Senator Mike Sonko has dug in his heels and refused a Cabinet post dangled in exchange for quitting the Nairobi governor’s race in favour of Peter Kenneth.
The popular lawmaker says he’s going for the top job, aiming for the Jubilee Party ticket in primaries on Friday.
Sonko and Kenneth will face off.
Multiple sources close to the presidency yesterday told the Star that a Cabinet position has been offered and rejected several times.
If Jubilee wins on August 8, Sonko could have been CS for the Nairobi Metropolitan Region, a new post created for him. He would oversee Kiambu, Kajiado, Murang’a and Machakos counties.
“We have given up on Sonko. We wanted him to back Kenneth and we even offered him many other options, but he has rejected all of them,” a source familiar with the offers and discussions said.
“The senator has insisted he wants to be governor. Let Jubilee people decide who between the two should be the governor candidate,” an aide to DP Ruto said.
To deal with the perception the flamboyant lawmaker is not a good manager, it is understood he has approached tycoon Jimnah Mbaru to be his running mate.
Yesterday neither Sonko nor Mbaru returned calls and texts from the Star seeking comment.
People close to both men confirmed, however, that Sonko had sent emissaries to Mbaru who ran unsuccessfully for Nairobi governor in 2013, losing to ODM’s Evans Kidero.
If Mbaru accepts the offer, he will effectively be Sonko’s and the capital city’s Chief Operating Officer, as Sonko plays politics, sources said.
The Senator also hopes to appeal to and appease Kikuyu voters in Nairobi by reaching out to Mbaru, who is well-respected in the community.
Kenneth, a former Gatanga MP, is also backed by Kikuyu voters and big money in Murang’a county. Sonko and his team have consistently sought to portray Kenneth, former presidential candidate, as an outsider from Murang’a.
In February President Uhuru Kenyatta signed an Executive Order establishing the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (Namata), a mechanism to establish an integrated, efficient, sustainable transport system within the metropolitan area.
According several sources, the President was willing to elevate Namata to a ministry and hand it to Sonko. It would be similar to the portfolio holed by Mutula Kilonzo held in the Grand Coalition government.
Uhuru has pledged to ensure Jubilee wins the Nairobi governor’s seat, saying the ODM-controlled administration has failed.
Some observers have suggested that the mega transport region authority had been created with Kenneth in mind. At the time he was facing opposition fro several Nairobi politicians and their supporters.
It is believed by some political circles that since last year Uhuru has had a hand in ensuring Kenneth becomes the JP candidate in Nairobi.
Talk of Kenneth moving to Jubilee started at a meeting at former Gatanga MP David Murathe’s home in Murang’a.
In March last year, Uhuru, after attending the burial of former Kandara MP George Ndung’u Mwicigi, met several Murang’a leaders, including Kenneth, at Murathe’s home.
Despite information from the meeting shared with the Star at the time that Kenneth was warming up to Jubilee, the former assistant minister of Finance and Cooperative Development denied it. But joined Jubilee later. ODM has already given incumbent Kidero ticket and Wiper has also agreed to have Jonathan Mweke as his running mate.
There is fear in jubilee that if both aspirants decide to run on different party tickets,they would split the Jubilee vote in Nairobi and hand Kidero a second term.
In2013, Kidero received about 50 per cent of votes cast, mainly Luo, Luhya, Kamba and Kisii voters from Cord.
With a Kamba running mate in Mweke, Kidero benefited from that community vote, 11 per cent of all votes cast.
However, Sonko running for senator at the time benefitted from the same vote, explaining how he ended up as the candidate with the most votes in Nairobi county.
Sonko has rejected the use of JP mart cards because, according to sources, he was going to lose the nomination.
“Peter Kenneth’s team had more cards than Sonko and so when Sonko realised he had been outwitted, he rejected the cards,” a Sonko aide said.
A number of secret meetings have been held since Sonko presented his papers, attempting to persuade him to drop out or take another position.
Some in the JP hierarchy say forcing Sonko out could lead to a backlash from his many supporters, making it hard for Jubilee to win the governor’s office.
In one meeting, Sonko reportedly asked for Sh2 billion but this was rejected because it was feared it wound fund his campaign.
Yesterday the Star learnt Sonko sought Mbaru after Margaret Wanjiru refused to be his running mate.
Wanjiru wants to be the JP governor backed by Sonko.
Both Sonko and Wanjiru were members of Team Nairobi, which included nominated MP Johnson Sakaja and Dagoretti North MP Dennis Waweru. Sakaja dropped his bid for governor and will not go for the senate.
Waweru will defend his seat.