Speaker intrigues blamed for Nairobi County Assembly sitting delay

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja during his swearing-in ceremony.

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja during his swearing-in ceremony on August 25, 2022 at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre. Sakaja has been accused of delaying the first sitting of the Nairobi County Assembly to give himself time to influence the election of the speaker.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The race pits Azimio’s Ken Ng’ondi against Kenya Kwanza’s Benson Mutura, who is the immediate former speaker.
  • Complicating the race, however, is the fact that Kenya Kwanza, the outfit Mr Sakaja belongs to, is the minority in the assembly.
  • Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna accused Mr Sakaja of making several attempts to “corrupt” Azimio MCAs in his quest to get a “puppet speaker”.

The race for the Nairobi County Assembly speaker seat is at the heart of the continued delay by Governor Johnson Sakaja to call for the assembly’s first sitting.

The contest for the powerful position has narrowed down to a do-or-die battle between the Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya and President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

The race pits Azimio’s Ken Ng’ondi against Kenya Kwanza’s Benson Mutura, who is the immediate former speaker.

Complicating the race, however, is the fact that Kenya Kwanza, the outfit Mr Sakaja belongs to, is the minority in the assembly.

Consequently, the governor is facing the headache of running a county government with an assembly that is controlled by the opposition.

It is this catch-22 situation that has seen the swearing-in of MCAs thrown into confusion in the capital as all other assemblies proceed with the process.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has gazetted the names of nominated MCAs, marking the full constitution of assemblies.

The gazettement of nominated MCAs on September 9 set in motion a 30-day countdown for governors to call for inaugural sittings.

As of yesterday, 45 governors had gazetted the days for the first sittings except for Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad  Nassir and Mr Sakaja.

Intense lobbying

Intense lobbying and behind-the-scenes manoeuvres have been going on as the governor races against time to get numbers that could tilt the speaker’s contest in Kenya Kwanza’s favour.

Yesterday, Mr Sakaja was holed up in a meeting with the MCAs trying to fight fires as pressure mounted on him to call for the first sitting.

The county assembly has 85 elected ward representatives and 39 nominated, bringing the total number to 124. However, an election in Utawala Ward is yet to be held.

Azimio – comprising ODM, Jubilee and Wiper – leads with 67 MCAs while Kenya Kwanza (UDA and CCK) has 53 MCAs.

The remaining three are independents. In terms of individual parties, UDA and ODM both have 35 MCAs Jubilee (six), Wiper (four) and CCK with one.

In the nomination list, ODM and UDA both bagged 17 slots while Jubilee had three and Wiper two.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna accused Mr Sakaja of making several attempts to “corrupt” Azimio MCAs in his quest to get a “puppet speaker”.

He added that he is concerned about service delivery in the city because of the delay.

“Unfortunately, our governor is still stuck in election mode and is still playing politics. For sure, this has to do with the election of the speaker. He has made many attempts to corrupt members. I want him to know service to Nairobians is more important than politics,” said the ODM Secretary-General.

“We need to get moving. As SG, I also want to assure him it doesn’t matter how long it takes, he will not succeed in corrupting any Azimio MCAs to support the puppet speaker he is proposing,” he added.

An Azimio MCA, who asked for anonymity, said Kenya Kwanza is on a mission to wreck Azimio’s strength in the assembly by targeting MCAs allied to Jubilee and their ODM counterparts from the Luhya community.

“In our strategy meeting for the speaker’s election last week, eight MCAs from the community walked out of the meeting saying they had been called for a community meeting,” said the MCA.

Former minority deputy whip and Kilimani MCA Moses Ogeto accused Mr Sakaja of playing dirty politics with the swearing-in of MCAs, saying the continued delay is denying Nairobi residents representation, legislation and oversight.

“He should stop being selfish yet his swearing-in was not delayed. If he wants to bring back Sonkoism then he should be prepared to ride the rough terrain,” he added.

Baba Dogo MCA and immediate former deputy speaker Geoffrey Majiwa also read malice in the delayed gazettement of the first sitting. 

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