Social Media presence of Nairobi’s Politicians
Social media is a powerful tool for change, both negative and positive. The Arab Spring was hatched and prosecuted through social media. There is no sphere of life affected by traditional media that has managed to escape nibbling by social media. The difference is that social media has added speed and sensation to the context. Another vital addition is access. With a smartphone and airtime, anyone can access social media.
The Kenyan social media scene is quite interesting in that despite the fact that more than three quarters of the population live below the poverty line, more than 50% of people above the age of 18 years have access to a smartphone, a major element of access to social media. It is for this reason that Kenyan politics cannot escape social media.
In fact, the battle has shifted to social media with breaking news circulating through social media before appearing in print or television. This is especially true for Nairobi where the majority of the residents have access to a smartphone.
Given these social media circumstances, politicians who ignore social media do so at their own peril. Traditional campaigning methods may be useful but social media helps share the message as widely as possible thus shaping opinions and influencing perceptions. Videos from political events are shared on WhatsApp groups, Facebook, and Instagram where they are accessed or viewed by a wider audience.
Political scientists are still deliberating the significance of social media followership. Political scientists Mutahi Ngunyi and Onchari Oyieyo argue that politicians with more followers wield more influence and are more likely to win elections. He also notes that social media followership is a powerful indicator of likeability.
In other words, a likeable politician will most likely attract more followers. This is true for other areas and professions such as music. Likeable politicians such as US President Barack Obama have massive following. Obama’s Facebook followers stand at 49,000,000. Popular musician Robyn Fenty also known as Rihanna has 81,000,000 followers.
An important factor that needs to be noted is that those who have utilized social media for long will definitely be ahead of newcomers. In this case, the numbers might not be useful. But a useful tool is the activity of the pages of these politicians with the most active pointing to the most interest among voters.
Social Media presence among Nairobi politicians
The politicians considered in this article are those going for the Nairobi County gubernatorial seat, the Nairobi County Senate seat, and Nairobi County Women Representative.
The list is given in these three categories starting with the candidate with the most followers.
Nairobi County Gubernatorial Candidates’ Facebook Footprint
Mike “Sonko” Mbuvi: 810, 397
Sonko leads all Nairobi politicians as far as Facebook followership is concerned. He is the second politician in the whole country with the most Facebook followers. The top politician in this area is President Uhuru Kenyatta. Sonko’s Facebook page is the most active in the whole of Eastern Africa. He also beats Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni who has 229, 370, Tanzania President John Magufuli with 19, 785, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame who has 609, 582. Sonko has led in all Centre for African Progress (CAP) polls with a comfortable margin, a finding that rhymes with this Facebook followership and activity. Kidero must be experiencing sleepless nights with Sonko’s decision to go for the gubernatorial seat.
As per CAP surveys, Nairobians feel that if Jubilee wants to win the seat from CORD, then Sonko is their man. Any other candidate might appeal to tribal or sectional interests but beating Kidero will be a tall order.
Dr. Evans Kidero: 320, 897
The incumbent is second in Facebook followership after Mike Sonko. In the 2013 election, the man with the most Facebook followers won the gubernatorial seat. That man is Dr. Evans Kidero, and the man he beat is Ferdinand Waititu who has less than 4,000 followers. If this is anything to go by, then Kidero will also lose to the man with the most followers, in this case, Sonko. But remember this is not a solid basis for prediction since it has happened only once for the seat of governor. But on a larger scale, if the same is applied for the presidency, the man with the most followers in the 2013 election, Uhuru Kenyatta, won the election.
Johnson Sakaja: 141, 896.
Sakaja’s numbers are quite impressive for a late entrant into active Nairobi politics. As one of the youngest in the race, he has displayed admirable skills in social media utilization albeit there are some cases of disturbing plagiarism in some of his applications.
Eugene Wamalwa: 57, 503
For a non-Nairobi politician, Wamalwa’s 57, 503 Facebook followership is quite impressive. He has not officially declared that he is going for the Nairobi seat but the rumour mills are working overtime speculating about his candidature as a potential Jubilee gesture of goodwill as it seeks to humiliate Raila by reducing his votes by an even bigger margin. The argument is that if Luyhias see one of their own being tapped for Nairobi governor where they are not the majority, they will flock to the polls and reward Uhuru while providing the much needed votes to deliver the gubernatorial seat since a GEMA candidate who will not get non-GEMA votes cannot beat Kidero even with twisted logic. In this overly ambitious scheme, Wamalwa’s only challenge is the wildly popular Sonko. He also has to convince everyone that even with little investment in Nairobi politics, he deserves the Jubilee ticket. The powerful card on the table for him is that he is the third principal in Jubilee.
