Sakaja, Gakuya plot against each other as UDA showdown looms in Nairobi

James Gakuya and Johnson Sakaja.

Embakasi North MP James Gakuya (left) and Nairobi County Governor Johnson Sakaja.


Photo credit: Francis Nderitu and Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Gakuya-allied delegates say they have the numbers to take the Nairobi seat.
  • Governor Sakaja’s camp is also exuding confidence that they will carry the day.

The postponement of the United Democratic Alliance's (UDA) grassroots elections in Nairobi County has put candidates vying for the position of chairperson in a difficult position.

While the UDA's National Election Board (NEB) said the delay was due to a court order, the two rival camps in the election are making moves that will tilt the scales in their favour ahead of the eagerly awaited polls.

Nation.Africa has established that Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja, and Embakasi North Member of Parliament Mr James Gakuya, who are seeking the chairperson position, have intensified their campaigns.

Gakuyaa-allied delegates have been meeting at Sweet Lake Resort in Naivasha for the last five days to lay down their strategies.

On the other hand, Governor Sakaja has been holding meetings with delegates in Maanzoni Lodge in Athi River, Machakos County since Sunday.

The pro-Sakaja delegates ended their retreat on Tuesday, while Mr Gakuya’s side concluded their meetings on Wednesday.

Former Nominated Senator Millicent Omanga, who is in Gakuya’s camp, said the purpose of the retreat was to come up with a clear lineup as they ahead of the election.

“We have reached an agreement through our internal democratic process. We have picked the 20 members who we will all vote for. We just want to call on the National Election Board to call for election after we finish with the court process,” Ms Omanga said.

Member of County Assembly for Nairobi South Ward, Ms Waithera Chege, who is Gakuya’s campaign manager, said they have the numbers to take the seat.

She claimed that Mr Gakuya is assured of 248 votes out of the total 340 delegates in Nairobi County.

“Politics is about numbers, and you know numbers don’t lie. He (Sakaja) should show what he has on his side,” Ms Waithera said in a phone interview.

According to Ms Waithera, the delegates allied to Mr Gakuya were paraded on Thursday last week during their meeting in Kasarani, and the numbers were the same.

“We are ready for the election and are asking the party to call for the election. Nothing will change, even if they are given one month or one year, the result will still be the same,” she said.

At the same time, Sakaja’s camp is also exuding confidence that they will carry the day.

According to the pro-Sakaja delegates, the Nairobi governor has also already secured 300 votes.

“We just went to a retreat with my delegates, and the numbers will be revealed during the election. Talking numbers is a meaningless game because the votes will be counted,” Sakaja said.

Member of County Assembly for Ng’ara Ward, Chege Mwaura, who is among the lead campaigners in Sakaja’s team said they will easily win the seat.

The two candidates have also been flexing their financial muscles by organizing retreats for delegates in their respective camps.

For instance, booking a room at the Sweet Lake Resort costs up to Sh7,000 for a single person, which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. This would total about Sh42,000 for six days.

Assuming that the 248 delegates in Mr Gakuya’s camp spent six days in Naivasha, that would mean he spent atleast Sh10.4 million.

On the other hand, it costs Sh10,000 for a night in Maanzoni Lodge. Meaning that if 300 delegates spent three days, then the governor forked out Sh9 million.

During a recent UDA Party National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, chaired by President William Ruto, it was agreed that Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua should mediate the Nairobi elections.

After the President’s directive, the Deputy President visited the party headquarters and met with the party leadership.

Mr Gakuya is a close ally of Mr Gachagua and is banking on the DP’s support to clinch the seat.

In his campaign, Governor Sakaja has been directing his attacks on Mr Gachagua and Mr Gakuya.

According to political analysts, the Deputy President is seeking to use the party polls in Nairobi for leverage ahead of the 2027 General Elections.

The Deputy President recently said county governments should consult the national government leadership before rolling out development plans.

The remarks were not well received by Governor Sakaja, who shot back by asking Mr Gachagua to respect other leaders.