It started as a crooked joke on Wednesday evening but, by yesterday morning had snowballed into a heavy and emotional national matter. It came in the form of a badly written letter, complete with a Nairobi County government seal, but the story lay, not in the words, but the motive.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko had nominated his political arch-enemy and Kenyan-Canadian deportee Miguna Miguna as his deputy, the letter read, and wanted his assembly to vet him. Was this a sick joke on Kenyans, or a publicity stunt gone too far?
Sonko did not confirm or deny the authenticity of the letter, even though a source within his communication team said it was genuine. Also, lawyer Cliff Ombeta, for Mr Miguna, said he had been given the letter by Sonko to deliver it to the County Speaker, Ms Beatrice Elachi.
Who is fooling whom? Kenyans started asking Wednesday after a morning of swirling rumours and opinion mongering. In the afternoon, Jubilee Party laughed off the letter, and Ms Elachi said she had not received any formal communication from the governor on the nomination.
Jubilee’s Secretary-General Raphael Tuju said Mr Miguna is not a member of the party and described the decision by Mr Sonko to pick him as “nonsense”, arguing that it violates the law.
“As a party, we view the question of membership not just as a matter of procedure, but a critical aspect of the law which can disqualify one from contesting an election,” Mr Tuju told the Nation.
At City Hall, members of the County Assembly confirmed that Sonko had picked the controversial lawyer for the position left vacant by the resignation of Mr Polycarp Igathe in January this year, but warned that they will shoot down the nomination unless it is cleared by the party.
Earlier, Ms Elachi had sent mixed signals on the nomination; first, she told reporters that she had not received any letter from the governor in relation to Mr Miguna, but a few minutes later changed tune and confirmed that she had actually received the letter, only that the right procedure had not been followed.
“It’s the nominee’s lawyer who submitted the letter to my office,” she admitted and directed Sonko to follow the right procedure. She did not, however, name the lawyer, only telling journalists: “You know him.”
“I have talked to the governor and notified him of the anomaly, and he has confirmed he will do the right thing,” she said.
However, Ms Elachi could not explain under what circumstances she had accepted the letter since it had been delivered to her by a stranger who has no official links to the county government.
That stranger is lawyer Cliff Ombeta, who insisted there was nothing wrong in the whole process, and that Sonko had given him the letter on Wednesday night at Serena Hotel in Nairobi. Sonko was not available for comment on the allegation.
“There is no specific legal requirement that the letter should follow a particular route,” he said. “The facts are, the letter was delivered, and it was received.”
He said there is no precedence on how such letter should be delivered to the Speaker’s office as the law is silent on what should happen in the event a vacancy occurs in the office of the deputy governor.
“The Speaker is trivialising a very serious matter. The truth is that she can’t wish the letter away. It is valid and the governor has not denounced it. If she has a particular rule on how such a letter should be delivered, she should explain it now.”
But Ms Elachi insisted that Mr Miguna will have to present a clearance certificate from Jubilee Party for the assembly to consider his nomination, arguing that this is in line with the provisions of the Constitution and the precedence by the County Assembly in Nyeri when it last month vetted and approved the nomination of Caroline Karugu as deputy governor.