The 2022 Presidential Debates’ Series kicked off last night with candidates angling for the Nairobi governor seat—the country’s richest county and its capital—laying out their agenda for the city’s 4.39 million people.
With 2.4 million votes at stake, the highest among the 47 counties, the battle has narrowed down to a do-or-die battle between Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party and Kenya Kwanza Alliance led by Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto, respectively.
Mr Johnson Sakaja and Mr Polycarp Igathe faced off in the second half of the debate, while five others, who have polled below five per cent in an aggregation of polls, faced off in a second tier debate for the hearts and minds of 2,415,310 voters spread across 17 constituencies and 85 wards.
The race is to succeed Ms Anne Kananu, who replaced the flamboyant Mike Sonko following his impeachment in 2020, and who is not on the ballot in August.
The second tier of the debate began on an anti-climax as Mr Sakaja showed up late for the interview, leaving the debate to begin with only Mr Igathe.
The former Nairobi deputy governor said he will bring in a servant leadership style that puts the people at the forefront of service delivery.
Also Read: Sakaja turns up late for the big debate
He said he brings both the corporate know-how and political experience to bring in a new kind of leadership that is anchored on a leader experienced across board and devoid of the circus that has characterised the city.
“I did not quit on Nairobi people but I could not sit around reading newspapers and earning a free salary without working. Ladies and gentlemen, I come to seek a fresh mandate. Kindly elect me,” said Mr Igathe.
Issues of academic credentials and Mr Sakaja’s tribulations came up during the debate but Mr Igathe said he is ready to face his opponent on the ballot come August 9, 2022.
“We want Sakaja on the ballot so that we can beat him early in the morning. People want a leader who gets the job done and that is what me and my running mate Professor Philip Kaloki are here to do,” he said.
For his part, Mr Sakaja said the government does not want him on the ballot yet he has proven that he has a bona fide degree.
He said it is his detractors who are hell-bent on proving that he does not have the requisite academic credentials to run for the governor seat.
“I am glad he said he wants me on the ballot but many of his benefactors do not want me on the ballot. This issue is before the court. Opinion polls have shown I am leading and I will back that on the ballot,” said Mr Sakaja.
He said he does not see his victory being challenged as what is being propagated in the public regarding his academic qualifications will not stand the test of time.
“The court processes will be over and my victory will be proven by the people. I do not expect any challenges once I come into office,” he said.
However, the debate revealed that it will not be just the two horses as other four candidates also made their pitch to be considered as able to succeed Ms Kananu.
United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidate Kenneth Nyamwamu was the pick of the bunch as he said his administration will revolve around making Nairobi business-friendly by supporting businesses instead of fighting them as well as through slashing all business licences by 50 per cent to bridge the Sh6 billion own-source revenue deficit through creating a large pool of taxable people.
Further, he will ensure provision of electricity and water to all informal settlements, create a county-wide app for use by boda bodas to create efficiency and safety in the sector for the riders and pillion passengers.
“County askaris will also not be allowed to arrest people trying to eke a living and instead get a place for them to do their business,” he said.
For her part, independent candidate Esther Waringa Thairu said she will bring in an authentic and transformative leadership to deal with issues of unemployment and corruption.
On war on corruption, Ms Thairu said she will bank on an open tendering process to ensure transparency as well as gazette every project, who has been awarded, for how much and the duration of the project.
“On housing crisis, I will prioritise most affected areas partnering with landlords to see areas to improve in terms of living conditions,” said Ms Thairu.
Safina’s Herman Grewal said his vision and priority areas will focus on provision of free education, healthcare, and a hybrid economic model hinged on information technology. He also said he will digitise payments to the county to stop interaction with cash as a way of sealing corruption loopholes.
Usawa kwa Wote candidate Nancy Wambui Mwadime said she wants to make Nairobi a home for everyone, whether born in the city or from upcountry.
She added that she will allow hawkers to do their business without harassment, closing certain roads starting from 5pm to aid their operations.
On the NMS question, the candidates were in agreement that they will not have the entity in place once they become governor.
Mr Grewal said NMS came in as an emergency response to Nairobi chaos then but should now exit the stage.
The debate was given a wide berth by Liberal Democratic Alliance candidate Denis Kodhe, independent candidate Agnes Kagure and Mr Cleophas Kioo of Ford Kenya.