The successful launch of the Coast Jubilee Party of Kenya last Sunday at Tononoka grounds seems to have caught Cord coalition foot soldiers off-guard.
Governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa) and Amason Kingi (Kilifi) hurriedly organised a parallel meeting at Mtwapa township.
As if to assure party leader Raila Odinga that all was well, the governors arranged for him to visit the two counties of Mombasa and Kilifi just a day after Deputy President William Ruto left.
Speaking on arrival at Moi International Airport on Tuesday, Mr Odinga dismissed the Jubilee claim that the Coast, hitherto a strong opposition zone, was almost in their hands. Mr Raila said this assertion was “a far-fetched dream”.
The cat-and-mouse political games seem to have gone a notch higher, with the Cord coalition strategy of organising parallel meetings whenever their archrival planned functions to sell their manifesto.
Issues that took the centre stage included Kenya Ports Authority, Standard Gauge Railway and the Kilifi County grand graft. The Kilifi scandal threatened to swallow both the former Prime Minister — who put up a desperate defence of the corruption allegations — and the two governors, who are the leading lights of ODM in the region.
Mr Odinga’s defence has since put him on the Jubilee firing line, with the DP leading the crusade against what they termed “double-speak”.
Left with a damaged public image, the Kilifi chief used 40 minutes while speaking in Giriama to explain why he was not to blame for the loss of Sh51 million.
The political ping pong put Mr Odinga in a fix as the Auditor General’s findings indicated that Cord governors misused public cash, putting him in a dilemma over his defence of Mr Kingi. At the Mutsengo Primary School function, the governor threatened to sue over the loss of public funds through fraudulent means, blaming government agencies of laxity in taking action against five companies that colluded to siphon money from the county’s Treasury.
Exit Odinga on Thursday and the focus turned to Mr Joho, who on Friday took a swipe at the DP for dismissing him as an academic dwarf who does not understand the operations of a ‘Dry Port’ proposed to be set up in Naivasha.
“Let me tell Ruto, he can call me an academic dwarf. This is fine but I don’t steal from my people anything. Who has been indicted in scandal after scandal like the DP has?” he asked, adding that for him the interest of his people reaping benefits from the Port of Mombasa supersedes any other agenda.
He said the commissioning of the SGR project means that Mombasa port services will be transferred to Naivasha, making the port a mere conduit of import and export cargo.
Meanwhile, there was a re-emergence of Mr Joho’s political rival in the 2013 polls; Mr Suleiman Shahbal, who has been quiet since he lost the election save for frantic court battles on the legality of the incumbent’s certificates.
The zeal and manner in which Mr Shahbal organised the Jubilee rally at Tononoka sent a “chilling message” to Governor Joho that it was not going to be business as usual in the county that has been “messed up” economically, according to him.
Mr Shahbal’s return seemed to resonate well with the heat of the moment following the audit incriminating some Kilifi County officials.
The Sunday rally at Tononoka was the largest since the last prayer meeting attended by Mr Kenyatta, Mr Ruto and Mr Kalonzo before the 2013 election.
There were over 15,000 people, according to an assessment by security agencies. And the event was organised and funded almost entirely by Mr Shahbal.
“The meeting was scheduled after Coast leaders met the DP on Wednesday evening. Mr Shahbal insisted that we launch the Jubilee Party for the coast at Mombasa to send a strong message to his opponents, even though Kilifi North MP Gideon Mungaro wanted Kilifi as the venue,” said an official.
During his whirlwind tour of the coast, Mr Ruto visited Taita Taveta, Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa counties where he raised millions of shillings for women groups and conducted rallies that attracted huge crowds.
In Mombasa, five functions were organised — church service, a talk with dock workers, a meeting with aspirants, an address at old town and a massive road show to Tononoka grounds on Sunday.
The DP and Jubilee bigwigs were ecstatic after the rally, as the coalition seemed to be on the right tract at the coast, this time