Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at the Bomas Of Kenya on October 26, 2020.
Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at the Bomas Of Kenya on October 26, 2020/Photo/COURTESY

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga are faced with a fresh headache of scouting for a successor to ousted Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.

Days after the flamboyant governor’s fall, it has emerged Uhuru and Raila could sponsor joint candidates for governor and deputy governor in a strategy to control Nairobi politics ahead of 2022 polls.

Uhuru is also keen on a loyal governor who will not disrupt the workings of the Nairobi Metropolitan Services and threaten the deed of transfer.

Former Dagoreti South MP Dennis Waweru told the Star the by-election will give Nairobians an opportunity to elect  an ethical, inclusive, compassionate and competent leadership devoid of scandals.

“The handshake will give the President and the former prime minister an opportunity to sort out the Nairobi leadership once and for all so that we have an enabling environment that can be able to drive the BBI process,” said Waweru, who is a co-chair of the BBI secretariat.

Waweru is eyeing the job and has previously asked for Uhuru and Raila’s support.

“If the past few years are anything to go by, the cries and yearning for a value-based leadership have gotten louder and whoever will be mandated by the people of Nairobi to lead them must epitomise these aspirations and bring back hope, honour and happiness to them,” Waweru said.

However, Deputy President William Ruto, a close friend of the ousted Sonko, could be quietly planning to field a rival candidate who could jolt Uhuru and Raila’s stranglehold on city politics.

Ruto’s allies on Sunday gave the clearest indication yet that they will not take it lying down, signaling another political confrontation with the handshake supporters.

“Indications are very clear in Ruto’s camp that we will field a candidate in the Nairobi by-election. It is only a fool who does not seize opportunities,” declared Embakasi North MP James Gakuya.

Buoyed by the decisive win in Msambweni constituency in which his candidate, Feisal Bader, an independent candidate, triumphed over ODM’s Omar Boga, the DP is said to be seeking to field candidates in more upcoming by-elections, including Nairobi.

Gakuya, a veteran city politician, said the Tangatanga group will deploy a grassroots-driven Hustler Nation mobilisation strategy that will deliver victory and “send a clear message to rivals on the 2022 elections.”

“As at now we will not say which party or candidate we are going to support but be sure that our candidate will be there as a front-runner,” he said.

Sonko’s considerable popularity, especially, in the city’s informal settlements could play to the advantage of whomever he may support.

That, analysts say, could give Uhuru and Raila a run for their money if Sonko teams up with Ruto

The flamboyant politician had rode on his massive popularity in the city and brought on board Polycarp Igathe to seal a landslide victory against incumbent Evans Kidero in 2017.

Last Thursday, Ruto’s allies fought tooth and nail in the Senate to save Sonko and claimed the ouster motion was state-sponsored.

Twenty-seven senators allied to Uhuru and Raila voted to end Sonko’s tenure, while 16 mostly allied to Ruto voted to save him.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja and his Makueni counterpart Mutula Kilonzo Jnr abstained.

The city by-election will coincide with the BBI referendum campaigns, heightening the stakes.

This means Uhuru and Raila will have to ensure that their pick for governor will be a formidable candidate with the wherewithal to parry off a possible challenge by Ruto’s political machine.

“It is not going to be an ABC for Uhuru and Raila to settle on a candidate if at all they will present a joint aspirant for Nairobi,” declared former Kasarani MP John Njoroge.

Njoroge said Nairobi is as unique county with diversity of factors that the two leaders must contend with before arriving at a conclusion.

“From the tribal elements, business interests, slum politics, BBI and Jubilee infighting, it will be a tall order for any matrix,” Njoroge said.

Apart from loyalty, the handshake principals must also consider the ethnic arithmetic in Nairobi.

The capital city’s populous tribes remain the Kikuyu, Luyha and Luo.

Today, Nairobi county assembly Speaker Benson Mutula will take oath as acting governor.

This will set the stage for the Independent Electoral Commission to set the date for a by-election within 60 days.

There are reports that some big names have already started holding strategy meetings to lay ground for the by-election expected to be held by mid-March 2021.

Some of the big names mentioned to contest the seat include Waweru, Sonko’s predecessor Evans Kidero, businessman Jimnah Mbaru, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth as well as former Nairobi Town Clerk Philip Kisia

Others are ex-Starehe MP Bishop Margaret Wanjiru and engineer Kimori Machoka, an ODM youth mobiliser.

Bishop Wanjiru of Jesus is Alive Ministries could be Ruto’s candidate  if Sonko is barred from running.

Three weeks ago, Ruto led a high-profile fundraiser for the ministries multi-storey building during which Wanjiru declared she was ready to run for Nairobi governor in 2022.

Kimori, the leader of the youth caravan for BBI , yesterday launched his bid for Nairobi governor by doing BBI road shows across Eastlands.

“The future of leadership of Nairobi county is the hands of the youth who are the majority in the capital. We will support the NMS under General Badi to continue with his work while we take charge of City Hall,” Kimori said.

There are reports Kimori has the backing of influential people within the Executive.

However, the race could shift drastically if former MP Peter Kenneth, who lost the Jubilee nomination to Sonko in the run-up to the 2017 election, throws his hat in the ring.

Political analyst Danstan Omari says Kenneth is most likely to be Uhuru’s candidate to actualise what he termed as the President’s long-held desire to groom a Mt Kenya successor.

“Kenneth has been viewed as a potential successor in Mt Kenya to President Uhuru, so it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he is fronted in Nairobi’s by-election come next year,” Omari said.

He went on : “Uhuru’s project was totally destroyed by Sonko in 2017 because he wanted Nairobi to be under someone who would be part of his succession come 2022.”

In 2017 Sonko beat Kenneth in the Jubilee Party primaries where he garnered 138,185, Kenneth ( 62,504) followed by Bishop Margaret Wanjiru who garnered 7,654.

Sonko went on to beat then incumbent Kidereo of ODM in the General Election, with 871,794 votes to 692,483 votes.

On Sunday nominated MP Maina Kamanda was cautious about the looming battle for the Nairobi governor, saying while it would be fulfilling the constitutional requirement it could distabilise Nairobi.

He said given that the by-election could coincide with the campaigns for the BBI, the highly-charged political events would impact negatively on the economy of the capital.

“It is Nairobians who are going to suffer badly. The voters are going to be exhausted because the by-election will come too close to the referendum,” Kamanda said.

Kamanda has previously insisted that the handshake should control Nairobi city politics for BBI strategic interests but his caution yesterday lifted the lid on the careful approach Uhuru and Raila could give the battle.

“In my opinion, it could have been better if we had a way of avoiding this by-election,” the veteran and influential city politician said.

Nairobi ODM chairman and Makadara MP George Aladwa told the Star that the party will work closely with Jubilee to avoid any antagonism that could expose the handshake.

“The best way to go about it would be for the handshake team to agree on a winning formula so that we do not divide votes that can give room to our opponents,” he said.

Ruto’s camp, which is allied to Sonko, is said to have tasked legal experts to pore through the Constitution and relevant laws to give a legal opinion as to whether Sonko could run as an independent.