Elite businessmen from Murang’a, along with a top State House official, played a key role in choosing Polycarp Igathe as Mike Sonko’s running mate in the Nairobi governorship race, the Nation can reveal.
The Nation has reliably learnt that Mr Sonko was hesitant to take Mr Igathe as his running mate and was keen to pick one from the initial Nairobi team with whom he had worked so hard to repulse the entry of Peter Kenneth into city politics.
Interviews with multiple sources suggest that the process of picking Mr Igathe only came into the picture after the famous altercation between Mr Sonko and businessman Chris Kirubi.
In fact Mr Sonko had gone further to widen the net and briefly flirted with the idea of including former town clerk John Gakuo and businessman Jimnah Mbaru as possible choices for running mate.
It was at this time that Mr Kirubi came into the picture after Mr Sonko, through his Facebook page, offered him a job as economic adviser in the event he lands the governorship after the August poll.
Though Mr Kirubi repulsed the offer, going as far as making unsavoury remarks against the senator, it is the job offer that triggered the series of events that would culminate in the naming of Mr Igathe as Mr Sonko’s running mate, in a scheme pushed by a powerful elite from Murang’a County.
During an interview on Citizen TV in March, Mr Sonko vowed not to work with Mr Kenneth, accusing him of betraying President Kenyatta in 2013.
Before his unveiling as running mate, Mr Igathe was the managing director of Vivo Energy, a business consortium linked to Kirubi.
“It is possible that Kirubi was privy to the negotiations and that is why he willingly let Igathe leave,” a source close to Mr Sonko revealed to the Nation.
Other names being linked to the picking of Mr Igathe are Peter Munga, the chairman of Equity Bank, David Murathe, the vice-chairman of the Jubilee Party and a top aide of President Uhuru Kenyatta based at State House.
“This was a Murang’a thing and all references to Igathe’s corporate credentials are a ruse. Forget the corporate thing and focus on the fact that Igathe hails from Murang’a and that was the main qualification,” the source said.
Those in the know say Mr Igathe is being fronted so as to fill in Mr Sonko’s alleged failings in corporate governance and also to placate the critical mass of Murang’a people in Nairobi who were left disillusioned by the outcome of Jubilee primaries in which Mr Sonko defeated Mr Kenneth.
NOT A PROJECT
When contacted, Mr Sonko dismissed the allegations, saying Mr Igathe is a product of wide and elaborate consultations.
He also dismissed claims that his running mate is somebody’s project.
“If he is a project then he is a project of his own CV because it speaks loudly for itself,” the senator said.
Mr Sonko insists that in settling on Mr Igathe, he is fulfilling a promise to Nairobi residents that his deputy will not be a politician.
“We cannot have two politicians running the capital…I wanted a technocrat; an individual with corporate appeal that will be attractive to investors,” Mr Sonko said.
He insists that he has all the correspondence that shows how wide the consultations were, which he insists negates the idea that Mr Igathe is a project.
Kiharu MP Irungu Kang’ata, one the legislators who supported Peter Kenneth for the Jubilee Party ticket, has changed tune, saying that Murang’a people will now fully support Mr Sonko after he picked Mr Igathe as his running mate.
“We the people of Murang’a are very happy by Sonko picking Igathe as his running mate. We have heavy investments in Nairobi. There is even a section of Nairobi called 'Little Murang’a,” Mr Kang’ata told the Nation.
Political analyst Martin Andati said picking Mr Igathe was strategic.
He said it sought to please and reap the Mt Kenya vote after the bruising Jubilee Party nominations in which Mr Sonko defeated Mr Kenneth.
“Mr Igathe brings in sobriety in the Sonko line-up because people have been accusing Sonko of approaching serious issues in a casual manner,” Mr Andati told the Nation.