ODM leader Raila Odinga was on Sunday holed up at the Coast holding a series of secret meetings with politicians from his party and those warming up to his side as he seeks to consolidate his grip of the region.
Raila met politicians from Mombasa, Kilifi and Taita Taveta at his Nyali residence in what is said to be a new strategy to maintain control of Coast which has been his political base since 2007.
The opposition leader is reported to be grooming new set leaders as Mombasa governor Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi are set to exit office next year.
Sources with his ODM party said Raila’s strategy is to counter possible political attacks by Deputy President William Ruto who is also keen to shake off the popularity of the Orange Party which has enjoyed swing votes in the region estimated at 1.7 million.
Ruto has plucked vocal Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and her Kilifi North counterpart Owen Baya from the ODM wings.
He also gave the ODM leader a political scare when his preferred candidate Feisal Bader who ran on an independence ticket clinched the Msambweni parliamentary seat last December. The seat was previous held by ODM’s Suleiman Dori who passed on.
Those he is said to be grooming include Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, Taita Taveta governor Granton Samboja, chief administrative secretary and Kilifi politician Gideon Mung’aro, Ganze MP Teddy Mwambire, Kwale senator Issa Juma Boy and women rep Zuleikha Hassan.
In Mombasa, two main rivals for the gubernatorial seat Nassir and Suleiman Shahbal are jostling for Raila’s endorsement although he has been playing safe.
This follows Shahbal’s recent defection from Jubilee to ODM and declaration of support for Raila’s presidential bid.
Shahbal has been understood be seeking governor Joho’s endorsement for the governorship although he has ‘denied’ this.
On Sunday Shahbal who is reported to be outside the country appeared relieved after Raila declined to endorse Nassir for the governorship and instead said Mombasa residents will have the final say on who becomes their next governor after Joho.
“There will be a fair nomination process. As the ODM leader I will not endorse anyone for the governorship. The voters will have the final say on who becomes their next governor,” Raila had said.
Raila made the declaration following pressure from Nassir’s supporters that he endorses him for the seat.
“Asante Baba. Tukutane mashinani (Thank you Baba (Raila). Let us meet at the grassroots,” Shahbal wrote on his Facebook page in reference to Raila’s decision.
A day before, Raila was at the Treasury Square in Mvita constituency to launch the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) medical cover for the constituency.
Nassir said Raila did not come to endorse him for governorship but instead was around to launch the NHIF programme for his constituency that will serve 12,000 families.
The influential MP who is close to governor Joho said it was too early for any political endorsements and told his rivals to focus for serving the people.
“Yesterday’s (Saturday) function at Treasury Square was never about endorsements. It was purely about my people getting NHIF cards. I know it is too early for any kind of political endorsements. Let us focus on the bigger picture here which is service to the people who elected us to office,” he said.
He added, “I appreciate the presence of my party leader Rt Hon Raila Amolo Odinga and my governor Ali Hassan Joho at the function”.
Apart from Shahbal and Nassir, Joho’s deputy Dr William Kingi is also seeking to succeed his boss.
The entry of Shahbal in ODM has rattled the local political landscape as he is feared to have won the hearts of Joho’s allies and also kept himself close to Raila’s arms.