Polycarp Igathe: Man whose lucky streak never seems to run out

Former Nairobi Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe.

Photo credit: File

When officials cancelled Rubis Energy CEO Jean-Christian Bergeron’s work permit and ordered him deported, fake reports circulated on social media that former Nairobi Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe was in line to replace him.

The false reports aside, the posts showed Kenyans’ cheeky take on a man they see as having luck constantly on his side.

Mr Igathe’s magic wand, they say, has propelled him from one job to another.

He has been a man in the right place at the right time, attracting top jobs like a moth to light.

The Equity Group Holdings chief commercial officer is a perennial “resignee”, having quit high-level positions four times between May 2017 and March 2020.

The corporate titan is now being fronted as the Azimio la Umoja coalition flag-bearer in the race for Nairobi governor.

Mr Igathe has suddenly jumped to the front of the queue of aspirants eyeing the Jubilee Party ticket for the seat.

They include Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) president Richard Ngatia, Governor Ann Kananu and businesswoman Agnes Kagure.

Richard Ngatia

Richard Ngatia, the President of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce And Industry.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

“Nairobi is too important to be trivialised and be in constant fights and lack unity. I am going to be ready to serve you and serve you with distinction and, hopefully, in five years you will assess whether I have done a good job,” said Mr Igathe on Tuesday, immediately after reports emerged that he had joined the race.

Corporate man

The 49-year-old came to the political limelight in the 2017 elections, when President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee settled on a Mike Sonko-Igathe ticket to face ODM.

In the arrangement, Mr Igathe was to run the policy, administration and management of the city county, while Mr Sonko was to do the political legwork.

To many outsiders, it seemed like the corporate man had been picked from nowhere.

Tim Wanyonyi

Nairobi gubernatorial aspirants Tim Wanyonyi and Agnes Kagure during a meeting in Nairobi. 


Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

But that was not the case.

Mr Igathe had already been in the eyes of President Kenyatta, who first appointed him to chair the Anti-Counterfeit Agency in 2015, where he served for a year.

He was then appointed chairman of the Special Economic Zones Authority in October 2016 before joining Vivo Energy as CEO and resigning in May 2017 to cross over to the political arena.

The political marriage between Mr Sonko and Mr Igathe did not work as Jubilee honchos had imagined.

Mr Sonko soon shunned Mr Igathe, demanding that he be treated as his deputy and not somewhat of an equal.

Mr Sonko felt that having won hundreds of thousands of votes – 871,794 against Dr Evans Kidero’s 696,888 – it would have been unfair to relegate him to only dealing with the political noise, and not the actual running of the country.

In January 2018, barely five months after being sworn in as deputy governor, Mr Igathe quit his post, saying he had not earned the trust of Mr Sonko to run the administration and management of the county that receives the highest allocation annually from the national government and collects the highest revenues every year.

Governor Anne Kananu

Ann Kananu makes her first address after she was sworn in as Nairobi’s third and its first female Governor. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

“Dear Nairobians, it is with a heavy heart that I resign as the deputy governor of Nairobi effective 1pm on Jan 31, 2018. I regret that I have failed to earn the trust of the governor to enable me to drive administration and management of the county,” Mr Igathe said.

He then took back his seat at the CEO’s table barely four months later, joining Equity Bank as the chief commercial officer in May 2018 and rising to managing director.

Mr Igathe would then resign in August 2019 as MD before being appointed the following month as Vivo executive vice-president for sales and marketing.

But he was not to last long there, as he resigned on March 13, 2020 and was appointed three days later as Equity’s Group chief commercial officer.

“Nairobi is the front porch of Kenya and it needs our best and I am saying that I rank among the best. I am coming around your community in the next 90 days and for me what I am asking for is only five years,” said Mr Igathe.

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