Friday’s announcement by Nairobi Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe that he was resigning was the culmination of multi-billion shillings tender wars and the battle for control of the country’s richest county.
While the announcement caught many by surprise, investigations revealed serious differences between Governor Mike Sonko and Mr Igathe over the manner the county’s affairs were being run. Sources in both camps confided in the Nation that the fallout had been long coming due to a clash of egos and rifts over the payment of pending bills.
Efforts to contact both men on Saturday bore no fruits as Mr Sonko could not be reached on his cell phone while Mr Igathe did not return our calls.
But Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja expressed regrets at Mr Igathe’s decision, saying he could have explored other avenues of resolving his differences with Mr Sonko instead of throwing in the towel.
“What happened is regrettable and should have been the last resort after different avenues including consulting were explored,” Mr Sakaja told the Nation.
He said plans were under way to bring Mr Sonko and Mr Igathe and other Nairobi leaders together next week to deliberate on the matter.
At the centre of what one source described as “irreconcilable” differences between Mr Sonko and Mr Igathe is the feeling among the former’s allies that the latter was imposed on them by powerful forces.
The sources traced the differences to President Kenyatta’s initial endorsement of former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth on April 15, last year, to run for the gubernatorial seat in Nairobi at a time their man was struggling to secure a certificate of good conduct from the Police.
The endorsement came only days after Mr Sonko had bitterly complained that powerful forces in government were determined to frustrate his gubernatorial bid.
Mr Sonko eventually clinched the Jubilee ticket, beating Mr Kenneth hands down.
According to Mr Sonko’s allies, Mr Igathe was never his choice of running mate but that of State House to specifically take charge of policy implementation in the county.
Sources close to Mr Igathe state that the “gentleman’s” agreement was that his boss sticks to politics while he runs policies and handles administrative duties.
But as early as after the swearing in ceremony in August, both the governor and his deputy hosted friends and guests in separate places, an early sign that the “forced marriage” was on the rocks.
In December last year, a story was highlighted in one of the local dailies about the rift that had been simmering between the two.
It was reported that Sonko was uneasy with his deputy after “learning” that State House was hell-bent on having Mr Igathe run the affairs of the capital city.
After the story, Governor Sonko came out guns blazing, refuting the claims and even attaching screenshots of the alleged WhatsApp and text conversation with his deputy as a proof of their “strong” working relations.
Mr Sonko’s allies also protested that some of the nominees to his cabinet and top county positions were shoved down his throat, citing Mr Peter Kariuki – a former Presidential Delivery Unit staff who was seconded to the county as County Secretary last year but is yet to be vetted.
The straw which broke the camel’s back, according to sources in both camps are differences over the payment of pending bills running into billions of shillings.
Mr Igathe, according to sources, took offence with Mr Sonko’s decision to block the payment due to a contractor for road works done. Mr Sonko is said to have insisted that all pending bills be audited before any payments could be made, a decision that did not go down well with his deputy who wanted to expedite the process.
After opening an induction workshop for the executive members of the county on Monday in Mombasa, Mr Igathe returned to Nairobi to attend to some pressing matters and even appearing on NTV on Friday defending the administration and putting up a brave face.
Then came the bombshell, via a short text message to the same station later in the evening informing them of his decision to resign. The resignation message posted on his Twitter account finally revealed all the frustrations, “…I regret I have failed to earn the trust of the Governor to enable me drive Admin and Management of the county....,” read the tweet.
A close aide of the deputy governor admitted that he was shocked by the abrupt decision but said that Mr Igathe had shown signs of frustrations in the nascent union pointing at constant interference from his boss in his efforts to deliver the vision they had for Nairobi people as the cause of his unhappiness.
Additional reporting by Ruth Mbula and Nyaboga Kiage.