Governors: Some left the city and met their Waterloos at the village

Former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Some politicians leave permanent footprints on the sands of time.

Nairobi City has been a centre of power and capital acting as a magnet for the rural folk. But over the years, a trickle of politicians has walked out of the city to rural areas in search of political power and glory.

Former President Mwai Kibaki was the first to migrate his political base to his native home. In 1963, Kibaki was elected as Member of Parliament for Donholm constituency (later named Bahati and now Makadara).

In 1974, Kibaki, faced serious competition for his Donholm seat from Mrs Jael Mbogo, whom he had only narrowly and controversially beaten in 1969 elections.

Kibaki moved his political base to his rural home, Othaya, where he was subsequently elected as MP until 2013 when the Constitution barred him from contesting.

This year, Simba Arati, the outgoing two-term Dagoretti North MP, who cut his teeth as a councillor in Nairobi and went for the post of MP in 2007 which he captured and retained in 2013.

“My message is simple, you can start anywhere and change the narrative,” he says. Arati moved his politics back to Kisii County after 15 years in Nairobi for what he termed ‘heeding the call of my people at home’.

Outgoing two-term Dagoretti North MP, Simba Arati. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

“It is not of my selfish interest. I have come here because of my people who have wanted me to come to Kisii, and I have to heed their call,” he said.

Today, Arati is Kisii County governor-elect after garnering 270,928 votes to floor seven competitors, including Ezekiel Machogu of UDA who finished second with 82,104 votes.

The outgoing Nairobi County Assembly Majority Leader Abdi Guyo, too walked out of the city and is now the newly elected governor of Isiolo County. The 40-year-old politician has been elected Isiolo governor on a Jubilee ticket after garnering 28,946 votes against his main rival Godana Doyo who got 2,551 under an independent ticket.

Guyo, who was Matopeni MCA, had declared interest in Embakasi Central parliamentary seat to unseat MP Benjamin Gathiru popularly known as Major Donk before changing tune.

President Uhuru Kenyatta appeared to endorse Guyo in February while launching a water project in the area saying: “When we say Nairobi needs to be added more constituencies, it is because here at Matopeni ward for instance, the population is higher than those in a single constituency. Is there any problem if Guyo becomes your leader at the constituency level and brings NG-CDF?” he posed.

Abdi Guyo (right) on the campaign trail with his running mate James lowasa. [Bruno Mutunga, Standard]

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko too has a similar story. He started off as MP for Makadara in 2010, rising to Senator of Nairobi three years later.

His quick-fix nature initially endeared him to the electorate before he won Nairobi’s governorship in 2017. His three year stint as Nairobi’s second governor was abruptly halted by an impeachment which hit him hard, including the resignation of his deputy Polycarp Igathe. His fate was sealed when the government transferred some county functions, introducing the Nairobi Metropolitan Services under director Major General Mohammed Badi.

Sonko’s impeachment marked his first major fall in Nairobi politics. His nominee Ann Kananu was installed as deputy and finally crowned as governor. Sonko revealed that he dropped his bid to vie for the capital’s governor seat out of respect for Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and moved his base to Mombasa.

“All these decisions were made by my party leader. He told me there are a lot of interests in the Nairobi governor seat,” Sonko said. Sonko would later face legal hurdles and was ultimately disqualified from contesting after the courts ruled he was unfit to stand because he had been impeached.

Sonko’s predecessor Evans Kidero, debuted politics in 2013 when he was elected as first Nairobi governor on an ODM ticket. After serving one term, he lost elections in 2017. Kidero moved his base to Homa Bay County where he faced off with Woman Rep Gladys Wanga as an independent candidate.

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Wanga has won the seat with 244,559 votes. Kidero, who ran as independent candidate came second with 154,182. He has vowed to challenge the outcome in court.  Ferdinand Waititu, too, started off as a civic leader before venturing into parliamentary contest. In the early morning hours of January 27, 2008, the newly elected MP for Embakasi constituency Mugabe Were was assassinated, paving the way for a by-election. In the ensuing by-election, Waititu was elected and served till March 2013.

Waititu who later changed his name to Baba Yao contested and lost the Nairobi governorship to Kidero in March 2013. Baba Yao, however, found a way back to active politics on 4 May 2015 after winning the Kabete parliamentary seat through a by election.

This followed the death of the area MP George Muchai, who was murdered along Kenyatta Avenue, Nairobi. Waititu would later go for governorship in Kiambu. He beat the incumbent Governor William Kabogo before he was impeached on his first term in office.

Jackson Swadi too waded through the murky Nairobi politics as Mabatini MCA in the former Starehe constituency, now Mathare Constituency.

Swadi, relocated and was elected MCA Kabwareng Ward in Nandi County before eyeing the Vihiga senatorial seat in this year’s elections which he lost to Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi.