With about a year to the general election, the Nairobi gubernatorial seat seems to be Senator Sonko’s, as it has been consistently shown by Centre for African Progress (CAP) surveys and indeed other polls. In a poll released early February by TIFA headed by former Ipsos CEO Maggie Ireri, Sonko led with 28%. Other candidates such as Waweru had 1%. This trend has not changed in Sonko’s case as shown by his 41% score in this CAP poll.
Sonko’s closest rival is Kidero who has 29%. Dennis Waweru has 9%, Margaret Wanjiru has 7%, Miguna Miguna of “Peeling back the Mask” fame has 5% while Fwamba N.C Fwamba has 4%. Below is the breakdown of the poll:
Nairobi County Gubernatorial Seat: Sample Size: 3,400
||Fwamba N.C. Fwamba
While it is clear that Kidero will be the CORD candidate, Jubilee contenders will have to fight it out so that the winner can face Kidero in the general election. The respondents in this poll were hugely in favour of Sonko being the Jubilee nominee. 51% felt that Sonko is the best candidate to beat Kidero while only 20% felt that Waweru is the best man to face Kidero.
The story gets even better for Sonko in a general election match-up where he beats Kidero by 17% points with his 57% score compared to Kidero’s 40%.
It is not difficult to understand the Sonko phenomenon. He has perfected the art of handouts which he frequently gives to Nairobians in the low income settlements. While some people might view the handouts as a “bad political culture,” Sonko correctly argues that it is foolhardy to tell a hungry 50 year old woman that you are going to start a project that will generate money in one or two years. The idea is to give the handout and follow it up with a solid plan to make it easy for these people to sustain themselves.
Tribal Politics in the City
Tribe is certainly a factor in Nairobi politics. While Waweru was initially poised to reap the benefits of tribe, it has become increasingly clear that President Uhuru will not be comfortable campaigning for a Kikuyu for the city county’s top job. This is a message the businessmen in Nairobi have been sharing for a long time, and none of them is eager to join Waweru.
The other element is that even if Waweru were to be the Jubilee nominee, he cannot beat Kidero who will easily get Kamba votes that Sonko will easily get if he is the nominee. Then there is Sonko’s high personal popularity that transcends tribe, a factor that will make it difficult to push him aside even if that might be the wish of some in the ruling coalition. There is no doubt that if Sonko is not the Jubilee nominee, Kidero will come back as governor.
Other big winners in this latest poll are Fwamba and Miguna, candidates whose numbers were quite low in the previous poll. Fwamba has risen to 4% even without declaring, courtesy of a concerted effort by youthful Luyhias in the city to take advantage of their large population. It remains to be seen what will happen if he finally declares, something he cannot do at the moment since he is a civil servant. Miguna is rising as well despite his cartoonish theatrics. His rise can be attributed to his “say it like it is” manner which resonates with a section of Nairobians.
Sakaja is the greatest loser in this poll, and CAP speculates that his inability to answer questions related to his graduation might be behind the dismal performance. It is alleged that he never graduated from the University of Nairobi or any other university or college for that matter, thus effectively locking him out of the race. If that is the case, it is possible that he may have declared interest in the seat purely for selfish reasons such as bargaining for other positions.