Shakeel Shabbir walks a tight rope as his Kolwa support base is targeted – The Standard

For three consecutive terms, Shakeel Shabbir has defied racial and cultural barriers to cement his name among the greats of Kisumu East, always winning with clear margins.
In the political battle he faced in 2017, Mr Shabbir defied party odds and won the seat as an independent candidate in an area where the ODM party enjoys significant support.
With less than a month to the next General Election, Mr Shabbir has been pushed into familiar territory again, as two major clans – Kajulu and Kolwa – gang up to unseat him.

His performance has been under scrutiny, even as he flexes political muscles for another term.
Mr Shabbir is one of former ODM members now keen to go it alone to defeat the party’s candidates as independents, some having cited foul play in the primaries.

Kisumu East Constituency elected all ODM MCAs but opted for an independent Shabbir in 2017. In that poll, Mr Shabbir garnered 33,923 votes against ODM’s Nicholas Oricho (29,309), Nelson Kabaka of the ANC party and Jubilee’s Joram Odhiambo got 623 and 483 votes respectively.
Mr Shabbir is hoping to replicate the performance and defend his seat as an independent candidate on August 9, after thwarting attempts by ODM to lure him back to the party.
Meanwhile, two other candidates have intensified their bid to unseat Mr Shabbir. ODM is also keen to reclaim the seat from Mr Shabbir.

The race is almost a replica of the one witnessed in the 2017 General Election. Mr Shabbir is fighting for the seat against ODM’s Nicholas Oricho, who he competed against in 2017.
The Movement for Growth and Democracy (MDG) party has also fielded Salim Didi to battle for the seat as the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition affiliate party fights for a space in the region. Key issues expected to influence the race include track record, clannism and party strength.

Nicholas Oricho. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

While some of his opponents will be seeking to rely on their party’s influence in the region and clannism to market their popularity, Mr Shabbir is banking on his track record to earn him a second term. He believes he has built a strong grassroots network.
Mr Shabbir, who served as Mayor for Kisumu Municipality between 2000 and 2005, says he is looking at the track record that has enabled him to win in the past.
“It has been 20 years of good leadership for me, with some working as mayor and others as an MP. I have been steady and I have served my people in the best capacity,” he says.

Mr Shabbir says even when in Nairobi, his priority always remains Kisumu East. He says he has not been the chairman of any committee despite the fact that he could. “That would have taken my time. I come back home religiously to meet them on Fridays and Mondays in my office and Saturday at funerals. On Sundays I am always available,” he says.
Mr Shabbir says he is not afraid of the party’s popularity in Kisumu because his supporters have always defied the ODM wave to elect him. He has promised his opponents a tough duel.
The larger Kolwa clan that has always supported Mr Shabbir since he was nominated councilor and later became the town’s mayor before the onset of devolution, is now a target of the two other contenders.
ODM has intensified its quest to wrest the seat from Mr Shabbir and has rallied elders from the larger Kolwa clan to back Mr Oricho. Mr Didi, also from the clan, is also rallying the clan to back him up. It remains to be seen if their efforts will bear fruit.
Mr Shabbir has been so entrenched in the local politics that he has become an elder in the constituency that straddles the town and rural enclaves of Kajulu and Kano. His presence has been felt in almost all the local funerals. He contributes generously to bereaved families and the less fortunate.
Locals have nicknamed Mr Shabbir “Wuon mogo (flour donor)” because of his tendency to donate maize flour to families and his effort to attend as many funerals in the constituency as possible with contributions.
His opponents, however, argue that he has failed on the development front. They claim the constituency has poor road networks and is the only one in the region without a public boarding school.
Mr Oricho, a former director of Kenya Sugar Board, claims the system has been rigged in favor of Mr Shabbir for a long time, hence the underdevelopment in the Constituency. 
Mr Oricho says there is a visible great difference in infrastructural development and education in Kisumu West and Seme constituencies, compared to Kisumu East.

Salim Didi. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

He says there is no oversight for independent leadership, hence the stunted growth and development.
“Shakeel has failed. My main priority is to bring change to the education sector, which I feel my opponent has neglected for years. Our people need opportunities to make an honest living. But without skills from a training college, they cannot move and make their lives better,” says Mr Oricho.
He says that once elected, he plans to lobby for the establishment of one institution of higher learning for the people. Mr Oricho has also advised youths to embrace blue-collar jobs, which have realistic opportunities in the real world once they are through with training.
“I will fight for a Bill that will ensure the support and sustainability of community help volunteers in the area. These youths do a lot of work for very little pay, which is not fair to them. I will also give full scholarships to well-performing students once elected,” says Mr Oricho.
But Mr Didi, a financial expert born and bred in Kolwa, Chiga, believes it is his time to take over the mantle.
He says as a youth he understands first-hand the difficulties the residents of Kisumu East, particularly Kolwa, have suffered over the years under the leadership of Mr Shabbir.
Mr Didi says he is in the race to restore the long-lost pride and dignity of the Kolwa people, who have never been given opportunity to lead the constituency.
He says ODM is a dominant party in the lake region, but has never given an opportunity to the people of Kolwa to have the parliamentary seat.
“The people of Kajulu and Nyalenda already had the opportunity to lead our people. Now it is our time as Kolwa community to also have a chance to shine for the next five years,” says Mr Didi. He says he will prioritise tackling unemployment when he gets to the office.
“I will create opportunities for the people and kill the handouts culture, which my counterparts have been doing over the years. I want to show my people how to fish instead of giving fish to them. That way they are able to have long-term solutions to earn a living. This move will remove the poor living conditions of my constituents, leading to productive youths and elders,” he notes.
Mr Didi says he will look into underdevelopment, insecurity, and unemployment once he is elected MP.

Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabir. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

He says, as per his manifesto, everyone, including the youth, women, elders and children will be catered for. Mr Shabbir however says he has been working hard and has built nearly 400 classrooms in the constituency.
“I am poorer now than I was in 2017. All my salary goes to my constituents. I buy the maize flour that I donate in funerals. I have about 20 funerals every week. I feel my salary is for the people and whatever title I have is for them,” he claims.
According to Phillip Ochieng’, a political analyst, party choice and track record will be the determining factor.
He however admits that Mr Shabbir may have a bigger challenge this time in the effort to retain his seat.
“The current leadership has not made any significant development that the people of Kisumu East can count on, apart from handouts,” he says.
In the 2017 General Election, Kolwa and Kajulu fronted several candidates to compete against Mr Shabbir after a series of meetings chaired by elders failed to settle on a single candidate. Kolwa, the largest of the local clans, fielded three candidates while Kajulu fronted two. This time Kolwa only has two.
“I was born here and my father and  I have been given such great respect by the people of Kisumu. I have been there as Raila’s soldier for the past 15 years without any complaint. I have confidence in the people of Kisumu, I know they will give me another chance,” said Mr Shabbir.  
He claims he has been serving the people fairly and has been steadfast in ensuring bursaries are fairly distributed to residents.

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