The three day coast tour by NASA Principals will see the opposition coalition once again skip Mombasa County, the bedrock of two key NASA figures over what Kenya Today has learnt is the coalition’s inability to reconcile Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho, also ODM Deputy Party Leader and Mombasa Senator, Wiper Secretary General and governor aspirant, Hassan Omar.
Mombasa is home to nearly 600,000 registered voters and a perceived opposition stronghold that voted entirely for opposition candidates in the 2013 General Election.
Both the ODM Deputy Party Leader and the Wiper Secretary General Hassan Omar have their bases at the coastal town, which is becoming a real hotspot to test the camaraderie between ODM and Wiper.
In their latest tour, Raila and Kalonzo supported by co-principals Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula are today scheduled to campaign in Kwale County and tomorrow in Kilifi County before flying resuming upcountry campaigns.
Although the entire NASA top leadership is staying in Mombasa for three days, no single event has been scheduled in the county, despite Joho viciously lobbying. The thinking in the Joho camp is that the governor projects his invincibility by clothing himself as a 5th Principal, which can only happen in a platform with other principals.
So fierce is the local contest between Joho and Omar that some quarters in NASA are now suggesting the two to be provided equal national platforms, with Omar team claiming Joho often bribes NASA event organizers to stage dramatize his showbiz.
NASA principals are said to be concerned about the personalisation of the campaign by the Joho camp which has the potential to trigger violence and impact voter turnout especially among women.
Raila and Kalonzo are reportedly concerned that the differences between the two is negatively impacting NASA messaging in the region, which has eluded Jubilee since 2013.
While Joho has taken a more national image, often making dramatic appearances and moving anti-Jubilee speeches at the national scene, Omar has slowed on the national podium, choosing instead to focus his energies in Mombasa, once an ODM zone, now up for grabs by other NASA affiliates.
This is in total contrast to the Okoa Kenya referendum rallies, where Omar was more visible nationally than Joho. As the wedge between the two widens, so is the tension in the broader NASA grassroots in Mombasa.
But it is the decision by Joho to frustrate other aspirants by literally grabbing every public space for political advertisement (refusing to allow others to erect billboards and posters) that has riled even the principals with reports that Kalonzo personally raised the issue with Raila.
According to Kalonzo, such selfish campaign tactics undermines NASA unity and flies in the face of the NASA pillar on democratic ideals. It also offends the NASA agreement at coalition level that all partner parties have equal stakes in lower level seats.
But despite the murmurs, Joho has remained adamant; and it appears Omar has raised the stakes.
Joho is finding himself in the exact spot he has placed other aspirants, because he now has to spend extra resources guarding his ubiquitous billboards which are increasingly being vandalized as Mombasa County campaigns degenerate into total chaos.
Yesterday, some of Joho’s billboards on Muslim Bridge were torn apart by strong winds leading residents to lament that even the gods are fed up with Joho’s theatrics. This was only a day after one of the campaign trucks of Hassan Omar was vandalized by people believed to be Joho thugs. Other aspirants, including Jubilee’s Suleiman Shabal and former Nyali MP Awiti Bolo have approached IEBC to sanction Joho, whom they refer to as a ‘closet dictator’.
Concerned senior membership at NASA are raising questions on the relationship between Raila and the Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho who also serves as the ODM Deputy Party Leader. Sources close to the joint NASA presidential secretariat say that the multiple attempts by Joho to project himself as the 5th NASA principal is rubbing coalition partners the wrong way.
Joho has also been privately reprimanded on several occasions in the recent past for arriving at NASA events after the principals which often create security nightmare and confusion as event organizers have to accommodate him and the drama that ensues.
But it is Raila’s failure to campaign for Joho in Mombasa that has baffled political observers. It is said some of the NASA campaign financial backers in Mombasa support Hassan Omar and agreed to lend their resources to NASA on the understanding that Raila won’t meddle in Mombasa politics.
The Joho image of a coast supremo has also been dented by revelations that he no longer sees eye-to-eye with Kilifi’s Amason Kingi, who seem to be gearing up for his own bargain in the event NASA forms the next government.
“Governor Kingi doesn’t want to play below Joho anymore. His people are telling him to focus his eyes on being the coast kingpin on his own rights, so you won’t see him playing second fiddle as he has often done before,” a coast source told this writer.
All serving MCAs in Mombasa were elected on ODM ticket in 2013 but a good number of them have shifted loyalty to other parties citing high-handedness from Governor Joho. The natural home has been Wiper, which now has candidates in nearly all constituencies and wards of Mombasa County, and who are driving the campaign of Hassan Omar.