By Gikonyo Kimani
The Nairobi gubernatorial race is becoming a contest of who is more Nairobian than the other, a quality that will hardly add value to the race or the city. But as political contests go, everything including the colour of your teeth and sharpness of your accent become strong issues that must be won despite their triviality.
So it has become important to test and see who is Nairobian more than the other on a scale of 1/10.
Mike Mbuvi Sonko 7/10. Eastland’s Finest.
Sonko is a Johnny come lately to the city but as shrewd as a cat in finding a place to lie and purr. A practicing Muslim, Sonko was born and bred at the coast. He has spent the majority of his life at the coast. His fluency in Swahili, his connections at the coast and the vast swathes of land he has brokered at the coast attest to this. The recent beef he had with Governor Joho where Sonko straddled the area like the local tycoon he is shows just how entrenched he is at the coast.
He can easily contest Mombasa governor and give Joho a hard time. His entry into Nairobi was through land brokerage as well but he chose to plant himself deep inside Eastlands, the authentic Nairobi according to many. He endeared himself to the people of Eastlands by taking up their language, dressing, businesses and legitimate street credibility. He has done well for himself.
Dennis Waweru 4/10. Villager in the City.
If being born in Nairobi was the only factor, Dennis would score a 10/10. Sadly being Nairobian is more than place of birth as Sonko has shown. Dennis Waweru proudly claims he was born in Nairobi but fails to tell us he was born in Rural Nairobi, Dagorretti, the most backward part of the city so far. Even the land holding system is freehold meaning it is the only place in Nairobi where people are allowed to bury their own on their land like most rural Kenyans do. It is in truth part of the larger Kiambu than it is part of Nairobi.
Dennis has also completely failed to integrate into city life in thought, politics, style, culture and language. While at Muthurwa, he was seen constantly patting his back pockets to feel if his wallet was still intact. His campaign is almost exclusively spoken in Kikuyu and his accent betrays his only strength. He can hardly speak in Eastlands and get away without having the crowd laugh at his ruralized mix of pronunciations. He has never been seen shaking people’s hands, preferring to keep people at arm’s length. The very same characteristics that saw Jimnah Mbaru dismissed in Eastlands, Nairobi’s political hotbed. Waweru needs to urbanise if he is to have a chance in the race. His current campaign is more fit for Kihato Village elder more than Nairobi Governor.
Eugene Wamalwa 7/10. I made it in Nairobi.
Eugene is the modern Nairobian whom all those who come from upcountry aspire to be in Nairobi. In Eastlands, he is a suave and respectable fellow, keen and sharp in his dressing and completely comfortable in a Swahili that is respectable. He is pedigree and earns respect and opportunity for that. Born in Nairobi to the prominent Wamalwa political clan in which he is the third to emerge with roots in Kitale, Eugene once described himself as “a young man from Saboti at the foot of Mt Elgon.”.His father was the first Senator of TransNzoia in independent Kenya.Those days,legislators spent five days of the seven days of the week with their families here in Nairobi.After the demise of Senator Wamalwa Snr in 1976,Eugene Wanalwa was raised under the arms of his elder brother Michael Kijana Wamalwa who was first elected to parliament in 1979 as Member of Parliament for Kitale West
It is such construction of aphorisms that makes him the most urbane and modern of the contenders. Eugene went to University of Nairobi Law school where he was in the same class with Westlands MP, Tim Wanyonyi. He thereafter established a law firm in the city and has worked and lived in Nairobi consistently for all his adult life. His contest for MP in his rural backyard Saboti threw him into the national limelight. Few have adopted to city life in such a charmed way as Eugene has. He is the poster boy for Nairobi’s professional class with a generous dose of the common touch. Parents want their children to be Eugene when they grow up.
Bishop Margaret Wanjiru 8/10. The City Matriarch
If Deputy President William Ruto is the poster boy for hustlers in the country, Margaret Wanjiru is the poster girl. Her tale of rise from zero to hero is inspiring. The real hustler has tried it all in Nairobi’s mean streets. She is also the first successful televangelist in the city who broadcast from down town Nairobi where the everyday Nairobian passes by. She has never pretended to be urbane or hipster. She has maintained her downtown roots todate with her offices at wakulima market, arguably Nairobi’s most common street.
The Bishop horned her skills on the streets literally, with a bible, the looks and commanding voice in hand. She often goes back in those days with a reverie that lets you know she has walked her fair share of Nairobi. Combative at times, you see she has learnt that Nairobi is a hard place and is willing to fight her way through many battles and has actually done so right before our eyes.
The Bishop has street command and numbers of volunteers in the city beyond all her opponents combined. She has been city Mp and her son Steven Kariuki, is Mathare MP. There is hardly a place she cannot get in and not fit in in the city from Mutuini through Kileleshwa to Kirinyaga Road on to kaloleni, dandora and wind up in Githurai. A Hollywood city matriarch if there ever was one.
Evans Kidero 5/10. The Undertaker.
Kidero is the mongrel between Sonko and Eugene Wamalwa. Everything his two nemesis have, he took the negatives. He was born in Eastlands but showed it his back the moment he got the slightest chance. He became a professional but turned rogue the moment he had an opportunity. He became Nairobi governor but abandoned it the moment he took the seat. Kidero is a deserter who steals from every place he has been. An undertaker keen to dispatch everything to the next life.
He does not have roots in the city having abandoned his childhood friends and has not built networks outside his rural base. He had the opportunity to make Nairobi a home for all but has turned it into a dumpster to pillage and all of us into chokoraas. If there was one person whose certificate of residence could be cancelled, it is Evans Kidero. He has betrayed this city and is sending it to an early grave.