NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 22 – It was an interview that really could have used a fire extinguisher to put it out; Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko Sunday night had his guns set on former Gatanga Member of Parliament Peter Kenneth; who stands in the way of his securing the Jubilee Party ticket for the Nairobi gubernatorial race.
The very first words out of Sonko’s mouth were an epithet; a reference to Kenneth as an albino on account of his light complexion and for which the Senator has earned condemnation.
As the TV interview progressed, Sonko went on to brand Kenneth a thief, accusing him of stealing from the Kenya Reinsurance Corporation Ltd (Kenya Re) when he was its Managing Director (between 1997 and 2002) to start up Mayfair Insurance, accusing him of scoring three ‘E’ grades more than him and of attempting to strong-arm the Jubilee Party leader – President Uhuru Kenyatta – into endorsing his candidature.
In an exclusive interview with Capital FM News on Wednesday, Kenneth took on one-by-one the scathing attacks on his character; laughing off the accusations and cutting the figure of a man unruffled by it all.
But it was after all, several days after the fact; a sufficient enough cooling off period.
Whatever the case, he was keen to make the point that he was no ‘softie’; a soft target easily riled.
In this interview, Kenneth also takes on the incumbent Evans Kidero who he terms a friend but whose track record he describes as woefully wanting, in addition to outlining how he would seek to remedy Nairobi’s woes.
Not forgetting, matters 2022.
When you initially announced your gubernatorial ambitions you said you were considering either running in Murang’a, Nakuru or Nairobi. What informed your decision to settle on Nairobi?
It wasn’t very easy because people of Murang’a had gotten used to what I did in my 10 years as the Member of Parliament for Gatanga but remember I was born in Nairobi, I grew up in Eastlands, I went to school in Eastlands, I’ve worked all my life in Nairobi and even when I was a Member of Parliament in Murang’a, precisely Gatanga, I still slept in Nairobi.
I’ve seen Nairobi in better days, in better times when I was growing up and I felt Nairobi gives the best challenge for me to try and take it back to its good old days. You know, when everything worked. When the transport system worked, when health services worked, when water services worked, when Nairobi was cleaner.
And I felt that Nairobi being the capital city really requires somebody who is not only a manager but has ability and capacity to deliver these services to the people.
What are some of the key things you’d be looking to accomplish?
I would love to decongest Nairobi. I would love to sit down with boda boda operators, I would love to sit down with hawkers, I would love to sit down with matatu operators because these are the greatest stakeholders of our city, just to discuss on how we can organise Nairobi for ourselves.
I would love to see poor people get water, I grew up in what was one of the poorest estates; we had free water. If we give the poorer of the poorer free water, you ease off on very many medical facilities that are required by people who don’t have clean and good water to drink.
But of more critical element, I’d like to decentralise further from City Hall to actual areas where the people are.
What about a cleaner Nairobi?
That is something that will be achieved in the short term. Between one month and six months we’ll make Nairobi clean in terms of garbage collection. Because look at what the current governor has done. He has simply neglected. Now that he has seen me make lots of noise about it and pledges, I’ve seen some workers from City Hall in yellow coats now (laughs) trying to clean. Drainage cleaning should be a weekly thing.
Look at all these trees that are being felled now just to allow for billboards. We made noise, we hear that they issued instructions to stop but the damage is done. The trees at Gitanga, James Gichuru junction will never come back again. They took 100 years to grow or more.
What do you have to say to those who say you’re perhaps too soft for Nairobi politics?
I think what people need is somebody who will deliver the services. Then they can judge whether you’re soft or hard. I think what I can tell Nairobians is that I have what it takes to turn round this city and make it a working city.
How do you propose to deal with some of the cartels we hear about at City Hall?
I think if you decentralise and you straighten things out, the cartels just disappear. They’re not glued. They’re brought by those who are there right now to try and mint money for them; to try and bankroll their campaigns so that they can continue another five years.
That will be a thing of the past. Take it from me. It will be the straight and narrow path.
An infotrak poll showed that if you and Mike Sonko ran separately, Kidero stands a good chance of remaining in office. What are your thoughts on that?
