Sakaja: What next for Nairobi governor race?

Johnson Sakaja

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja could end up dropping out of the Nairobi governorship race over questionable academic papers, likely handing victory to his main challenger Polycarp Igathe.

The contest to succeed Governor Anne Kananu, who took over from Mike Sonko following his impeachment in 2020, has been billed as a battle royale between former deputy governor and Jubilee Party candidate, Mr Igathe, and Senator Sakaja.

However, the race could take a twist, with Mr Sakaja’s candidature hanging in the balance at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Dispute Resolution Committee.

UDA Secretary General Veronica Maina has, nonetheless, said the party was waiting for the verdict from the committee before taking any action. 

“We do not want to put the cart before the horse, but if I speculate, I will only do so on the positive side. The matter is still pending before the IEBC’s Dispute Resolution Committee and we are waiting for that matter to be heard and concluded. We cannot make a decision before the conclusion of the case,” said Ms Maina.

She pointed out that Mr Sakaja was still UDA’s gubernatorial candidate for Nairobi, saying that electoral processes are determined by the law, not social media.

“He is our candidate and he complied with all requirements, but since we are people who are law abiding, let the legal process go through, then we decide whether we are dissatisfied or not, before taking the next step,” she said.

Mr Sakaja was cleared by the electoral commission on June 7, together with his running mate Njoroge Muchiri, to contest in the Nairobi governor’s race.

He was set to face off with Mr Igathe, under the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party, who had been cleared by the IEBC three days before.

The race has also attracted businesswoman Agnes Kagure, alongside her running mate Abel Onchari Oyieyo, running as an independent after ditching the Jubilee Party following the entry of Mr Igathe in Azimio. 

Mr Kenneth Nyamwamu of United Progressive Alliance ticket is also in the race, with his running mate -- former banker and human rights activist Lilian Tina Achieng.

The contest has also attracted tech-entrepreneur Harman Grewal on a Safina party ticket, Ms Esther Waringa who is running as an independent candidate, Ms Nancy Wambui, and former journalist Denise Kodhe, who is running for the seat on a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ticket.

Mr Kodhe has Steve Paul, a 28-year-old graduate of business management, as his running mate.

However, it is the clearance of the 37-year-old Sakaja that has attracted controversy.

Immediately after the senator’s clearance by the IEBC, four petitions were lodged against him, seeking to bar him from the city gubernatorial race on various grounds, including lack of academic qualifications.

The petitions would be consolidated into one, with the case set to be heard and determined yesterday, June 15 starting from 2pm. However, by time of going to press, no verdict had been delivered.

While Mr Igathe’s case fell through on Monday after a petitioner, Mr George Bush, who wanted him barred from contesting, confessed before the committee that he had no evidence that could be used to bar him, Mr Sakaja is still battling to prove that his academic papers are genuine.

He was taken to the tribunal by a resident who challenged his degree certificate and accused him of forging his academic papers.

Mr Sakaja claims to have genuinely acquired a Bachelor of Science in management from Team University in Uganda, having graduated in 2016.

Even though the university has certified his certificates as genuine and owned him as an alumnus, the Commission for University Education (CUE) on Wednesday revoked an earlier letter that had acknowledged his certificate.

The CUE chairperson Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha said the agency received information about the authenticity of the degree Mr Sakaja had presented that would require further investigation to ascertain its validity.

“Consequently, in accordance to the CUE recognition procedures, we hereby revoke the recognition of your degree – Bachelor of Science in management from the aforementioned university,” Prof Nyaigotti-Chacha said.

But in a swift rejoinder, Mr Sakaja said nothing will stop him from being on the ballot on August 9, 2022 and that Nairobi voters would decide whether he becomes governor or not, accusing the “Deep State” of coercion in the quest to have his degree certification revoked.

“They have sent officials from the Kenyan High Commission in Uganda to intimidate Team University staff as well as that country’s National Council for Higher Education. The university has remained firm and refused to be intimidated. So has the Council for Higher Education in Uganda. The only institution that has succumbed to this intimidation is the Kenyan CUE,” he said.

Should Mr Sakaja be found guilty of forging his academic degree certificate and transcripts, he faces a three-year jail term as per section 349 of the Penal Code, which states that any person who forges a document is guilty of an offence.

“Any person who forges any document or electronic record is guilty of an offence, which unless otherwise stated, is a felony and he/she is liable, unless owing to the circumstances of forgery or the nature of the thing forged some other punishment is provided, to imprisonment of three years,” reads the Act.