Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi has now set his sight on the coveted Nairobi gubernatorial seat in next year’s election, promising to turn around the county in just five years, while also dispelling claims by critics that his condition would deter him from delivering services to the city residents.
Mr Wanyonyi, who is currently serving his second term as Westlands MP, has also served as a nominated councillor at City Hall between 2007 and 2013.
In an exclusive interview with Nation.Africa, ahead of his official launch tomorrow, Mr Wanyonyi explains how he has managed to run the expansive cosmopolitan constituency despite his physical condition, promising that he was up to task to work for the people in the entire county come 2022.
His disability, he says, was an issue when he joined the race for Westlands seat in 2013, adding that he’s not surprised that some of his critics have once again revived the debate ahead of next year’s election.
“That is a question I was asked when I went to Westlands. I told them my job is not physical. If it means moving around, I have no problem with that. I can move around Nairobi as many times as I can.”
“I have a car, whenever I need to get out I get out on my wheelchair and go and talk to the people. What matters is your intellect and my intellect is intact,” Mr Wanyonyi told Nation.Africa.
He went on: “I only have limitation of my physical body but the rest is intact. Nobody has any doubt that I have performed very well in Westlands on this wheelchair.”
“Westlands has got slam areas and unsuitable terrains but I don’t work like that. Sometimes you work with your pen and mind. Sometimes you use your officers to do the work but where it needs me I’ll get there. So that’s not even a question that can dissuade me,” adds Mr Wanyonyi.
He noted that there are people who are even fitter than him but cannot match the work he has done.
“I’m capable of doing anything that anybody can do. So managing Nairobi is not a big deal. In fact I can manage Kenya because when I get in State House I’ll have the Cabinet and a team across the country. Just the same if I’m at City Hall I’ll have officers across the city. What matters is you have to be hands on,” he says.
The legislator, a brother to Ford-Kenya Party Leader Moses Wetang’ula says he belongs in ODM leader Raila Odinga’s party on whose ticket he seeks to vie for Nairobi Governor seat.
Mr Wanyonyi explains that his brother’s brand of politics and choice of coalition will not in any way affect his ambition.
“Nairobi is dominated by ODM and Jubilee parties and now that they plan to work together, we are confident we shall bag this seat. So whichever direction my brother goes I don’t think it will affect my position,” he says.
“Although there are some mischievous people who just start relating me with the brother to try and distract me politically over his moves. He plays his politics and I play mine; He is a hard tackler, I’m not one but I play smart.”
Mr Wanyonyi says he envisages a county that will be regarded as one of the best places on earth.
“My vision is to make sure Nairobi becomes one of the best places on earth that anybody who comes here can invest his money and it be safe. A place where they will enjoy staying.”
“We want to make Nairobi an entertainment hub like Los Angeles, Lagos and Johannesburg,” he adds.
The legislator, noted that he was cognisant of the existence of ‘cartels’ in city hall, but adds that he has good plans to restructure the procurement sector to rid it of such individuals.
“Sometimes they call them deep state. If you look at it critically, these are the traps that the people walk into in city hall. Some of them are suppliers who have become part of city hall while some are contractors and know everybody there.”
“They can introduce you to some things which look very attractive and if you fall to that then you are done. I have what it takes to restructure city hall and have the best staff,” Mr Wanyonyi told Nation.Africa
These are the excerpts of his interview.
Q: How do you plan to juggle the party and ethnic card in the Nairobi politics?
A: Nairobi is a cosmopolitan city and has got all interests. You cannot talk about dominance of a particular community.
Of course there are those who are slightly more but when you look at it collectively, it has almost every tribe of Kenya including international community.
So I have deliberately avoided to play ethnic card and try to play a Kenya card by bringing these people together collectively.
People who come trying to play ethnic card have lost because the numbers won’t add up.
When you balance these communities they’ll all identify with you and vote for you regardless of ethnic persuasion.
On the party issue; my party is ODM and I subscribe to what it propagates – social justice and devolution. As a party we still want to wrestle power at the national level but also at the county level.
Q: Nairobi is regarded as the hotbed of politics in Kenya, how prepared are you to handle the high political temperatures in the city county?
A: Having served as an MP, the dynamics of managing a constituency and those of a county are not so different. They are all structures that are government related.
I will go there with the same capacity and intention that I have at the moment I fit.
The pioneer governors were entering into an office without anything, no structures, no set up at all but today, the structures are there and I believe this will ease my work and I will deliver.
Q: What lessons have you learnt from former Nairobi Governors Dr Evans Kidero and Mr Mike Sonko?
A: Dr Kidero came in with no idea what it was about as the pioneer governor. I think it threw him off balance and by the time he was now picking up to settle down, time was off and people were disappointed.
For Sonko, I’m not sure if he knew anything about what he was going to do in Nairobi.
It was a circus. He was playing around and enjoying himself. From all looks he was not serious. He was a better senator than a governor.
Governor is an executive position, has got so much to offer which Sonko I don’t think understood.
Q: How do you plan to foster a cordial relationship between the Executive and the County Assembly?
A: In most counties where there is disharmony between the executive and the county assembly, it’s because there is disconnect. Most governors look down upon the MCAs.
They think these are illiterate people who don’t know anything. So they end up lecturing them instead of working with them.
When you take that attitude, they will fix you by refusing to pass the bills you want because they have the mandate and can refuse to pass your budget.
If you take time and understand even their leadership within the county assembly and bring them on board, they will listen to you because they also want peace.
Q: The country has witnessed disharmony between governors and their deputies. How do you plan to foster a cordial relationship with your deputy if elected?
What I believe in is that it’s not right to let anybody pick for you your deputy.
