Friday, September 23, 2016

Not so quick, sir

Political campaigning is no longer seasonal in Kenya. Baba has been campaigning for the presidency since the Supreme Court said that the election of the other guy was kosher. The 2017 Nairobi gubernatorial campaign began the moment Ferdinand Waititu took Evans Kidero to court to challenge his election and lost. 

That Mr Waititu eventually lost interest in Nairobi and carpetbagged it to Kiambu is neither here nor there; his place has been taken up by putative candidates such as Mike Sonko's, Nairobi City County's senator, Margaret Wanjiru, a former Assistant Minister and member for Starehe, Dennis Waweru the current member for Dagoretti South, Esther Passaris, the eponymous proprietor of Adopt-A-Light, Johnson Sakaja, the chairman of The National Alliance and a nominated Member of the National Assembly, Philip Kisia, a former Town Clerk, and Miguna Miguna, a former officer in the defunct Prime Minister's office who failed to secure an ODM ticket to stand in the 2007 election in Nyando and who abandoned his first stab at the Governor's seat in Nairobi in 2013.

Despite their warts, some of these candidates have some achievements to their names. Mike Sonko is the most colourful of the lot. He freely admits to have been incarcerated at the Shimo La Tewa prison in Mombasa, but is canny enough to downplay what exactly he had been convicted of. He broke out of the maximum security prison in order to attend his mother's funeral. It isn't clear whether he ever went back to prison or when he was released. When he won the Makadara by-election, he did so using a mix of money power (he is rumoured to have spent 150 million shillings) and populist gestures, such as distribution of umbrellas to mama mbogas in Makadara constituency. As senator, frustrated at the inability to work with the governor, he set up the Sonko Rescue Team that provided free ambulance, breakdown and funeral cortege services - and a car service for newly-weds. Mr Sonko remains the most colourful candidate so far.

Esther Passaris will forever be remembered for popularising and monetising the lighting up of Nairobi's streets. She has fallen on hard times of late, but that doesn't take away from her star power and that she was the first one out of the gate with the idea of partnering with corporates in search of advertising and City Hall in need of an effective way of erecting and maintaining street lights. Her contract fell foul to the kawaida politics of City Hall but in the eyes of all Nairobians, it will always be her idea.

Even Johnson Sakaja, as a nominated MP, has at least one achievement to his name. He successfully sponsored and steered to enactment the National Youth Employment Authority Bill. This is not something to sneer at. In a deeply polarised parliament, where cross-party co-operation is almost unheard of, the first-time party leader and parliamentarian did what almost 70% of experienced MPs have not done.

All these candidates have healthy egos; you need a massive ego to declare that only you can solve the almost intractable problems of this city. But the healthiest ego of all belongs to Miguna Miguna. He is constantly singing his own praises. He constantly reminds us that he is the only candidate with integrity. He reminds us that Evans Kidero is a looter, MIke Sonko is a drugs smuggler, Margaret Wanjiru is an intellectual dwarf and the other candidates are part of the cartels that have laid Nairobi low. In his mind, he is the saviour of Nairobi. Only he can make the trains, quite literally, run on time and everyone who questions his motives, his vision, his manifesto or his statements is a saboteur in the pay of the cartels. 

What Mr Miguna does not have is a record of achievement. As an officer in the Prime Minister's office, when negotiating his salary, he boldly equated himself to Kivutha Kibwana, former MP, former Minister and former law professor. Ambassador Francis Muthaura would have none of it. Mr Miguna sued and lost. Not one of the people who worked with him, including the Prime Minister himself, will vouch for him as an achiever in the public service. His first stab at electoral politics was cut brutally short at the nomination stage. His second stab was abandoned before it even got off the ground. Of course we got it wrong when we elected Evans Kidero based on his work experience. At least he had something to offer. Mr Miguna doesn't even have that. Why, again, does he think he can win? Integrity? Sell that to the Eskimos. We've heard it all before.

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