President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga are walking a tightrope in their quest to strike a deal for Nairobi County’s top seats, as allies face off ahead of the August 9 elections.
The two leaders, who have been working together courtesy of their March 9, 2018 political truce, have announced plans for joint nominations under Azimio la Umoja movement in a bid to secure a majority of votes and seats in the capital city.
They are, however, facing a litmus test as they try to juggle the ethnic arithmetic in the city politics to put up a formidable team to face off with Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance (KKA). The Azimio candidate will battle it out with either Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja or former Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru, whoever wins the KKA ticket.
Under the Jubilee and ODM deal, it is believed that the governor’s seat will go to Jubilee and the deputy position will be filled by ODM.
However, already two factions have emerged in the Azimio camp, setting the stage for a bruising nominations that could threaten the unity in the nascent coalition.
With only two months to the party primaries, the Azimio team is facing a tough balancing act in terms of tribal calculations to come up with a preferred lineup that will not leave any of the major ethnic groups in the city disgruntled.
The two factions are coalescing around the frontrunners for the gubernatorial seat -- Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi and Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) boss Richard Ngatia.
Mr Wanyonyi’s team comprises ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna, former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru, and Nairobi Woman Representative Esther Passaris, while Mr Ngatia’s camp includes nominated MP Maina Kamanda, Makadara MP George Aladwa, and nominated Senator Beatrice Kwamboka.
Other candidates for the seat include Governor Ann Kananu who has made it clear she will be defending her seat under Azimio, and businesswoman Agnes Kagure who has already launched her bid for the top seat. The two, however, have not made their camp or preferred lineup public.
Mr Sifuna will face off with Mr Kamanda for the Azimio ticket for senator, while Ms Passaris is keen to defend her woman representative seat, but is facing a headache in Ms Kwamboka and former Kasarani MP Elizabeth Ongoro.
The combination of Mr Wanyonyi and Mr Sifuna for governor and senate seats respectively could pose a problem as the two are from the Luhya ethnic group. A similar problem is facing Mr Ngatia and Mr Kamanda, who are from the Kikuyu community.
The rival camps have already begun tearing into each other while holding separate rallies and campaign events across the city.
On Sunday, Mr Wanyonyi led his team to Githurai 44 for a church service where they tore into the rival camp, while saying they are the true face of leadership that will take Nairobi to the next level.
A day earlier, the Ngatia team had also met at a Nairobi hotel to chart their path ahead of the nominations.
Reached for comment, Mr Sifuna was unapologetic, saying the Nairobi lineup will not be dictated by tribal arithmetic as the Constitution does not spell out that there must be tribal balance in leadership.
“We cannot be embarrassed because we have two people who are competent and suitable for the positions they are looking for. We are presenting our best. Let the other camp also do the same,” said Mr Sifuna.
Mr Aladwa played down the emerging power struggle, saying Azimio is united and what is happening is leaders selling their agenda but the aim is to bring all the contestants together.
“We want to bring all the teams together under Azimio and so the question of factions does not arise,” said Mr Aladwa.