NDUBI: Kenneth vs Sonko: A tale of two brothers fighting over a wife
In 2013, a section of possibly ‘forward-thinking’ Kenyans was infatuated by the idea of a third force against the obvious two-horse race in the hotly contested presidential election.
Steering this enchantment was former Gatanga Member of Parliament, Peter Kenneth, who after what can rightly be described as a sterling performance as a first- time parliamentarian, was bold enough to run for the country’s top seat.
Teaming up with Emmy Award winning journalist and former Rarieda Member of Parliament, Raphael Tuju’s Party of Action (POA), Kenneth’s Kenya National Congress (KNC) reached out to like-minded aspirants to form the Eagle Alliance with the current Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) chair Ronald Osumba as his running-mate.
The arguably youthful force garnered a paltry 72,786 votes in the March 4, 2013, election, equivalent to a dismal 0.6 percent of the total valid votes cast.
In Nairobi, another first-time Parliamentarian, then Makadara MP Mike Sonko was warming up to the new devolved governance system in the Nairobi senatorial race. Sonko was facing a formidable opponent, Jesus is Alive Ministries (JIAM) Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, who had toppled former Cabinet Minister, Maina Kamanda, as Starehe MP even after a by-election following disputed results.
Sonko is arguably the most unconventional MP in Kenya’s history who was even once kicked out of Parliament for wearing earrings and sunglasses. His unorthodox approach to representation plus nondescript projects albeit emotionally appealing would eventually make him a darling of his constituents and lower cadre Nairobians in extension.
His meteoric rise to national prominence coupled up with frequent bouts of ‘philanthropy’, admittedly unseen before, Mike Sonko, decisively trounced over Bishop Wanjiru in the March 4, 2013, election garnering 808,705 votes against the former’s 525,822.
On Wednesday, April 26, these two politicians face off in one of the most watched party primaries in search of the Jubilee Party ticket for the Nairobi gubernatorial race. With the contest taking shape with the entry of Kenneth who resigned from KNC announcing support for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election, Sonko has been seen to revert to his old ways throwing tantrums and branding his competitor a Nairobi outsider.
Now with the apparent endorsement of Peter Kenneth by President Kenyatta, the odds of clinching the ticket are seemingly tilted in favour of the former, much to the chagrin of Senator Sonko.
But why would the President endorse a former critic over a faithful Sonko who has not missed any opportunity to fiercely defend him on virtually any matter that has ever besieged his administration?
The talk of the town is engineered ascension of Kenneth to Nairobi Governor has everything to do with 2022 succession politics with the former Kenya Reinsurance MD poised to be Deputy President William Ruto’s running-mate if the Jubilee Coalition 2013 pre-election pact is to see the light of day. In this regard, Sonko is seen to not have any successive outlook into the future and rightly so, in light of his unpredictable temperament.
Kenneth represents an elite politician with an accomplished career in the Banking and Insurance industries most of which have been in a top managerial position. During his term as MP, Gatanga was declared the constituency which had best utilized its Constituency Development Fund (CDF) money for the 2011/12 financial year.
The flamboyant Senator Sonko, on the other hand, has demonstrated his ability to mobilise voters to his side on several occasions despite having no demonstrable management skills. He unmistakably commands a huge following in Nairobi especially among the majority urban poor who see him as some sort of ‘saviour’ that probably inspired his Sonko Rescue Squad that at some point got him at loggerheads with the Nairobi County government.
So who is best placed to dethrone the incumbent Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero?
While it is agreeable that Peter Kenneth would come close to making a good Nairobi Governor, his ability to deliver a predominantly ODM Nairobi to Jubilee is quite low for a man who took a political hiatus immediately after conceding defeat President Kenyatta in 2013.
Mike Sonko definitely stands a better chance at giving governor Kidero a run for his money. Garnering 116,622 votes more than Kidero’s 692,483 in 2013 notwithstanding the fact that it was in different positions underlines Sonko’s political muscle in Nairobi politics.
Jubilee Party should know better than to underestimate the value of loyalty as it seeks to maintain a Parliamentary majority in the 12th Parliament. After the ill-informed merger of Jubilee Coalition affiliate parties, Jubilee stands to lose the opposition in areas where a weaker candidate gets the sole ticket available.
Sonko has done nothing but be loyal to Jubilee and its leader Uhuru Kenyatta. It is, therefore, incumbent upon them to reward this priceless loyalty by in the least according to him a fair nomination.
Does Kenyatta’s endorsement of Peter Kenneth impact members’ choice in the April 26 primaries? The answer to this is a yes and no. Kenyatta’s endorsement could marginally influence party members to choose Kenneth but Sonko’s influence in Nairobi is the biggest factor here if Nairobians affection with the money-dishing senator is still alive.
However, if the endorsement is an indicator of the party’s preferred candidate, Sonko had better make real his decamping threats and either run as an independent or join one of the lackluster alternatives like Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC).
In the unlikely event that Peter Kenneth wrestles away the Jubilee ticket from Sonko and he somehow manages to get his name on the ballot paper, Jubilee will have certainly kissed goodbye the Nairobi gubernatorial seat.
Jubilee’s real play would be to ensure the rags to riches Senator is locked out of the race and through intensive campaigns hope to defeat the incumbent governor.
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