Jubilee poll board chair faces integrity issues

Jubilee National Election Board (NEB) Polka Wanyonyi. (Photo: Moses Omusula/Standard)

Jubilee Party was on Wednesday staring at a crisis following reports that the chairman of the recently unveiled election board was under pressure to quit over integrity issues.

Sources at JP headquarters Wednesday revealed that the chairman Polka Wanyonyi, a lawyer, was on his way out after it emerged that he had pending disciplinary issues at the Law Society of Kenya (LSK).

At the same time, the party was grappling with another headache of members’ recruitment after it ran out of the much-touted smart cards, leaving applicants in limbo.

The shortage of cards compounds the party’s predicament, just days shy of the March 19 deadline to submit its membership list to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Members who are on a rush to procure the cards, which will be a requirement to participate in the party primaries, were thrown into uncertainty on Wednesday after they were informed that the cards had run out.

On the edging out of Wanyonyi, sources at the party headquarters indicated that he had been requested to submit his resignation for safe exit.

Wanyonyi, who took over early this week, was said to have been facing disciplinary issues at LSK having received two suspensions before.

A source at LSK indicated that Wanyonyi has two pending issues before the Advocates Disciplinary Tribunal with one case coming up for hearing on May 22.

Records obtained from the official LSK website indicate that Wanyonyi was under suspension in 2013 and 2014 before he was reinstated in the rolls of advocates in 2015.

The records for 2016 and 17 show that the lawyer was inactive in his practice.

Wednesday, Wanyonyi denied that he was being pushed to resign saying he was still in office.

Pushed about the pending disciplinary issues with LSK he retorted: “I don’t think it is appropriate for me to discuss this issue over the phone and while I am in the middle of a meeting.”

The party Secretary General Veronica Maina could neither deny nor confirm that Wanyonyi was on his way out.She promised to call back with more information but by the time of going to press, she had not returned our call.

On running out of the membership cards party insiders said they were informed that the cards would be available in a week, long after the list of party members would have been submitted to IEBC.

The Standard has learnt that the tender to produce the cards was given to a local businessman who then sub-contracted a Chinese firm, but the company is yet to deliver the cards.

The shortage places JP in a precarious position as the window closes for registration of members and submission of party membership lists on Sunday.

According to sources at JP headquarters, the party register was closed yesterday and the verification processed commenced.

This new development comes amid sustained pressure from aspirants in its Mt Kenya bedrock to collectively abandon use of the cards and resort to using the IEBC register and the national identity cards.

There is also concern that moneyed aspirants were buying the cards and issuing them to their supporters to gain an upper hand and the shortage almost guaranteed aspirants whose supporters had not acquired the cards a loss at the nomination.

To further complicate affairs, some aspirants are wary of the planned constitution of the county elections board.

A nine-member national election board was unveiled on Monday, but some are anxious over the manner the party will select officials to handle the party nominations in the counties.

The party is already struggling with defections in Mt Kenya region. A number of its aspirants have shifted base to President Uhuru Kenyatta friendly parties of PNU, Narc and Maendeleo Chap Chap.

But after the abortive December selection of party interim officials, many aspirants are anxious and curious to see how the nominations will be managed and specifically how members of the county elections board will be selected.

Nyeri Town parliamentary aspirant Ngunjiri Wambugu asked the party to ensure officials selected to the county elections board would be people “interested in the process and not the individuals”.

Mwea MP Peter Gitau said members of the county elections board should not be local people and none should have had any political affiliations in the past.

“The officials should be drawn from other regions such as the Rift Valley to prevent any chance of favouritism,” he said.

“As a worst case scenario the officials should be selected from within the county and reshuffled elsewhere such that if you are in the election board in Nyeri you could be sent to Lamu to oversee the nominations there”, he added.