Kenya’s seat of power and richest county is now headed to a by-election billed to be the fiercest contest ever seen for such a race in the country’s history.
Yesterday, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced that February 18 will be the day that will determine who replaces Mike Sonko following his impeachment a week ago.
In a gazette notice, the commission has directed political parties seeking to participate in the by-election to submit names of individuals contesting in the party primaries by December 28.
“The campaign period for purposes of the Thursday, February 18, 2021, by-election shall commence on Monday, January 18, 2021 and cease on Monday, February 15, 2021, being 48 hours before the by-election day,” states the notice dated December 21.
The battle for the Nairobi governorship is likely to be a do-or-die contest for President Uhuru Kenyatta who has interest of fixing the city as part of his legacy before he retires in the next 18 months.
The Senate last Thursday approved Sonko’s impeachment with a pattern of voting for senators indicating that the handshake team of 27 in support of Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga endorsing his removal.
Another 16 senators allied to Deputy President William Ruto voted to save the former Nairobi governor, immediately drawing the new battle line for the next contest.
It is quite unlikely that Uhuru, who picked Major-General Mohamed Badi to head the Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) with four key functions in the Nairobi county, is ready to have a new governor that would make his control of the county difficult.
In September, to rubber stamp his interest in the city management, Uhuru ushered Badi into his exclusive Cabinet meetings making him the first sitting military officer to be a Cabinet Secretary in charge of NMS.
For President Kenyatta, Nairobi is unique, with the capital in charge of 20 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and the nerve centre of Kenya’s commerce and politics.
Yesterday, a day after the notice, there was heightened activity across the political parties in what is shaping up to a possible three-horse race.
President Kenyatta’s Jubilee and ODM parties had separate meetings over the upcoming by-election amid reports that there were plans for the two outfits to field candidates jointly.
“We will see who is coming out to participate before we can decide whether to do primaries, interviews or direct nominations,” said Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju yesterday.
Notably, a possible Jubilee and ODM axis in the mini poll could emerge with one party having the governor’s seat and the other the deputy’s position.
According to an official privy to the discussions, the two political partners are planning for a similar arrangement they currently have in the Nairobi County Assembly where the speaker is allied to Jubilee and deputy speaker is from ODM.
“Since the impeached governor was Jubilee, the consensus is to have Jubilee produce governor candidate and ODM deputy governor,” said the official.
ODM chairman John Mbadi yesterday told The Standard that the party will have to consult with Jubilee before making a decision on whether to field a candidate or not.
He said the party’s National Elections Board (NEB) will proceed to invite interested parties so as to meet the timelines set by the electoral commission but the final decision will be made by NEC.
“NEB can go ahead and call for application but NEC will make the final decision on whether to field a candidate or not in Nairobi,” he added.?
The party held the seat between 2013 and 2017 before it lost to Sonko on a Jubilee ticket.
In this arrangement are line ups of politician and businessman Peter Kenneth, BBI secretariat’s co-chair Dennis Waweru and Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja who told The Standard yesterday that he was listening to the people’s voice before making a decision.
As Jubilee and ODM met, two other meetings went on within the city and its metropolis.
At his Karen official residence, Deputy President William Ruto met with former Assistant Minister Bishop Margaret Wanjiru who has declared interest for the seat as a ‘Hustler Nation’ candidate.
In Machakos, party leaders Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya), in a meeting at Stoni Athi Resort, agreed that they will field joint candidates for Nairobi seat, Machakos senatorial, and Matungu and Kabuchai constituencies (See story of Page 8).
Kalonzo said they were are consulting, without giving much details.
Mudavadi noted that alongside being sensitised by the BBI experts, they also met to discuss the way forward on the nominations. But his deputy party leader and Lugari MP Ayub Savula describe the current political atmosphere as “give and take”.
Jubilee Deputy Secretary General and Soy MP Caleb Kositany said he was not aware of any Jubilee meetings over the upcoming polls and hinted at possibly fielding a hustler candidate in the race.
“Jubilee has become a private entity. Its process of fielding candidates is not inclusive. We will just wait and see how they will conduct the process before we can decide which candidate to support,” said Kositany, a Ruto ally.
Buoyed by the Msambweni by-election victory where Feisal Bader beat ODM’s Omar Boga, the Ruto team is seeking to use the Nairobi contest to build its confidence on its 2022 bid.
IEBC, in the gazette notice, asked politicians seeking to participate in the by-election as independent candidates to submit their names and symbols by next week.
Public officers intending to run for the plum county job have also been directed to resign within seven days of declaration of the vacancy.
The office was declared vacant on Monday following the swearing in of Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Benson Mutura as acting-governor.
Political parties are expected to conduct primaries and resolve any disputes arising from the exercise before submitting list of nominees to IEBC by January 11.