Johnson Sakaja leads Polycarp Igathe in Nairobi governor popularity

Johnson Sakaja and Polycarp Igathe

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja (left) and former Nairobi Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe. The two are the leading aspirants in the Nairobi governor race ahead of the August General Election.

Nairobi senator Johnson Sakaja is the most popular candidate for the governorship, an opinion poll commissioned by the Nation Media Group (NMG) shows.

The Kenya Kwanza Alliance aspirant would have garnered 37 per cent of the vote, followed by Mr Polycarp Igathe of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party at 21 per cent, had elections been held in early May.

However, there is a significant number of undecided voters. Mr Sakaja’s popularity is not replicated by Kenya Kwanza candidates for Senate and Woman Rep seats, who trail their Azimio rivals.

The polls Infotrak conducted between May 7 and 10 through computer assisted phone interviews show that Mr Sakaja leads in 14 of Nairobi’s 17 constituencies, compared to Mr Igathe who leads in three constituencies.

The margin of error was plus and minus three per cent with a 95 per cent degree of confidence.

Majority support

Mr Sakaja, who is finishing his first term as senator after one term as a nominated MP, enjoys majority support in Dagoretti North, Kibra, Roysambu, Embakasi North, Embakasi Central, Embakasi East, Makadara, Kamkunji, Langata, Ruaraka, Kasarani, Starehe, Mathare and Embakasi West constituencies.

Mr Igathe has the backing of a majority of voters in Westlands, Dagoretti South and Embakasi South constituencies.

The Nairobi governor seat is one of the hotly contested seats in the country, pitting President Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga under the Azimio banner against Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza.

Both Mr Kenyatta and Azimio presidential candidate Mr Odinga support Mr Igathe — a late entrant into the race and one whose prospective candidature was a surprise that caused friction in Azimio before President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga defused the tensions.

ODM Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi and Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Richard Ngatia of Jubilee were the perceived frontrunners who were asked to step down for Mr Igathe after he resigned from Equity Bank.

Others asked to shelve their ambitions were businesswoman Agnes Kagure, who has since ditched Azimio to run as an independent, and current Governor Ann Kananu.

Mr Igathe served a short stint as deputy governor in Mr Mike Sonko’s administration in 2017, but quit citing frustration from the maverick city chief, who was later impeached and is now causing shock waves in the race for Mombasa governor.

Mr Sakaja, initially fronted by Mr Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress (ANC) but later indicating his affiliation to the Ruto-led United Democratic Alliance (UDA) within the Kenya Kwanza Alliance, was also picked after talks that convinced Bishop Margaret Wanjiru to drop her Nairobi governor bid for a stab at the Senate.

A previous poll Tifa conducted in March had put Mr Sakaja (23 per cent) ahead of Mr Wanyonyi (14 per cent) before Mr Igathe entered the race.

Interestingly, the NMG poll shows that Mr Odinga still has a much bigger say and influence among voters on who will be Nairobi’s governor, with eight per cent saying they would approve an aspirant supported by Mr Odinga against Ruto’s six per cent and four per cent for President Kenyatta.

Still undecided

About 33 per cent of voters are still undecided, a figure that will have an impact once they make up their minds.

In the senatorial race, ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna enjoys the lead at 38 per cent, while Bishop Margaret Wanjiru of the Kenya Kwanza Alliance comes a distant second with seven per cent. Third is Beatrice Kwamboka at one per cent.

However, 47 per cent of voters are still undecided on who they will vote in as senator, indicating that the race could still be too early to call. Another five per cent did not disclose whom they will vote for in the race.

Mr Sifuna also leads in all the 17 constituencies of the city.

For the Woman Representative seat, incumbent Esther Passaris (Azimio) is the leading candidate at 43 per cent, with her main rival, nominated senator Millicent Omanga of Kenya Kwanza polling 12 per cent.

Others mentioned have less than five per cent.

At least 36 per cent of voters said they’re still undecided and another six per cent refused to disclose who they will vote for in the August 9 General Election.

The poll shows that most people will also vote for an experienced candidate with a good development track record. Thirty-five per cent said a proven track record is an important factor in the race.

Most voters (73 per cent) favour retention of the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), an entity the national government created to take over the running of the county following leadership squabbles at City Hall.

However, 21 per cent oppose NMS, while six per cent refused to answer the question.