Sonko succession was in place before impeachment

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko before the Senate in December 2020 during the hearing of his impeachment motion.

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko before the Senate in December 2020 during the hearing of his impeachment motion.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Even before former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko was impeached, a well-laid plan had already been hatched for his succession.

Having no strong candidate for a gubernatorial by-election in the capital city, the Jubilee Party came up with a twin strategy to have Mr Sonko replaced from within without necessitating a mini-poll.

As part of the scheme, Mr Sonko’s deputy governor nominee, Disaster Management Chief Officer Anne Mwenda, was to assume office but, if that failed, then former deputy governor Polycarp Igathe was to be propped up.

With the plan agreed on, Mr Sonko’s impeachment was given the go-ahead with blessings from President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM party leader Raila Odinga.

No by-election

Multiple sources who spoke to the Nation said that the plan, all along, was not to have a by-election in Nairobi as this would destabilise the already fragile political climate in the country.

According to the source, Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja’s name was floated but it was dropped as it would mean he resigns to vie for the seat and there lay another problem.

“This would have meant a senatorial by-election and, in the process, more billions in election budget. So it was dropped,” said the source.

This then left Ms Mwenda and Mr Igathe as the only options with the latter just a fallback should the court case against Ms Mwenda not go according to plan.

One of the two was to assume office as deputy governor before taking over as the governor before appointing a deputy governor from ODM in the spirit of the Handshake.

A smokescreen

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announcing the date for the mini poll in December last year was just a smokescreen and part of the plot.

Interestingly, Jubilee would only clear two candidates -- Building Bridges Initiative co-chair Dennis Waweru and businesswoman Agnes Kagure -- two individuals considered political lightweights to sell in the city.

ODM, on the other hand, tactically withdrew from the race with two individuals who had shown some interest in the mini-poll, Sam Wakiaga and ODM Women's League leader Beth Syengo, not even completing the application process.

“Why do you think we did not field candidates? We knew very well even before the impeachment that our strong candidates are sitting Members of Parliament and we could not have them resign to run in the by-election,” said a senior ODM party official.

“The deputy governor's position will go to ODM and preferably our secretary-general Edwin Sifuna,” added the official.

Court suspension

To show how well-knit the plan was, on Monday last week, the High Court suspended a December Gazette notice by IEBC calling for the Nairobi by-election following a case by Mr Sonko with Justice Anthony Mrima saying the order will remain pending the determination of the former Makadara MP’s case challenging the process that led to his ouster late last year.

Immediately, petitioner Peter Agoro, who had last year filed a petition challenging the nomination of Ms Mwenda as deputy governor, filed a notice to withdraw the case.

But the events had followed a well-laid down plan with each happening part of the bigger puzzle, falling in place one by one.

An affidavit

On December 30, 2020, Nairobi County Assembly Majority Leader Abdi Guyo swore an affidavit in the High Court to support Mr Agoro’s application.

In the affidavit, Mr Guyo said the assembly was keen to vet Ms Mwenda but was only stopped by a conservatory order issued by the court on February 17, 2020.

Offering a window to the behind-the-scenes happenings, the Matopeni MCA went ahead to explain that the assembly is also aware that the country was financially constrained due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He went on to argue that the completion of Ms Mwenda’s vetting will ensure that the country avoids a costly by-election with the Disaster Management chief officer assuming office as per applicable constitutional provisions.

“Consequently, it is in the public interest that the by-election for governor of Nairobi is stayed so as to allow valid constitutional processes relating to the vetting and appointment of Ms Mwenda as deputy governor to be completed,” read in part the affidavit.

Majority Whip Paul Kados had also sworn an affidavit where he was asking the court to clarify on Mr Igathe’s resignation, arguing that he never officially tendered his resignation and should, therefore, be allowed to complete the remainder of Mr Sonko’s term.

High Court

Ms Mwenda will now be vetted this Friday after the High Court allowed the withdrawal of Mr Agoro’s petition, paving the way for the vetting process.

She had already been cleared by the IEBC in February last year following her nomination by Mr Sonko on January 6, 2020 and her name submitted to the assembly’s committee on appointment for vetting.

“If it were not for the court injunction, then Ms Mwenda would be the deputy governor of Nairobi even before Sonko’s impeachment,” said Mr Guyo.

On his part, Minority Whip Peter Imwatok said that after the vetting of Ms Mwenda by the committee, a special sitting will be called for her approval before she takes oath of office as deputy and then as the governor.

“After swearing her in as the governor, we expect her on the same day to execute her duty as the governor by nominating a deputy governor and thereafter fill the other vacant positions in the county,” said Mr Imwatok.

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