Tim insists on big seat bid, party tells him to move on
The endorsement of technocrat Polycarp Igathe by the Jubilee Party for the Nairobi governorship has left ODM leader Raila Odinga walking on a tightrope as the battle for control of the capital city rages.
On a day that saw supporters of Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi and senior leaders from his Luhya community wage a protest over the decision by the top leadership of the Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya alliance of President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga to force him to step down in favour of Igathe, it also became apparent that the new line-up of the coalition’s aspirants is scheduled to be unveiled today at State House.
Besides coming up with other demands from Raila, members of the Luhya community led by ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna, Makadara MP George Aladwa, Sirisia MP John Waluke, former Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi, former Nairobi Town Clerk Philip Kisia and several City MCAs threatened to ditch Azimio if Wanyonyi is not handed the nomination certificate.
“We are telling our leaders, President Uhuru and Raila to re-evaluate the issue of Nairobi. There is no way that Hon Tim, who has been a leader in this town for some time should drop his bid to deputise a political green-horn like Igathe. We shall not settle for anything less than Nairobi governor,” Aladwa said.
Aladwa, who also doubles up as the ODM Nairobi branch chairman, proposed that Uhuru and Raila should subject all persons interested in the City governorship to a nomination instead of imposing Igathe on the electorate.
“The seat of Nairobi is not negotiable, and we are sending a very strong statement to our leaders that in 2022 ,we will not allow anyone to play with our numbers,” Aladwa warned.
And despite the protests of betrayal on Wanyonyi, who until yesterday had been touted as a frontrunner for the seat, Igathe coincidentally resurfaced on the streets of Nairobi for the first time since his resignation as deputy governor in 2018, briskly socialising with members of the public, particularly boda boda operators and hawkers, in what could be a pointer to today’s announcement.
Under the arrangement scheduled to be unveiled by President Kenyatta and Raila, Igathe will serve for five years as governor before handing over to his deputy designate Wanyonyi if elected into office.
In the deal seen by People Daily, ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna will run as senator while a nominated Senator Beatrice Kwamboka will be the coalition’s candidate for the Woman Rep post.
Drop the bid
This means that nominated MP and former Starehe MP Maina Kamanda and incumbent Woman Rep Esther Passaris have been sacrificed in a tough balancing act that has elbowed out Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper party. Also sacrificed is business lady Wangui Ng’ang’a who was eyeing the Woman Rep seat.
Wiper, which had set its eyes on the deputy governor’s seat and had nominated former Kibwezi MP Prof Philip Kaloki as its candidate, is also said to have implored upon to drop the bid.
A senior ODM official who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter confirmed that the Igathe-Wanyonyi deal “was as good as sealed” and only waiting to be unveiled.
“It is a done deal that cannot be changed by anything at the moment. Wanyonyi will have to either give in or seek other options,” said the senior ODM leader who also affirmed that the party would not grant the Westlands legislator the nomination certificate despite the protests.
The senior ODM official with close ties with both Uhuru and Raila said the deal had been reached in an arrangement that ODM produces the President and deputy governor, Senator and Woman Rep in the City while Jubilee gets the position of Deputy President and City governor.
Ironically, speaking while handing nomination tickets to ODM aspirants, Raila, while reiterating his call for the six-piece voting, said he all the right to vouch for his party and its candidates.
“Azimio la Umoja coalition is a movement that has many political parties. I am the presidential candidate of the coalition but also the party leader of the ODM. I urge members of ODM to vote for our candidates, but if you are not a member of ODM, vote for whoever you are supporting,” he said.
Wanyonyi has since remained adamant that he will not budge in his candidature for the Nairobi top seat.
“Wanyonyi was the only ODM gubernatorial aspirant and so the issue is not with ODM but with some of our partners within Azimio. As ODM, we still stand behind Wanyonyi, whom we believe is the best candidate,” Sifuna said.
Raila now finds himself between a rock and a hard place over whether to give in to the conditions from his Jubilee partners, who are demanding for the Nairobi governorship in exchange for their support for his presidential bid, or close ears on them.
While Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe has declared that “Raila will win the August 9 presidential race against UDA candidate William Ruto, with or without Mt Kenya votes,” pundits have warned him to ignore the region at his own peril.
It is said within some quarters that the positions of Deputy President and Nairobi governorship could make voters from the Mt Kenya region who have been lethargic about Raila’s bid, rethink their stand.
“It is a tough balancing act that Raila finds himself in. On the one hand, the President and his people have given the conditions of DP and Nairobi governorship as their prerequisite for their support. On the other hand, here comes members of the Luhya community, whom you cannot ignore with the demand for the Nairobi seat. Either way, he must appease one side,” says Dr Timothy Bosire, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi.
Earlier in the day, Igathe, who had in 2017 deputised Governor Mike Sonko, had in an interview with a local radio station discounted claims of being a spoiler owing to his late entrant to the race.
“The conversation of me running for governor has been going on to the point where they (supporters) got so frustrated, they decided that I had been employed by another oil company recently called Rubis,” he explained.
“I’m not a new person in leadership. That conversation has been going on. What I have done is to pronounce that I’m a candidate with my mouth, not other people pronouncing it for me,” he stated.
He said his entry into the city politics is strategic since he is coming to serve.
Igathe, who is now being accused of being a johnny-come-lately said “I’m now stepping down as a group Chief Commercial Officer at Equity Bank to come back to the city and finish what I started”.
“And you know what they say? cometh the hour cometh the man. Timing is everything. Yes, I am coming as governor for a five-year stint and I’m going to move for five years working for the people of Nairobi,” he said, adding that he would only serve for one term of five years.
Asked who could be his running mate, Igathe said some conversations are taking place at the Azimio-One Kenya leadership.
“Yes, we will be at State House because Jubilee Party leader Uhuru and ODM leader Raila have had resounding thunderous demands for a competent executive to run Nairobi City County, they’re the biggest listeners to what we call the ground,” he said.
Igathe later in the day held a 30-minute meeting with the Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) Director General Lieutenant-General Mohamed Badi.