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Things fall apart: Igathe shocks Sonko, resigns from City Hall

By Vincent Achuka and Moses Michira | Published Sat, January 13th 2018 at 00:00, Updated January 12th 2018 at 22:47 GMT +3
Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi (left) and his deputy Polycarp Igathe when they met Matatu Owners Association at City Hall. Igathe was picked from the private sector to complement Sonko. [File, Standard]

In public, the pair seemed like political lovebirds but in private they brawled like little monsters.

When one slammed brakes on the facade yesterday, one of the shortest political marriages in Kenya’s history was unveiled.

In a dramatic move, Nairobi Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe quit his position and attributed it to his own failure to win the trust of his boss, Governor Mike Sonko.

The move finally lifted the lid on the uneasy relationship between the pair that has been running the affairs of Kenya’s capital city for the last five months.

“Dear Nairobians, it is with heavy heart that I resign my seat as the deputy governor of Nairobi City County,” he said in a short 48 word message sent to newsrooms. Three hours to the surprise resignation, Mr Igathe was sitting pretty in a live TV set defending his stint and asking for more time to deliver. It was all a smokescreen.

“I regret having failed to earn the trust of the governor to enable me drive administration and management of the county,” he said in the statement hours after the interview.

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What transpired in the last few days before his shocking resignation, is still unclear.

However, those in the know say Igathe’s intention to resign was made on Thursday during an induction workshop for the County Executive Committee (CEC) members in Mombasa.

What broke the camel’s back is a high-ranking position in the county that Sonko wished to fill but his push was resisted by his deputy – who felt being a corporate executive he was best placed to recruit whoever was to be given the job.

Publicly differed

Igathe is also said to have publicly differed with Sonko during the workshop at the Sun and Sand Beach resort in front of the CEC’s on a policy issue. Frustrated, he said he doesn’t fear resigning. “He said he can leave this job to them if they want it,” said a source.

He then took a flight back to Nairobi and left the CECs and the governor in Mombasa. By yesterday evening they were still in Mombasa. Sonko could not be reached on phone but those close to him said he was shocked.

Those in the know say Igathe became frustrated after being turned into an errand boy for Sonko. A former corporate executive who has built his career in board rooms thought he was going to be given a portfolio to run which had not happened by yesterday.

“Sonko is running everything and Igathe feels his skills are not being utilised. He has tried severally to come up with a team he can work with but Sonko’s machinery have stood on the way,” said our source.

“He must have been very naïve when he took the job,” said the source.

During the campaigns Sonko had intimated that he would take care of county politics while Igathe does executive work.

However, once in City Hall, the governor’s axis has continuously treated Igathe as a State House appointee whose sole purpose is taking care of the interests of the presidency. State House has not hidden appetite to get control of Nairobi.

Sonko’s allies who have grown uneasy with State House’s interference with Nairobi matters have in recent weeks been trying to regain control of the city.

The governor’s machinery which, strangely includes majority MCAs in the assembly has delayed the vetting of the new county secretary Peter Kariuki whom insiders say was appointed by Sonko under duress from State House.

While all the CECs have been vetted and started their jobs Mr Kariuki, remains a secretary on the streets. The political war games at City Hall over his appointment played out before President Uhuru Kenyatta on the eve of Christmas when he went to light the governor’s tree. During the event protocol officers at City Hall replaced Kariuki’s name with Leboo Morintant who was acting county secretary during the transition period.

So unease between Sonko and Igathe has been so bad that the governor has in recent months been operating from his private offices at Lilian’s Towers, only coming to City Hall on a need basis.

Tensions escalated after the governor released to the public private communications between the two which portrayed Igathe as an attention grabber and a cheap pleaser. Ironically, the governor had purposed to allay fears of fall-out through the leaks.Throughout the texts Igathe appeared to be a have a penchant for missing his boss’s calls and seems to prefer texting him to calling him back.

“For the next two years Mike Sonko and I will not be popular. Distractions will be put on our path but we will continue working to deliver what has failed our great city of Nairobi for 20 years. To make this monumental change, we need to focus,” said Igathe in a tweet after the claims were made three weeks ago. Igathe’s drama with his boss is a replica of the goings-on in Kiambu where the fallout between Governor Ferdinand Waititu and his deputy James Nyoro has been more pronounced. 

Last evening, Nairobi County’s communication office acknowledged that Sonko had received his deputy’s resignation. “The governor is considering the letter and will issue a comprehensive statement later,” it said.

The law is silent on the way forward when a deputy governor resigns.


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