Raila succession and Hassan Joho's grand comeback

Hassan Joho and Raila Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga (right) with deputy party leader Hassan Joho during the launch of the Governors's Scholarship Programme at Tononoka Hall in Mombasa on February 13, 2024.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Former Mombasa Governor gets the support from coastal counties leaders.
  • Joho’s recent public appearances and statements have stirred the political waters.

Former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho has come out to reclaim his status as the coastal kingpin after a period of relative silence, stirring up the region’s political landscape.

Mr Joho was recently endorsed to vie for the presidency in 2027 by Coast leaders from the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and other political parties. 

The leaders from Taita-Taveta, Kilifi, Mombasa and Lamu counties have rallied behind the former governor, saying it is time for Coast region to produce a president.

This comes as Azimio leader Raila Odinga’s succession as the ODM chief and Luo community political supremo continues to gather pace in his backyard as he sets his sights on the chairmanship of the African Union Commission (AUC).

On Saturday, National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi got a boost from some ODM MPs who said even though Mr Odinga still remains the undisputed community leader, the Ugunja MP would be the best bet to steer the community and ODM party in his absence from the local political scene.

But Mr Joho is determined to ascend to the party leadership and ultimately the presidency.

The succession battle for the ODM party leadership between Mr Joho and former Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya, both deputy party leaders, has also intensified.

Hassan Joho and Raila Odinga

ODM party leader Raila Odinga with his deputy Hassan Joho during the former Prime Minister's birthday party in Malindi, Kilifi County in this picture taken on January 7, 2024.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

On Thursday last week, Mr Joho provided food donations to Muslims in Voi and Mwatate and later in Kilifi and Lamu counties through his Hassan Joho Foundation for use during the Holy Month of Ramadhan. 

The move is seen as a way to position himself for the presidential race. 

Mr Joho’s recent public appearances and statements, especially after Mr Odinga declared his interest in the AUC post, have stirred the political waters.

He has articulated the need for a formidable opponent to unseat President William Ruto.

“To remove him (Dr Ruto) and his government from power needs a courageous person. I urge the residents of this region to be courageous,” he said during his political meetings in various towns, including Voi and Malindi.

Back in Mr Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, some ODM MPs on Saturday insisted that a local leader should rise to the national position in Mr Odinga's absence.

“There’s nobody who can fill Raila Odinga’s shoes and that’s the truth. I have even looked at our leaders in Azimio and they are not capable of fitting into his shoes... but most importantly, if Raila is exiting, we must have our own leading ODM,” Alego Usonga MP Sam Atandi said.

He went on to back Mr Wandayi, urging him to remain focused and steadfast.

Kisumu Central MP Joshua Oron also backed Mr Wandayi, who is also the ODM Director of Political Affairs.

“... whoever is saying that Raila is exiting but has not left us anybody to lead us, hasn’t he left us with Wandayi? Is Wandayi present or not?” he posed.

Hassan Joho and Raila Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga (center), deputy party leader Hassan Joho (left) and Mombasa Governor Abdullswamad Sherrif during the launch of Governor's Scholarship Programme at Tononoka Hall in Mombasa on February 13, 2024.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

Their Nyando counterpart Jared Okello also weighed in, saying Mr Wandayi is able to lead ODM.

“I have heard some people clamouring for ODM leadership and I don’t hear a Luo name, yet we have Opiyo Wandayi and I’m also here; we must come out and support one of our own,” Mr Okello said.

The leaders were speaking during the burial of Muhoroni MP Onyango K’Oyoo’s brother Tobias Lusi Oyoo in Wang’aya, Muhoroni constituency, on Saturday.

At the Coast, Mr Joho said time has come for the people he has backed for long to reciprocate the support.

“We cannot be following others forever,” he said.

On Thursday, he was accompanied by MPs Rashid Bedzimba (Kisauni), Abdi Chome (Voi), Peter Shake (Mwatate), Mombasa Woman Rep Zamzam Mohammed and several MCAs from Mombasa County led by their Speaker Aharub Khatri. 

Ms Mohammed said it’s time for Mr Odinga to hand over the leadership of the party to Mr Joho.

“He (Joho) has stood with our party leader and ODM party for many years. We want to tell our party leader that a child who has supported you is the one who deserves to inherit you first,” she said.

Mr Chome added: “We have to stand up and be counted, it is time we get a national leader and Joho is the right person because he is fit.” 

Mr Bedzimba urged the region to be united.

“We must have someone who will fight for our interests at the national level. He (Joho) has been at the forefront in fighting for our issues,” he said.