Nairobi will be Jubilee’s electoral Waterloo, unless strategy changes

Sunday February 12 2017

Nairobi gubernatorial aspirants Mike Sonko

Nairobi gubernatorial aspirants Mike Sonko (left) and Dennis Waweru (centre) chat with businessman Paul Kobia during the launch of Jubilee Party membership smart card on January 13, 2017 at the Safaricom Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By GITAU WARIGI
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For the umpteenth time, four Jubilee gubernatorial aspirants for Nairobi were supposed to be meeting in seclusion last week to thrash out who among them will have the party mantle.

They have been up to this tedious routine for months on end with zero results. I did not expect they would agree on anything much beyond the food menu on the table, just as I don’t expect to see white smoke coming out of the committee which Cord/Nasa has named to pick a presidential candidate.

The confusion in Jubilee has degenerated into this foursome of Mike Sonko, Dennis Waweru, Margaret Wanjiru and Johnson Sakaja ganging up against Peter Kenneth, the presumed “outsider,” even when they don’t agree on anything else.

The factionalism and backbiting is a textbook study of how not to manage an all-important political race. It makes nonsense of Jubilee’s boast of being a smooth digital machine as well as its over-confident predictions for the General Election.

Nairobi city will definitely be Jubilee’s electoral Waterloo if this state of disarray is not urgently checked.

Matters have been made worse by conflicting and inept interventions from the Presidency followed by long lulls of hands-off inertia.

There is an overall sense that the party’s highest echelons are pulling at cross-purposes with no coherent strategy to win over the city.

It is an open secret that the Deputy President’s circle remains deeply suspicious of Kenneth’s candidacy. That has everything to do with 2022 succession politics, which the former Gatanga MP is feared to be positioning himself for.

KENNETH GAINED FAVOUR

When the DP held a roundtable for the party aspirants at his official residence not too long ago, participants were surprised that Kenneth actually attended.

At the same time, Kenneth is rumoured to have gradually gained favour ahead of other candidates with an office superior to the DP’s, that of President Kenyatta.

Sonko gave a highly loaded hint on the current state of affairs as reported by one newspaper last week: “I welcome Kenneth to Nairobi but I don’t support him. If he has consulted the President and he is given a direct nomination, I will vie as an independent candidate. I must be on the ballot paper.”

The trouble is that the President will not show his hand, believing it is best that the aspirants fight it out together. If Kenyatta thinks this is the easiest way to resolve the impasse in Nairobi, he surely has a bigger problem on his hands.

In Kenya, the credo of party democracy and fair nominations exists only in the textbooks. The President demonstrated better leadership when he recently hosted the Kajiado county leadership and cajoled their multiple gubernatorial aspirants to join hands. Only two notable ones now remain in competition: Former Internal Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku and Taraiya ole Kores of the Kenya Meat Commission.

Sonko is undeniably popular in Nairobi, perhaps more so than any of his rivals. Still, his evident lack of gubernatorial qualifications and his chap-on-the-street manner of doing things is a handicap, something which is understood not to be lost on the Presidency. Wanjiru is not seen as any more qualified either, though she has undoubted mobilising skills.

SAVVY INVESTOR

Together with Sonko, the only other of the Jubilee aspirants who is presently an elected official in the city is Waweru, the Dagoretti South MP. He made his name as a savvy investor at the Nairobi Stock Exchange but, above all, he comes across as a decent and soft-spoken politician, though with a charisma deficit.

As for Sakaja, who is a Nominated MP, he has no prior experience of elective politics in the city or anywhere else. A widely-held view is that he is playing the reverse ethnicity card as the only non-Kikuyu candidate, apart from Sonko, on the Jubilee card.

If Sonko doesn’t get the Jubilee ticket and he indeed opts to run as an independent, that could be the game changer. He will go away with a huge chunk of voters, and thus deprive the Jubilee candidate the numbers needed to win.

Kenneth may be gaining ground fast in the city, but this haemorrhage will surely kill his campaign. Figuring that out is not rocket science.

In the end, the candidate who will be left standing tall will be ODM’s Evans Kidero, the incumbent governor. If there is anybody who should be sitting pretty now as his rivals feud like feral cats, it is him.

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