The self-styled Sultan who rose from ‘mahamri’ vendor to helm

Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho. file photo | nmg
Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho. file photo | nmg 

On March 28, a day before he recorded a statement with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations over alleged forgery of his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination certificate, Mombasa governor Hassan Joho called a press conference, during which he sought to “clear the air” over his education background.

The governor emotionally narrated how he had endured a hard life and literally struggled to help his family put food on the table.

Joho said unlike President Uhuru Kenyatta who grew up in State House with his father as Kenya’s founding President, his life had been characterised by deprivation and he had to work extra hard even to afford a decent education. “When I was in primary school I had to sell mahamri (form of popular pastry) and vitumbua (coconut rice pancake) in estates so that I could raise my school fees and had to wait for a while (after completing Class Eight) to go to Serani Secondary School,” he said, adding that while at Serani, he would go to seek manual jobs to raise school fees.

“I used to work at the old port loading ships that were carrying goods from Somalia. Here, I would be paid Sh80 after a hard day’s work. That was not easy work for me at the time when I was that young,” he said.

The governor admitted that he scored a D- in KCSE examination, and was proud of his grade that he said was now an inspiration to young people, looking at his achievement in life. He had been accused of having forged a KCSE certificate to show that he had scored a C+ (the minimum for entry to the university). The matter is still under investigation.

Joho claims the government has vowed to do all it takes to ensure that he is not on the ballot in the August polls.

When he joined politics in December 2004 to contest the Kisauni parliamentary seat left vacant by the death of then Local Government minister Karisa Maitha, few people expected him to later become a political supremo at the Coast, let alone being the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) deputy party leader.

The Kisauni battle pitted him against lawyer Ananiah Mwaboza and although Joho lost, it was clear that his 7,293 votes garnered against Mwaboza’s 8,374 marked the beginning of the making of a political heavy weight.

As for Mr Mwaboza, who had the backing of politicians associated with retired President Mwai Kibaki’s National Rainbow Coalition, it was a close shave.

Come 2007 General Election, Joho polled 35,720 votes against Mwaboza’s 19,078 votes, with the victory propelling the then 28-year old to active politics.

Since then, Joho has been in the political limelight and when he contested Mombasa governor in 2013 on an ODM ticket, he garnered 132,583 votes to beat Suleiman Shahbal of Wiper Party who polled 94,905 votes. By beating the odds to become Mombasa governor and ODM deputy party leader, Joho’s political star has been rising.

During a past breakfast meeting with journalists, the governor narrated how the late Maitha “took me by the hand from office of office,” helping him secure business contracts that made him the person he is today.

If Maitha’s combative politics endeared him to the low and mighty, his successor — Joho — has perfected this art, even doing the unthinkable.

When his bodyguards were withdrawn in January after he had a heated exchange with the President, Joho rejected government security when it was reinstated.

Today, the governor goes to meetings armed, with the gun protruding from his right hip, sometimes showing when he sits down. This brings him out as a fearless individual ready to take on his adversaries at the slightest opportunity.

Besides Turkana governor Josphat Nanok who has taken on President Kenyatta over exploitation of oil resources in the county, Joho is the only governor who has constantly hit out at the President, saying the projects the Jubilee government was launching at the Coast to “hoodwink” the residents, were donor funded.

But during the launch of Mtongwe ferry on March 13, President Kenyatta told Joho to concentrate on his work as the governor and stop following him around. The governor has also been in bad books with Coast regional coordinator Nelson Marwa who has warned him to restrict his political meetings to Mombasa County.

According to a message posted on the Mombasa County website, Joho was born in Kisauni 41 years ago. The Governor holds a BA in business and human resource management from Kampala University and various diplomas in business, shipping, logistics and ICT, the county says.