The entry of former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko into the Mombasa governor’s race is gaining traction.

Wiper chairman Chirau Ali Mwakwere on Thursday gave the move a thumbs up, saying it is perfectly okay. He said Sonko brings better leadership.

This is despite reservations from Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo, who claims he is the party’s flag bearer in the race.

Reliable sources say behind-the-scenes talks are being finalised to have Mbogo step down for Sonko and be his running mate.

The talks have been ongoing for about two weeks now.

“As we speak, it is being finalised today in Nairobi,” a source close to Mbogo said.

This was confirmed by Wiper Mombasa county chairperson and national executive member Sheikh Omar Twaha.

“That is what we are doing. Talks are ongoing and hopefully will be finalised today,” Sheikh Twaha told the Star on the phone.

But when contacted, Mbogo downplayed the issue, saying nothing has been agreed yet.

“There is nothing like that. It’s just a story,” Mbogo said on the phone on Thursday.

He, however, confirmed that he was going for a meeting with Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Sonko.

“I’m in Nairobi now heading to a meeting. Where is he if he is in the talks?” Mbogo posed. He was referring to Sheikh Twaha.

“There is a meeting between Kalonzo, Sonko and me. Just wait. We will tell you how things go. Kalonzo will make an announcement.”

A source close to Kalonzo and Sonko told the Star that the Wiper leader on Thursday morning called the former Nairobi governor to a meeting at a hotel in Upper Hill, Nairobi, to come up with a campaign strategy.

“Some officials from State House have recently been trying to get Governor Sonko to run in Nairobi again since they believe that Polycarp Igathe’s comeback in politics won’t help Azimio much. He won’t get even a quarter of the votes in Nairobi,” the source said.

The Sonko-Mbogo combination will pose a serious threat to ODM’s stronghold of Mombasa.

Political observer Mkwakuja Mrombo on Thursday told the Star Sonko’s politics is about the poor, and he knows how to make them tick.

“Sonko has a different style. He is a rollercoaster when it comes to mobilisation of the masses. Don’t underestimate him. He knows how to make people appreciate him. He will incite and excite them at the same time,” Mrombo said.

Sonko has been strategically placed in Mombasa after lengthy talks that also involved President Uhuru Kenyatta, the Star has learnt.

Sonko was initially approached by Uhuru’s henchmen to help Azimio train gain traction.

In return, he asked for an entry back into active politics and was told to choose between running for governor in Machakos and Mombasa.

He chose Mombasa where he has interests including investments and emotional attachment. He was born and brought up in Mombasa.

Speaking in a talk show on Radio Kaya on Thursday morning, Mwakwere appeared to support Sonko’s candidature.

“If he gets his ticket for Mombasa, he will win,” Mwakwere said, adding that Sonko’s politics is pro-poor.

The Wiper chairman said many in Mombasa are the poor.

“Sonko has a record of helping the poor. Others are only bragging with their wealth. Only a few can touch Sonko there,” Mwawere said.

“He knows and we know that others are scared already.”

However, he quickly added that the party will lay down its procedure that will strictly be adhered to.

Mrombo told the Star Wiper has strategically placed Sonko in Mombasa to gain more bargaining power in Azimio.

“They know they cannot win Nairobi, which has votes of Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya, Kisii and Kamba in that order,” Mrombo said.

In Mombasa, he said, the Kamba vote bloc is second to the Mijikenda bloc and once Mbogo, a Mijikenda, officially becomes Sonko’s running mate, the Mijikendas and Kambas will have a significant lead.

However, Mrombo said Sonko has established himself as a brand there is little by way of ethnic affiliation.

“If Sonko gets the Wiper ticket, they are in for a big shock. Sonko will be voted for as an institution and not as a Kamba. He is a trademark which is patented. He is an industry in himself. Wiper is just an addition,” Mrombo said.

With Sonko’s entry into the race, the Azimio coalition now has two formidable candidates. The other one is ODM’s Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir.

And given businessman Suleiman Shahbal’s seeming change of heart following pressure from supporters after initially dropping his bid in favour of Nassir, the Azimio coalition may have three candidates.

It is an unwelcome headache for Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga and chairman President Uhuru Kenyatta, as this may play into the hands of UDA, whose candidate Hassan Omar, could benefit from the division of votes.

Analysts view the scenario as a delicate one and a potential banana skin for the Azimio coalition.

On Tuesday, Shahbal announced to his supporters that he is embarking on a countywide listening tour of his supporters who were disappointed with his decision to step down for Nassir and want him to run as an independent.

“I will then give direction after in maybe 48 hours,” Shahbal said at Tononoka Hall.

This was hours before Raila issued the ODM certificate to Nassir at Treasury Square in a function that Shahbal did not attend.

He later attended an iftar dinner at Serani ground where together with Shahbal and Nassir appeared to be cosy with each other.

Mrombo said Shahbal can forget about winning the governor’s seat even if he runs as an independent candidate.

He said Shahbal fixed himself twice.

“First, he fixed himself when he agreed to the Buxton project and then when he agreed to step down for Nassir. He was seen as a leader with no firm stand,” Mrombo said.

He said Shahbal is more of a manager and businessman than a politician.


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