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Tim Wanyonyi throws hat in the ring for city governorship

By Josphat Thiong'o | May 1st 2021
Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi. [Angela Maina, Standard]

They say disability is not inability, which is best demonstrated by the ebullient, sober and eloquent two-terms Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi.

Straddling on a wheelchair after a carjacking incident in which his spine was injured in 1998, the legislator has defied the odds to not only charm his way to the hearts of Westland's constituents but also line up for the Nairobi governorship.

After the incident, Mr Wanyonyi sought treatment locally and abroad. He plunged into politics nine years later and was nominated as a councillor to City Hall by ODM.

Before joining politics in 2007, the MP who is a brother to Ford Kenya leader and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula- had practised law for 11 years and championed the rights of persons with disability (PWD).

Politically, he cuts the image of a white dove in a field of jackals, thanks to his intentional focus on intellectualism, diplomacy and transformative leadership.

So much so, that opinion polls by Infrotrak and Ipsos Synovate have ranked Wanyonyi as the best-performing legislator among the 17 MPs in Nairobi.

His constituents have also credited him for transforming the education sector and economically empowering the masses.

At one point, he was running two constituencies- Westlands and Kibra- an act motivated by servitude and brotherhood.

When the late Kibra MP Ken Okoth sought treatment abroad in 2019, Wanyonyi took up the mantle of being Kibra’s custodian for five months.

“That confidence Ken had in me is what made him ask me to stand in for him. When people trust you then they can hand over delicate issues such as leadership. He was my brother. The experience was quite good in Kibra and when I was there people felt I was doing the same things Ken used to do,” says Wanyonyi.

In the National Assembly, the MP has sponsored various laws including an amendment of the VAT Act that saw PWDs exempted from tax.

Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi is confident that ODM’s strong presence in Nairobi will help him win the governorship. [Courtesy]

He also sponsored a Bill on the debt situation, which requires that every year when the President addresses Parliament and the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary reads the Budget, they must indicate Kenya’s level of indebtedness.

In an interview with The Standard, he shared his views on an array of issues including plans to vie for Nairobi governorship in the 2022 General Election, ODM and Handshake politics, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and the elusive Luhya unity.

Having been endorsed by ODM leader Raila Odinga in 2018 as the best man for the job, Wanyonyi says he is ready to serve Nairobi county as the governor.

He says the transfer of key functions namely transport, health, public works and housing to the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) left City Hall a shell of its former self.

“I will be vying for Nairobi’s governorship come 2022. But if NMS will still be running Nairobi then I better remain as Westlands MP. I do not want to be a governor where you do not have revenue and only running a shell,” he says.

The legislator accuses former governors Evans Kidero and Mike Sonko of allegedly mismanaging the county.

Wanyonyi believes he is best suited to restore Nairobi’s economic and social fabric. This he says starts with recognising and working with resident associations, boda boda organisations, business communities and the matatu owners. As well as addressing traffic snarl-up which cost the county millions of shillings in revenue in wasted man-hours.  

“I have been tried and tested having been a former councillor from 2007 to 2012. I understand the issues Nairobians face. Kidero and Sonko did not understand the dynamics and politics of City Hall and that’s why they failed despite having a successful past,” he says.

Wanyonyi is also confident that ODM’s strong presence in Nairobi and a coalition with any other party will help him win the governorship.

“If Nairobi remains the way it is, the only party with sway is Jubilee but it is almost disintegrated. As for UDA we still haven’t established whether it's strong in the city or in rural areas. ODM has the capability to present another governor,” he states.

MP Tim Wanyonyi flanked by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. [Courtesy]

The MP says Raila should be ODM's flag bearer as he is best suited to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“Running a national campaign requires a lot of experience and Raila provides that. We have however provided for competition within the party so that anyone who wishes to vie is not pushed out. Governors Hassan Joho and Wycliffe Oparanya have expressed interest in the presidency but I am sure Raila will win,” says Wanyonyi.

The legislator discloses that Raila is open to working with Deputy President William Ruto as well as the One Alliance team if it guarantees him the presidency.

This comes following revelations that Oparanya is doing the bidding for Raila to work with the One Kenya Alliance after he held a meeting last Wednesday with Wiper Leader Kalonzo Kalonzo, a principal in the coalition.

“Raila and Ruto have worked together before and we cannot rule out a possibility of them working together in 2022. Interests are the only guiding principle in politics. Other competitors will emerge but what matters is entering into a coalition that will steer us into power,” says Wanyonyi.

“Even those jittery about ODM you might find them working with us. The problem with Kenyans is pride and they think that they cannot deputise someone instead of holding together and agreeing who will have the mantle next,” he adds.

The leader dismisses claims that ODM had abandoned the oversight role after the March 18, 2018 Handshake between Kenyatta and Raila.

He questions why parties such as Wiper, Maendeleo Chap Chap, ANC and Ford Kenya had not taken up the mantle of opposition.

“Kenyans are so used to Raila taking on the government with facts that when he doesn’t they take it to mean there’s no opposition. ODM is still the official opposition because we are not in government and Raila never negotiated for any position in government with the Handshake but to end the injustice that was going on," he says.

Wanyonyi wants Kenyans to de-link the BBI from politics, Raila and Uhuru and look at it as a Kenyan problem.

Westland MP Tim Wanyonyi at AIC Church, Kibra. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

He terms BBI as an opportunity to bring change; exclusivity, equality and much-needed reforms at the electoral agency.

“We can deal with its weaknesses but cannot do away with it as a whole. The benefits outweigh the disadvantages. If we remove politics from BBI, it is presenting all of us a lifeline,” adds Wanyonyi.

And while admitting that the Constitution needs to be amended, he urged those opposed to the BBI to engage in constructive criticism and propose better ways of improving the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 instead of opposing the entire initiative.

“There are clauses in the current Constitution that cannot be implemented and hence the need to change them now before it’s too late,” he says.

On the elusive Luhya unity, Wanyonyi says this has the potential of tilting the outcome of the 2022 elections.

“We Luhyas are democratic in that we vote for everybody and end up playing small in the national politics. For the Luhyas to rise they must learn to align to one side and vote as a block,” he said.

He blames the elusive unity on the lack of a de-facto Western Kenya leader, saying that behind the scenes plans were at play to identify the region's leader pre-2022.

“There needs to be a de-facto leader who Western people will rally behind so that he/she can represent their interests. Currently, there is none. Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang'ula do not enjoy support across board. They do not command support from every corner of Western the way Michael Wamalwa had done before he passed on and Masinde Muliro who were indisputable Luhya leaders,” he avers.

“The five counties in Western should use their numbers to bargain politically. This way if you want to enter Western you have to bargain with them similar to Central Kenya where you can’t enter without going through the top leadership, or Luo Nyanza without Raila and Rift Valley without Ruto at the moment,” he adds.  

Currently, ANC's Musalia Mudavadi, Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetangula, former UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi, and ODM’s Oparanya are angling to be Luhya spokesman.

Wanyonyi however, warns that the region's leader will be identified soon and could come from any calibre of leadership.

“Leaders come up and somebody will come who may not be visible now and people will rally behind him if he has the charisma and leadership. Something will happen and it may happen very soon,” he says.

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