Bishop Margaret Wanjiru: 44,538.
For someone who has led a mega church in Nairobi’s CBD and served as a member of parliament, this is a small number of followers. It shows that her social media team is sleeping on the job especially with the rise in social media influence in not just politics but entertainment and travel.
Dennis Waweru: 37, 751
Dennis Waweru was initially touted as the man to watch for the gubernatorial seat but that has changed over time with his bid failing to gain momentum. This is a disappointing number given that he is a sitting Member of Parliament for Dagoretti South. His campaign may have ignored social media from the start, and this has not done him any good. In fact, the returns are negative. For an evidently intelligent and refined fellow who cuts the image of youth and passes as a disciplined leader, limited embrace of social media is a surprise. It remains to be seen whether he will change tact as time progresses.
Miguna Miguna: 4, 890
Largely viewed as the clown in the race, Miguna’s numbers are not a shocker given that he is new to Nairobi politics. He has actually picked up more followers since his declaration of his intention to seek the seat of Nairobi governor.
Fwamba N. C. Fwamba:2,069
This youthful civil servant who has not declared interest in the gubernatorial seat closes this list of gubernatorial candidates with 2,069. The numbers match his profile in city politics. But there is need for him to embrace social media if he is to raise his profile.
Nairobi County Women Representative
Esther Passaris: 159, 518
At 159, 518, Esther Passaris is way ahead of all the contenders for the seat of Women Representative for Nairobi County. Her interest in the seat has been implied in numerous platforms but she is yet to make a formal announcement. Her Facebook page is one of the most active, not just among contenders for the seat of Nairobi County Women Representative, but Kenyan public figures in general. Most of the messages left on her wall are positive with people expressing gratitude or asking her to seek public office.
Her dashing good looks and the infamous “Adopt a Light” project that earned her some attention have most likely contributed to her high Facebook followership.
Karen Nyamu: 33, 807
This newcomer to Nairobi politics is likely to stir migraines among the seasoned powerbrokers and “moneywomen” who think only the old and oiled can break the glass ceiling. At 33, 807, the young lawyer with supermodel looks is second to Passaris in Facebook followership. Her toughness that is evident in her conversations will see her go places. It will be interesting to see how she navigates Nairobi’s treacherous political waters.
Malicious bloggers are already having a field day smearing her with everything they can. She is however less concerned with the smear by bloggers. “Voters are rarely idle enough to read baseless blogs,” she said when reached for comment. Her page is also quite active with numerous comments from men cheering her on. Anyone out there wondering why most of these comments are from men?
Millicent Omanga: 19, 879
One of the “cuties” of the race, Millicent Omanga is third when it comes to Facebook followership. Her page is a bit recent compared to Esther’s meaning that she is doing a wonderful job for a newcomer. Her page is equally active and those leaving messages on her wall have good things to say about her. There is no doubt that this Facebook success is an indicator of her marketability as a candidate.
Rachel Shebesh: 6, 797
Rachel Shebesh is the incumbent in the position of Nairobi County Women Representative. At 6, 797, she is not doing as well as she is expected for someone in office. This is a warning sign for her if she is planning to defend the seat.
Wangui Ng’ang’a: 2,971:
Wangui holds the last position in Facebook followership among the contenders for Nairobi County Women Representative. Centre for African Progress (CAP) polls have consistently found her leading the pack but this low Facebook followership raises red flags for her. Most of the people who favour her are mainly in the slums, and this might explain her low social media footprint. But in a city that is already trapped in the social media web, the coming days might not be rosy for her as more people flock to social media to seek news about and engage with the candidates.
Nairobi County Senatorial Race
This is the most dormant political office in Nairobi and indeed the country. As of now, very few people have expressed interest, and none of them seems keen on investing time on it. The majority of those who have expressed interest are powerbrokers seeking attention so that they can be engaged elsewhere. Therefore, it is not surprising that some of those who have expressed interest spend a good part of their “busy” day talking about other candidates for other positions such as governorship or women representative, a phenomenon that is as queer as it is surprising. Under normal circumstances, they should be canvassing and using every single second to hype their candidature.
Some of those who have expressed interest include George Nyongesa and Mutinda Kavemba. None of them has a public Facebook page.
As it has already been stated, Facebook followership is not a firm ground for prediction of a winner in a political contest. But in nearly 98% of the cases that one will dare examine, the one with the most followers emerges ahead of the winner. Social media’s power can only be ignored by those who can be described as “political jokers.” Through Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups, politicians can communicate with the electorate without increased expenses. Campaign event photos can be shared and announcements made with ease. But at the end of the day, the decision to embrace social media lies with the individual.
By the Centre for African Progress (CAP) Team