star, the Iron Lady or the Mekatilili of the Mijikenda community.
It all began on the election eve on October 16, when she forcibly tried to disrupt an ODM meeting at the home of the party’s candidate. Following the chaos that ensued, one person was shot dead.
The deceased was identified as a close relative to the ODM candidate Reuben Katana. The shooting had an immediate impact: It reversed all the gains Jumwa and her team had made on the campaign trail.
The overnight incarceration in a police cell worsened the situation. It deprived her of the opportunity to reach her supporters at her hour of need. A night in the cells on election eve can make all the difference: It is a long period to deliver victory to your opponents. The detention denied her the last-minute opportunity to d voters, leaving the field to ODM.
Before the unfortunate shooting incident, Jumwa was most likely destined to dislodge ODM from victory. She had the numbers, especially of women voters, that scared the ODM leadership in Kilifi county. All these advantages, however, were to be wiped out at the stroke of a moment; courtesy of Jumwa’s own miscalculations.
As one observer noted, Aisha was through in the by-election, but she played foul during injury time at the goalpost. As a result, ODM got a penalty and they scored.
Other factors affected Jumwa’s campaigns.
Initially, she campaigned to defeat and weaken ODM’s stronghold on Kilifi and the Coast. Though she had been elected on the party ticket in 2017, Jumwa had protested ODM’s failures and openly supported Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid. Perhaps, fearing further repercussions from ODM, which expelled her — only to be reinstated by the court —Jumwa dropped maximising criticisms against ODM failures and instead reduced her campaign into politics of personality and name-calling — “Jumwa versus them”. She pitted herself against a male-dominated ODM leadership.
With the support of Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi and his Mombasa counterpart, Hassan Joho, it was a do-or-die for ODM in Ganda. In view of these leaders, Jumwa had to be tamed.
Despite the combined ODM onslaught, the people of Ganda did not vote for ODM as a party. Rather their votes for the ODM candidate was a protest against the shooting and Jumwa’s politics of confrontation at the scene.
In short, voters wanted to repudiate Jumwa for character unbecoming. This is the context in which the ODM victory in Ganda should be construed. As things stand now, there is increasing disaffection with ODM leadership at the Coast and this should be vindicated in 2022. The problem is that Jumwa and her supporters failed to maximise this as an election issue.
Another factor that affected Jumwa on the campaign trail is her lone-ranger politics. Whereas ODM worked in tandem and delivered campaign speeches in one voice, Jumwa’s campaign trail gave the indication of a lone actor in a crowded theatre. Often, she played the piper and called the tune.
Jumwa has publicly declared interest in the Kilifi Governor race in 2022. Though she tumbled in the Ganda by-election, she has not fallen, politically. Her chances, however, depend on how she handles herself moving forward. She must shun politics of confrontation, must not be a loose cannon and should surround herself with a dignified electoral team with matching winning strategies. And equally important, she must play politics of inclusion, not exclusion.
In the meantime, and despite her tribulations, Jumwa remains the ‘Iron lady’ of Coast politics and the modern day ‘Mekatilili’ of the Mijikenda.