By Dorcas Sarkozy
Not entirely surprising, Mike “Sonko” Mbuvi sent his running mate Polycarp Igathe to represent him in the first debate for the governorship of Nairobi County. Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth also skipped the event.
Frankly I don’t blame Sonko for skipping the debate; not with Miguna Miguna laying in wait. The politics of populism is filled with landmines if one is not blessed with a sharp and agile mind and an even sharper wit.
Sonko is NOT blessed with any one of the three – in least not in abundance!
On the other hand, I don’t quite understand why the former Assistant Minister for Finance and graduate of University of Nairobi Mr. Kenneth opted to skip the event. One would have expected the former student of Lausanne’s International Institute for Management Development’s Executive Program (Wikipedia) to have the gravitas and confidence to go mano-a-mano with both Kidero and Miguna.
If Sonko and Kenneth can’t take on their political rivals – in a controlled environment (and I use the term “controlled” very loosely given the earlier Jeff Koinange choregraphed Miguna-Passaris fist-a-cuff) – I can only imagine how they’d survive the rough and tumble cartel-driven world of Nairobi County’s government.
With apologies to Godfrey Wanyoike, Macharia Kamau and Michael Mutinda, Sonko’s and Kenneth’s absence left current governor Evans Kidero and the loquacious and larger-than-life personality Miguna Miguna to have it out in an event organized by KARA (Kenya Alliance of Residents Association) to “shed some light on what the aspirants plan to do for the most populated county in Kenya.”
During the debate, the incumbent governor pressed his main foil to explain how he would fund the ambitious projects he envisions during his governorship. Not hearing a coherent response, Kidero called into question Miguna’s abilities as a public administrator even as the latter fired back with his version of the week’s offering – a “manifesto”.
Of note, especially given the limited flexibility of Vision 2030’s SGR, was Miguna’s proposal for a light rail and subway systems to alleviate the city’s notorious traffic congestion.
All told, I don’t see a critical mass of Nairobians voting Miguna-Squared into the governor’s mansion because (a) he is to mercurial and unpredictable and (b) Nairobians have this inflated sense of self – that they are “middle class”. They want stability and continuity in governance of their polity – something they see in Kidero.
Similarly, I don’t see them voting the ripped jeans-wearing penta-colored mohawk-sporting Mbuvi Sonko to become the face of the regional headquarters of UNEP, UN-Habitat and a host of several blue-chip companies. The idea of Sonko welcoming a visiting foreign dignitary……..
(On a personal note, I know that Sonko’s sartorial choices would be more welcomed were they to reflect the traditional styles of Kenya/Africa the First Lady has been known to don. The man just looks oafish in the dated western garbs!)
The running exchange between Evans Kidero and Miguna Miguna – both with distinct strengths and weaknesses – brought to mind a concept Barack Obama used when formulating his first administration after he won the presidency in 2008.
Recalling Doris Kearns’ masterpiece “Team of Rivals”, Mr. Obama first asked Joe Biden to be his running mate. Then in a stunning display of preternatural equipoise and self-confidence, Obama reached out to his bitter primary rival Hillary Clinton and literally “begged” her to take the powerful, high profile and first CS position in America’s succession order – Secretary of State.
In the book “Game Change”, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin write that First Friend Valerie Jarrett cautioned the in-coming POTUS to “make sure the two (BHO and HRC) can work together” when the idea of offering the position to Ms. Clinton was first broached.
“You can’t just fire her,” Ms. Jarrett cautioned Mr. Obama – a tacit acknowledgement of Ms. Clinton’s massive following, public profile and intellectual heft.
Halperin/Heilemann write that Obama dismissed the apprehension because in his mind, “it was time to saddle up and govern (and) Clinton was a valuable asset.”
The first non-white male POTUS Barack Obama thus built the core of his first administration with two former campaign rivals as his deputy AND Secretary of State – the archetypical “team of rivals”!
What if Governor Evans Kidero offers Miguna Miguna the position of Anti-Cartel Chief with the singular mission of “Draining the Swamp” of the scourge?
The former MD of Mumias Sugar, ostensibly a management savant WITH four years’ experience in the proverbial “belly of the beast” should have little problem “managing” Mr. Miguna and the rambunctious lawyer would (thus) have the opportunity to fulfill one of his campaign pledges – fight corruption and “drain the swamp”!
Kidero would then assign the popular riff-raff Mike Sonko the enviable (or unenviable) task of assuring efficient delivery of basic public services such as trash pick-up, traffic flow & violations in the process, effectively transforming then legitimizing the Sonko Rescue Team.
And to complete the trifecta, imagine the former Assistant Minister for Finance Peter Kenneth as Nairobi County Chief Financial Officer (CFO)?
After all…politics does not have permanent enemies or friends….just permanent and/or mutual interests.