How power-sharing pacts may shape Nairobi contest
Negotiated democracy is expected to play a significant role in determining the next governor of Nairobi.
There is an increasing likelihood that key positions will be shared out among coalition partners, especially in the Handshake family. Already, the Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga has put those eyeing the seat in an a-wait-and-see situation after it emerged they were keen to influence the next city leadership.
Pro-Handshake politicians have also intimated that both Uhuru and Raila are working on a formula to see how both camps will share out the slots.
Sources further reveal Uhuru and Raila have agreed that Mt Kenya region should produce the governor candidate.
Nairobi, with a population of four million people, is of particular significance because it is not only the country’s capital but also East Africa’s diplomatic and commercial hub.
The governor, according to sources, will be deputised by a leader from Western Kenya. “We have held meetings with leaders close to the President and it is clear that the Nairobi seat will be left for Mt Kenya people. The remaining seats will also be divided well to major communities in Nairobi,” said Nairobi County Assembly Deputy Speaker John Kamangu.
Kamangu said for the first time the President will give specific attention to Nairobi governorship. “The President is said to be looking for a candidate that will manage the city prudently. He is concerned that in previous elections despite supporting governor candidates, nothing much has been done.”
Since the era of inaugural governor Dr Evans Odhiambo Kidero, Nairobi county management has been ridden with controversy. Elimination of the dreaded cartels is also a key issue both Uhuru and Raila are said to be keen to address
Data from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission indicate that Nairobi has about 2,250,850 voters with 3,378 polling stations. Nairobi Metropolitan Services is also expected to play a key role in the contest. NMS was established in March 2020 to undertake most city projects. Headed by Lieutenant-General Mohammed Badi, NMS handles most critical dockets in the county.
Nairobi governor aspirants include Westlands MP Timothy Wanyonyi (ODM), who appears to be enjoying the support of Orange party fraternity, businessman Richard Ngatia who has been central in Azimio La Umoja campaigns, Senator Johnson Sakaja who leans towards the One Kenya Alliance and Bishop Margaret Wanjiru of Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA).
Also in the race is entrepreneur Agnes Kagure, who launched her campaign last week, Governor Anne Kananu..
Insiders intimate that Ngatia is courting the support of both Uhuru and Raila. “Uhuru’s choice for Nairobi is Ngatia because he understands the city dynamics and knows what the county needs to be maintained as a business hub. Things will be clearer as we approach nominations. But I know he has the support of the Handshake brothers,” said a top jubilee official, who sought anonymity.
Ngatia has, however, maintained that his interest is making Nairobi a place where everyone can do business effectively.
“I know a lot of people are interested to know if I will be vying as Nairobi governor. The reality is that I have every right to vie like any citizen. I have all the requirements that can lead Nairobi and if such opportunity arises, I will lead the city diligently,” he said. Kagure, a career insurance broker, has promised to restore the glory of the city, which she says was lost during the tenure of Sonko. “I want to move Nairobi from being the city of lamentation to one of jubilation”, said Kagure.
Although she did not declare her party of choice, the businesswoman said she would fight for the seat through Azimio.
Since the 2018 Handshake, Kagure has been a strong supporter of Raila’s presidential campaign, occasionally accompanying him on his trips to Mt Kenya region. Bishop Wanjiru, the former Starehe MP, has pledged to address perennial water shortage and improve condition of markets in Nairobi if elected governor.
“I understand Nairobi more than anyone else. I served in Starehe constituency where I did a lot of development. My competitors are new comers who are only interested in this city to feed their stomachs. I am the solution that will make Nairobi a better place”, she said.
Kananu was sworn in as Nairobi’s third and first female governor on November 16, 2021, after Sonko was impeached. “For those who think I am weak, I have tasted and living it. I want to tell them that I am here to stay,” Kananu said. Before assuming office, Kananu served as the Chief Officer in charge of Disaster Management at City Hall. Wanyonyi says he will be banking on a 10-point agenda to bring sanity to the capital. For the past 15 years, Wanyonyi a lawyer by profession has served Nairobi, first as a nominated councillor between 2007 and 2013 and then as MP for Westlands constituency since 2013.
“We would like to position Nairobi as a smart city meaning we should be performing under ICT because we must move away from doing things in a traditional way and start digitalising city functions,” he said.
In his manifesto, the MP promises to fight corruption, integrate ICT and optimally utilise the existing developed and undeveloped land to address the housing needs of city residents.
Sakaja argues that he best understands the plight of Nairobi residents and that he will completely transform the county should he clinch the seat. The vibrant and youthful lawmaker has previously stated that he will completely do away with the cartels swindling county resources and that he will rejuvenate and bring back the lost glory of Nairobi.