Jubilee Party’s key pointman for Coast region Suleiman Shahbal has announced he will vie for the Mombasa gubernatorial seat on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket.
Mr Shahbal revealed his defection at the weekend after meeting Mombasa Luo Focus Group and elders from the community.
The announcement comes as a surprise considering that the Mombasa businessman has been a critic of the ODM party and its leadership, who he has in the past discredited as lacking the capacity to transform the lives of Coast residents.
In a sharp about-turn, Mr Shahbal said the Raila Odinga-led party was the right outfit to clinch the governor’s seat currently held by Mr Hassan Joho, whose final term ends next year.
Mr Shahbal reminded the gathering that he was once an ODM member but he decamped from the party after being pushed out by Mr Joho in 2013 adding he was basically “returning home”.
“I was in ODM in 2013 but, as the saying goes, two bulls cannot live in the same pen. We fought with Joho and at the end he pushed me out,” Mr Shahbal said.
Hotly contested elections
“This time round I am back home and I have returned through the front door. I am in the sitting room. I have taken off the red cloth and handed it over ready to enter into the bedroom,” he said amid cheers from the audience. This will be the third time Mr Shabhal will be fighting to capture the seat after two failed attempts in 2013 and 2017.
In the 2013 General Election, Mr Shahbal vied for the seat using the Mr Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Democratic Movement party, emerging second in the hotly contested elections.
He garnered 94,905 votes against Mr Joho who got more than 100,000 votes. He challenged the outcome of the elections in court, citing irregularities but the case was dismissed for lack of evidence.
Wiper was one of the outfits that formed Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) under the leadership of Mr Odinga, Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetangula and Amani National Congress led by Musalia Mudavadi.
The businessman remained briefly in Wiper before decamping to Jubilee in the run-up to the 2017 General Elections.
He was among the key Coast politicians from the region who campaigned for the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
While the politician and his key allies helped Jubilee get more votes in the region compared to 2013, he again lost to Mr Joho who was defending his seat.
United Democratic Alliance
He garnered 69,515 votes against Mr Joho’s 221,177 votes. Former Mombasa Senator Mr Hassan Omar who also vied for the seat in 2017, challenged Mr Joho’s victory in court but the win was upheld for lack of evidence.
His dramatic return to ODM barely a year to the elections could mean that Mr Shahbal is hoping to get support from Mr Odinga to clinch the seat now that Mr Joho, who is the ODM deputy party leader, will not be in the race.
The development could complicate matters for Mvita MP Abdulswamad Sharriff , who is also eyeing the party’s ticket to replace Mr Joho.
Mr Shahbal will have to square it out with Mr Sharriff for the party’s nomination.
Other candidates who are eyeing the governor’s seat are Wiper’s Ali Mbogo and Mr Omar who has pledged allegiance to the United Democratic Alliance linked to Dr Ruto.
At the function, Mr Shabhal endorsed Mr Odinga for the presidency, saying he has suffered to expand the country’s democratic space. He told the gathering that Shimo La Tewa prison is one of the facilities where the opposition leader was detained.