Monday, June 13, 2016

Nairobi politics: sharp elbows needed

City politics is not for the faint of heart or for the meek of the Earth. City politics is for the brawlers and for those with egos the size of small planets. Less is definitely not more in city politics. Balls of brass, whether one is of the male species or not, are a requirement. Because when you go in, to stay in you will need fortitude of the testicular kind. Johnson Arthur Sakaja is slowly coming to realise that a suave approach to the siasa za Nairobi will not give him the edge to edge out the incumbent, the hapless Evans Kidero.

A stupid tweet - it was rather daft - by Mr Sakaja suggests that Nairobi traffic will improve if only most (or all) Nairobians drove city cars and didn't obsessively go for 4x4s. The deluge of scorn that followed was impressive, especially for a Sunday morning when most Nairobians are supposed to be praying in church, nursing massive hangovers or nursing massive hangovers in church. It exposed Mr Sakaja as the neophyte who couldn't get nominated or elected in the party that he is chairman of. Now he wants to unseat Mr Kidero. Like I said: big brass balls.

Evans Kidero was elected because Nairobians were tired of the City Hall Way. We didn't want anything to do with Ferdinand Waititu or Mike Sonko. Jimnah Mbaru was too keen by half and too short to make it past our ideals of a mwanasiasa. Evans Kidero ticked off all the superficial right boxes: well-read, well-spoken, tall, stellar (supposedly) business background, boatloads of cash and the right political party. It's been almost three and a half years since Mr Kidero took over a City Hall and his reign has been a disaster.

He has a few accomplishments to his name: the e-platform, security lights in the CBD and the efforts at Pumwani Maternity Hospital. By and large, however, Mr Kidero has failed and failed spectacularly. The mounds of garbage that simply refuse go away, the matatu madness that seems to grow worse every week and the collapsing residential buildings that seem to grow in scale - these are all on Mr Kidero's watch. No one trusts him any more to get to it right. So now Mr Sakaja joins the acerbic-tongued Miguna Miguna and the colourful Mike Sonko in the Kidero Must Go bandwagon. He will need sharper elbows than he has demonstrated so far.

If the allegations are true, it was a $2 million bribe that kept Ferdinand Waititu from City Hall. But Mr Waititu himself is no shrinking violet. The way he stomped on Mr Mbaru's ass during the TNA nominations was a thing of wonder. Sonko is no stranger to playing hardball as Ms Shebesh (and her husband) can painfully attest to. He may have attempted to rebrand himself, but Sonko is no gentleman when playing in the rough and tumble of siasa za Nairobi. Mr Miguna has yet to prove himself in an election; the last time he tried his hand at it was somewhere in Luo Nyanza where, depending on where you sit, the Odinga hypnosis was unbreakable or he was just too arrogant for the electorate who are pretty arrogant themselves. This colourful group is against whom that Mr Sakaja intends to run.

It remains unclear whether Mr Sakaja has the money, the muscle, the cunning, the ruthlessness and the asshole factor to prevail in Nairobi. He is smooth and he seems to have some money to his name, but whether he can finance the kind of rabid support that Sonko does or organised chaos that Waititu seems to favour or the ad-buys that Kidero definitely can remains a mystery. Can he spend more than a minute in the heart of Korogocho without turning up his nose? I don't know. Can he join The People as they wade across Nairobi's many rivers of shit on their way to work? Who knows? Does he have the stones to call a rival candidate a thief or a drug baron? Only time will tell. What is certain, though, is that he will need very sharp elbows and a way of throwing them that won't get him called out for it.

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