In his determination to be found in ?the right? party to contest the governorship of Mombasa County, Shahbal hopped from the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), then to the United Democratic Forum (UDF) before settling on the Wiper Democratic Movement (WDM) as the polls approached.

joho

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He lost the election and shortly after filed a petition against Joho whom he claimed was unqualified to be governor because he lacked the requisite academic credentials as required by law.

Now Shahbal has found another vehicle to seek a leadership position. He has dumped Wiper and joined the newly-formed Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP). Reason? ?To be close to the government because there can be no development in the Opposition.?

As he decamped, Shahbal accused the Opposition of plotting to rig him out during the 2017 primaries, thereby frustrating attempts by the Coast people to seek redress over historical land injustices and rampant tribalism. Shahbal and former Changamwe MP and ODM stalwart Ramadhan Seif Kajembe ditched the Opposition in a high profile ceremony attended by JAP?s new officials on February 8, at a time when Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka was visiting Mombasa to attend a political rally.

Bottomless pit

While Kalonzo dismissed Shahbal?s defection as ?a leap into a bottomless pit,? Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar, a former Shahbal ally, accused him of ?joining the very people who have oppressed us at the Coast?.

But as JAP officials welcomed Shahbal and Kajembe, TNA?s Coast region coordinator Farid Swaleh led nominated senators Emma Mbura and Mvita Mshenga in staging a walk-out on the function to welcome the defectors; protesting what they termed as unfair treatment and alleging that the organisers had failed to give them a chance to address the meeting.

?We cannot be mistreated and disrespected after all the work we have put in for the President. I hope JAP will recognise that there are TNA and URP officials at the grassroots who ought to be treated with respect,? said Farid.

There have been murmurs that JAP was more interested in Shahbal and the newcomers at the expense of old loyalists because of the defectors? financial muscle.

This open rebellion is emblematic of the problems Jubilee-allied parties have had at the Coast since 2013. Besides, a never-ending competition between these two parties over appointments that some claim favour URP, Jubilee loyalists composed mainly of losers at the 2013 polls, often accuse the coalition?s leaders of being more committed to courting CORD rebels than entrenching Jubilee at the grassroots.

Without a doubt, Shahbal is the more eloquent, polished and connected of the 2013 poll losers after the other high profile politicians Najib Balala, Kambi Kazungu, Anania Mwaboza, Danson Mungatana and Chirau Ali Mwakwere were appointed to busy public service dockets, reducing their political activity.

Shahbal?s tenacious and hard tackling rectitude towards Joho also puts him in better stead to confront ODM than the lamenting senators and TNA/URP leaders who have, literally, been swept aside by Joho and CORD at the Coast.

At the last polls, Shahbal got 96,000 votes against Joho?s 134,000.

Most commentators dismiss Kajembe?s defection as inconsequential, but the former ODM vice chairman says, ?I bring a wealth of experience and networks to Jubilee as a former councillor for 15 years and MP for 15 years?.

But Omar says ?time has moved against Kajembe, he is irrelevant and will never be elected,? preferring instead to concentrate on the motivations of Shahbal?s move and its implications.

Some of Shahbal?s opponents argue that his defection was fuelled by business interests, citing the Sh174 billion coal power tender that was won by a consortium led by Gulf Energy, a company in which Shahbal has interests. But his chief of staff Ahmed Badawy has dismissed the claims as baseless, and says Shahbal has won big tenders in the last four years despite being in the Opposition.

Jubilee supporters say Shahbal and Kajembe will bring discipline and harmony that has been lacking in Jubilee at the Coast because of the absence of a unifying figure. They say Shahbal will also inject money into JAP.

Fair nominations

Reports indicate that Wiper tried in vain to persuade Shahbal not to leave, including holding meetings with him on the eve of his departure. His aides have dismissed claims that Shahbal grew increasingly frustrated by WDM?s reluctance to make him deputy party leader in order to match Joho?s and Hassan Omar?s clout in Mombasa.

A senior official in Wiper said that about two weeks ago, Shahbal lamented that he had no future in the party and CORD as long as the coalition was dominated by Joho and Omar. Shahbal himself appeared to validate these claims when he said ?I will not get a fair nomination in 2017,? the same claims he made when defecting from ODM on January 17, 2013.

To his credit, the senator said Shahbal appeared committed to Wiper for most of his stay in the party. Badawy said the businessman had funded the campaigns of candidates in his team at the 2013 polls.

?We did not receive a cent from Wiper despite what we contributed to the party like all others. But we are not complaining and Shahbal does not think that Wiper is a bad party but he strongly feels he will not get a fair nomination under CORD,? said Badawy.

Joho said Shahbal?s defection ?did not come as a surprise because we have always believed he is self-seeking.?

The governor said his opponent?s defection will neither strengthen Jubilee in Mombasa nor weaken CORD at the Coast.

?It dose not change a thing. We are ready for anyone they will present against us and we will defeat them,? Joho said.

Similarly, Changamwe MP Omar Mwinyi dismissed the defection as inconsequential, and argued that Shahbal had effectively quit active politics after his ?resounding defeat in 2013?.

?Shifting political parties does not change a politician. I can only advise him to take a short break from politics and learn what Mombasa people want and which party they feel advances their interest,? said Mwinyi.

Mwinyi describes Shahbal as ?a party hopper? who is indecisive and makes poor political judgments.

But Shahbal?s supporters think otherwise. Mombasa lawyer Abubakar Yusuf, who worked for Shahbal?s campaign, says the defection is a sign of political astuteness.

?Defections are normal in the politics of this country and any astute politician must move with political realities. One cannot just remain where he knows his ambitions will be suffocated,? said Yusuf, adding that JAP now has a strong point man at the Coast.

Maurice Mbondenyi, the Dean at Africa Nazarene University?s Law School, also believes Shahbal will deploy resources to JAP but warns that he will not have an easy ride in Jubilee due to factionalism within Jubilee parties at the Coast.

?Shahbal is a very strong force and a big challenge to Joho and I believe that he will help Jubilee penetrate Coast politics. He should, however, expect resistance in Jubilee because there are those who may feel he wants to unseat them,? says Prof Mbondenyi. This discomfort was evident last weekend when Jubilee leaders stormed out of the function to welcome Shahbal into JAP.

Meanwhile, Senator Omar believes Shahbal is capable of returning to CORD in future given that he knows ?deep in his heart that Jubilee has hurt Coast in so many ways? and that he is only a strong challenger to the governor within CORD.

?He left UDF when he discovered the tide was not moving,? says Omar, adding that Shahbal understands that ?it is very difficult to sell Jubilee at the Coast? because residents associate it with historical land and other injustices.

?His chances of becoming Mombasa governor have been severely diminished,? the senator said. He believes Shahbal only defected after discovering ?there was a vacuum within Jubilee at the Coast and he decided to exploit it?.

By Benard Sanga, The Standard

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