Here are the big names lining up to replace impeached Governor Sonko
Even before dust settles on the impeachment of Mike Sonko, intense lobbying and behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to find the next Nairobi governor are on.
Several people have thrown their hats in the ring, even as names of politicians and technocrats are floated as possible candidates in the by-election expected to be held 60 days after the swearing-in of acting Governor Benson Mutura today.
Former Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru, 2013 presidential candidate Peter Kenneth and Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) national secretariat co-chairman Dennis Waweru are among the politicians said to be eyeing the seat.
Businesswoman Agnes Kagure, former Nairobi City Council Clerk Philip Kisia and former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo are also interested in the coveted position.
Other politicians mentioned are Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja and Mr Nickson Kiprotich, who sources said is Deputy President William Ruto’s preferred choice.
According to those with knowledge of the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring, there are those who think that, given the performance of Nairobi Metropolitan Services Director-General Mohamed Badi, a technocrat would be best-placed to lead the capital city.
Some of the technocrats being considered are head of Presidency Delivery Unit Nzioka Waita, Infrastructure Principal Secretary Charles Hinga, former Nairobi County Secretary Peter Kariuki, as well as serving regional commanders and former military and administration bosses.
There has also been talk of Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka providing a candidate.
Being a cosmopolitan county with a big chunk of youthful voters, pundits say party politics and the age factor will play a role in deciding the election winner.
There is no doubt that the March 9, 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga on one hand and the Tangatanga and Kieleweke politics will be also be at play in the Sonko succession.
According to sources, the ruling Jubilee Party will seek to defend the seat, with ODM persuaded to support the candidate in return for a running mate position.
This, according to a President Kenyatta man in Nairobi, will avoid upsetting the handshake – Jubilee having supported ODM in Kibra and Msambweni by-elections by not fielding a candidate.
“Nairobi governor endorsement is likely to go to Jubilee with support of ODM. Sonko was a Jubilee candidate and it is only fit for the position to go back to the ruling party,” the source told the Nation.
Such an arrangement is not alien since the handshake came into being, with the two parties striking a similar deal in August when Mr Mutura was supported by ODM in return for deputy speaker’s position, which went to former mayor and Baba Dogo Ward Representative Geoffrey Majiwa.
Getting it right in terms of tribal arithmetic is the headache facing parties.
Jubilee sources told the Nation that Dr Ruto’s camp has settled on Bishop Wanjiru as its preferred candidate. Ms Wanjiru said she is the pick for the “Hustler Nation” and she would contest the seat.
“I work with Dr Ruto so I will vie with the ‘Hustler Nation’ team. We work with what wananchi have said. Ours is a bottom-up kind of leadership. The people have decided that it is me and that is why you can see posters everywhere. It is up to them to decide the ticket I will use,” Bishop Wanjiru said.
Two weeks ago, the Jesus is Alive Ministries head hosted Dr Ruto and his allies at her church for a fundraiser.
She pledged to support the DP’s cause.
In the handshake camp, the frontrunners have already started burning the midnight oil reaching out to their think-tanks and other like-minded leaders as they seek to gain a headstart over rivals.
Plucked from political obscurity after losing his seat to Mr John Kiarie, former Dagoretti South MP Waweru is said to have political goodwill as he seems to enjoy close relationship with the powers-that-be.
Mr Waweru, who is the chairman of the Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest), also played a significant role together with Nominated MP Maina Kamanda in leading team Kieleweke, drumming up support for Mr Imran Okoth during the Kibra campaigns late last year.
He is seen as a strong candidate that could stand up to anyone from the Tangatanga team, with speculation rife that a miffed Sonko will rally his support base behind the Tangatanga team.
“I have been interested in the seat from 2016 and that still remains,” the former Dagoretti MP said.
“It is time we restore sanity in Nairobi politics. I am the most acceptable and agreeable compromise candidate for the handshake team.”
Mr Kenneth is seen by some to have an upper hand due to his political experience.
He is expected to give Mr Waweru headache as the hunt for the ticket begins.
The former Gatanga MP has already begun reaching out to possible running mates as he seeks to craft a winning team.
One name that has been mentioned is that of political and governance commentator Steve Ogolla.
The 38-year-old lawyer has attracted interest even from the “Hustler Nation” camp as a result of his youthfulness and an understanding of Nairobi politics.
“They have been sending emissaries to Mr Ogolla as they see him as a possible magnet to the huge youth voting bloc in Nairobi. He has not made a decision yet but is open to the idea should he be called upon,” the source added.
The former Gatanga MP, who lost the Jubilee governor ticket to Mr Sonko in 2017, has of late been active in the political arena being at the forefront of drumming up support for the BBI as well as spearheading talks between Kikuyu and Luo elders.
Ms Kagure has also been part of the team in the elders’ talks and is said to be the brain behind the renewed camaraderie between the two communities.
She has all along been interested in Nairobi politics and was at one time touted as a possible replacement of Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe after his resignation in 2018.