Pick your deputy, a person you know, you understand and whose chemistry and yours can mix very well. When you allow for example your party or someone else to appoint for you a deputy that is a person who is doomed to come and bring trouble. He won’t be loyal to you.
I believe if somebody if deputising you he should work under your supervision and only receive instructions from you. I cannot have a disruptive or a wrestles person behind me.
Q: With the planned ODM-Jubilee coalition, there is a likelihood of consensus between the two parties and this may lead to being given a running mate. How will you handle this?
A: I believe we will have room to negotiate. I can tell them I’m not comfortable with this person.
Of course we know people on the other side also. We can always ask to be allowed to choose who to pick as deputy from the other side.
But if they insist then whoever comes from the word go I’ll make sure I tell him he is my deputy and will not be my boss, I’ll be the boss and he’ll only receive instructions from me and can only work under my supervision not the other way round.
If he agrees then we can work together.
I have seen deputies who want to fix their bosses so that the boss is thrown out so that he takes over as a governor. That I’m very alive to it and very careful about the issue of a deputy.
Q: Do you have anybody in mind for a running mate at the moment?
A: Not yet. I’ll start fixing my mind on that when I move towards nominations. When I have clear-cut that I’m now going for this position.
Then I’ll start fixing my mind on who will be the running mate once the coalition between our party, Jubilee and others is finalised.
When we have a clear understanding that these positions have to be vied for than not to be dished out. From there I’ll be able to work out who will be my deputy.
Q: Under what circumstances would you accept to go back and vie for the MP seat?
I don’t want to speculate but in politics you don’t rule out anything. Anything is possible and if I’m persuaded and there is very good reason for me not to go for governor seat, I will listen. I can reconsider because in Westlands, it’s still my turf. Nobody has chased me away.
In fact the people of Wetlands want me to stay and I’m walking out when I’m still high.
My ground is intact, I can go back to Westlands anytime.
I can still recoup my troops and win elections there but my focus right now is just on the Governor position which in ODM I’m the only person who has made it clear at the moment that I want to be the governor of Nairobi.
Q: Are there circumstances that may force you to become a running mate?
A: If it comes to running mate, I better remain in Westlands because that position of deputy governor is not even defined anywhere. I don’t think it has got any mandate for anything.
As you deputise somebody, a good governor will even ignore you and you just sit there doing nothing. So I want to be used properly.
Q: How have you juggled through party politics when your brother Moses Wetang’ula belongs in Ford-Kenya and you are in ODM?
A: I don’t talk politics with my brother. I have never influenced him to get favours from the party other than working around to make them work in a coalition. That’s the only thing I can talk of.
In 2013 I suggested to him to join hands with Raila Odinga because I knew he would be better off since the other side was becoming hostile with him.
He saw sense and teamed up with Raila in 2013 and formed Cord together with Kalonzo Musyoka and other parties. They remained together in 2017 in Nasa.
At a family level though we don’t discuss politics.
When we meet I never mention ODM and he never mentions his party (Ford Kenya) and we are just at home. Sometimes that can be very dangerous to start arguing at home about your parties. It is prone to causing divisions.
Q: There has been talk that you may consider going to vie in your home county of Bungoma, how true is this?
A: I can’t go to Bungoma. I am a Nairobi politician. Two, if I go to Bungoma there will be supremacy war between me and my brother which I don’t want. That will create another situation where you can both end up being sacrificed. That’s a gamble I do not want to take.
I know I’m at home in Nairobi and have no business going to Bungoma because apart from being my birth place, I have never worked there.
I have a home there but the longest I stay there is maybe less than a month.So people may know my name but they don’t know me. So I’m home in Nairobi and want to make a difference as the governor of this City.
Q: Have you had any role in plans by ODM party to enter into a coalition with other parties including your brother’s Ford-Kenya?
A: I think President Kenyatta has done it very well. He has been trying to persuade One Kenya Alliance which consists of Ford-Kenya, ANC, Wiper party and Kanu to join with the ODM party. That has not been ruled out yet.
Sometimes people in politics may say no but then end up together.
In OKA, there are those who are already moving closer to the ODM like Kanu and Wiper and I’m very sure Ford Kenya and ANC will follow suit.
Politics is about interest and currently, there are only two major formations; that of Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto. So OKA just have to join our side or that side of Dr Ruto.
These are the two groups that look likely to ascend to power in the next election. It’s either the ODM coalition or the other one allied to the Deputy President.
Q: Do you have fears that if your brother enters into a different coalition it may jeopardise your chances of becoming Nairobi governor?
A: No. UDA has no presence in Nairobi. ODM is the biggest party in Nairobi.
So whichever direction he goes, even if he joins ODM, I don’t think he will even influence my election. Even when he was in Nasa there was nothing he did for my re-election.
I did it within ODM and I worked within ODM not Nasa. Ford Kenya and ANC have got very little ground in Nairobi. That’s the truth. ODM and Jubilee are the dominant parties in Nairobi politics.
Ford Kenya could give a persuasive influence but I don’t think there is much they can do. So whichever direction he goes I don’t think it will affect my position.
Q: What kind of a person would you wish to take over from you in Westlands?
A: I don’t think the people of Westlands would want somebody who will come there and play disruptive politics to cause commotion. They want somebody who will come and fit in the structure that I have left there.
Who can carry on with the kind of relationship I have created between the people and myself and the leadership I have set. Again, I have not played a tribal card.
Even those who were uncomfortable with me in the beginning, right now they are very comfortable with me. If you ask them they will say we feel at home with Wanyonyi.
Because I never discriminate, I sit with them and we do things in a very open manner. So anybody who comes there must be very careful not to disrupt that order. Because if he does people will dissent and may become hostile to him.