By Abdirizak Mohammed
Has Jimnah Mbaru finished folding his shirt sleeves to take on Kidero in round two of Nairobi Decides? After getting a total of 52,084 votes in the last Nairobi gubernatorial election coming a distant third, Jimnah Mbaru like every other politician had reason to close shop and disappear leaving campaign workers and agents to share the loss with him. The workers themselves expected that much. In a bizarre act of honesty unknown in politics all workers and agents, over 1,000 of them, were assembled at his Westlands campaign office and each paid their dues; as much as Kshs 50,000 for some. It was a shocker in a campaign that was run with some financial honesty that is foreign to politics.
In an earlier incident two weeks before the election, thousands of people who had crashed into his campaign entourage through the CBD were each paid Kshs 500 for lunch claiming they were part of the campaign team. The people were all paid even after an altercation at Jevanjee gardens with his campaign managers who had refused to pay. Jimnah scoffed at his managers and ordered them to pay every single one of the layabouts. It rained cash that day at Jevanjee lest Jimnah Mbaru muddy his valued name over what he considered petty matters. While money is not an issue for Jimnah, his name and reputation seem to matter so much more. His name it seems is his real currency, and he guards it with vaults.
This loftiness and idealism Jimnah carries himself with has also cost him the most in his on and off political career. He can never be said to be a politician. He is a businessman who takes leave to run for office every now and then. Always a last minute entrant into the game, he is always conned by operatives who value him for his money and little else. Surprising, the same team that bungled his 2002 Starehe Constituency election is the same one he relied on for the TNA nominations where he lost to a hapless Ferdinand Waititu whose academic credentials remain in question to date and subject of controversy. His aloofness from Nairobi’s political establishment has always worked against him as they always tend to favour one of their own over him.
With an uninspiring Jubilee establishment team lining up for the Governor’s post, Jimnah Mbaru must be looking from far, calculating on how to exactly enter the fray. These calculations that he bases on whatever criteria tend to take too long and the ground always shifts out of his favour. Already not in the minds of the people, it is going to be the most daunting campaign ever should he choose to enter the game. His time is running out.
When you read through his tweets, Jimnah Mbaru’s passion for the city comes out through the cracks. You can tell he wants to be in the the game so bad but his calculations get in the way. But in a crowded race that has little to differentiate one candidate from the other and one that is also going to be a long run, perhaps all the way to March 2018, Jimnah has what it takes to play the long shot game. His deep pockets and difference of ideas and approach can very well win over those disaffected by Nairobi establishment politics. He is regal next to Wanjiru and Sonko, seasoned next to Waweru or Sakaja and trusted across the board as a man of his word. Few can marshal the best minds and resources better than he can.
As a big cash contributing member of the Mt Kenya Foundation, he would naturally be a shoe in for the post with his peers who form the exclusive club of billionaires. He is a man Uhuru can trust without the fear he is out to create an independent Kikuyu power centre around him because that is what all the other Kikuyu candidates are planning to do.
To compliment his ticket, Jimnah will require a running mate more in tune with the ground. A person well versed in city politics and with knowledge of its nuances and power brokers. Someone like his previous running mate, Somali political power broker Ibrahim “Johnny” Ahmed or city Kamba Supremo and last time opponent on the Wiper ticket Mutinda Kavemba may make great running mates to temper his elitist image. He can also dip into the Luhya vote that is shaping up to be the vote that will determine who becomes the next Governor by picking the youthful Fwamba NC Fwamba who was Kavemba’s running mate in 2013 and has ground experience and connections in Jubilee’s Luhya wing. Evans Ondieki who left city hall under a cloud of controversy could also come in handy with the Kisii votes or Ondieki’s alternative, Eric Mokua who is emerging as the go to guy in city Kisii politics.
But all these are wishes. Jimnah is yet to make any intentions clear beyond his twitter timeline which leaks his desires every now and then. This is in line with the fact that he is among the people who designed the first Nairobi metropolis plan. For a man who is not coming to the city to look for either money or power, he is the city’s most honest shot at institutional change. In characteristic Jimnah fashion however, he may prevaricate over the decision as usual and the horse will bolt leaving him staring at an empty trailer. Jimnah is good but he’s the right governor Nairobi may never have.