A sitting governor at 35 per cent is an indictment on his services to the Nairobians. Actually it just showed that Odhiambo Kidero is going to go home. I don’t believe very much in credibility of pollsters (but) I think what came out first is that people believe in the Jubilee Party much more than they believe in the NASA. Because if you look at Jubilee Party contestants, all put together, it’s about 45 per cent. Jubilee will only produce one candidate, not two.
Thirdly, and most importantly, I only announced my candidature in January. According to this particular pollster I am at 20 per cent. I believe I am much higher but I don’t want to argue, it’s a good way to make me work harder and more important is that there’s 18 per cent undecided and I’m sure once they see what the plans we have for Nairobi they’ll decide so. So I feel very confident where I am. I feel very confident I’ll be your next governor on August 8.
You correctly stated that Jubilee will present one candidate, would you be willing to be on the same ticket as Mike Sonko?
I think the Jubilee team will need to represent the face of Nairobi and there will need to be negotiations on that.
You haven’t answered my question…
I’ve said before and I maintain that I will do what it takes to bring the change Nairobi wants to see.
Did you steal money from Kenya Re to start Mayfair Insurance?
I’m probably the best Managing Director that Kenya Re had. I left Kenya Re 17/15 years ago. I’ve never heard any accusation. I have no time to give credence to somebody peddling some lies outside there. If there’s any iota of any wrongdoing, I’m ready to face it.
But also let people know there’s defamation in this country. Don’t just open your mouth and say things you cannot substantiate just to be seen you’re saying something. I’m very proud of my history where I worked. Very, very proud and I’ve always walked out with my shoulders high. And I dare anybody to prove otherwise.
Do you feel you have anything to apologise for, for not backing President Uhuru Kenyatta back in 2013?
Competition is not enmity and the President said this himself on Monday when he was asked about Raila Odinga. He too ran a contest in 2002 against Mwai Kibaki but they later ended up working together. He didn’t have to apologise for anything.
So, I want Kenyans to think broader. Yes, I ran in 2013, I had my agenda, it did not work. It was competition. We were competing to give Kenyans the widest possible choice.
There have been allegations that you have sent envoys behind the scenes to President Uhuru Kenyatta in an attempt to secure the Jubilee ticket.
I have said I’m ready for either consensus or nomination. And I don’t think we need to give credence to people peddling lies out there. Again, I challenge those who are saying so to produce just one iota of that piece of allegation. Why do I need to send anybody when I know what matters is the voice of Nairobians?
And the President has also been very clear that he wants to stay out of it.
Would the Nairobi governorship provide a platform for you to contest the Presidency in 2022?
You can be a governor for 10 years. We need to plan for Nairobi for 10 years. Because to achieve what I would like for Nairobi, you have what you can achieve in the short term, medium and long term and most of the benefits for Nairobians will be in the long term like urban renewal so that we create more spaces and we give our workers, especially the informal sector, more decent places to work in.
So I would like to plan for Nairobi for 10 years.
Were you an ‘E’ student at Starehe?
I’m shocked that somebody thinks we can compete about Es. The only Es I have, are the Es in my names. I suppose the guy was talking about Peter having two Es and Kenneth having two Es. During my time there were no Es, you had divisions. I’m an O-level, A-level student. Starehe was the greatest school during my time, there were no failures and you can take that to the bank. I don’t need to tweet and display my academics. But it’s also height of ignorance to compete on failure. What is there so much to talk about I got ‘E’ the other one got ‘Es’. I don’t understand how you can compete in failure. People should compete in bringing out the best.
Starehe is a great institution. It moulded me to where I am. It built me. Remember I went there because my mom could not afford education. I got bursary in that school so I value everything I got there.
Anything you’d like to add?
I expected much more from my friend Odhiambo Kidero. He has disappointed me like he has disappointed many Nairobians from the poor service delivery that he has presided over.
And I feel I have a good plan for Nairobi and I know I will implement it for the people of Nairobi. Whenever I have been asked to serve in any position I have done my level best and history can judge me.
Anybody serious on assessing my history of where I have worked, I think history will be kind to me and I think history will be very harsh to Odhiambo Kidero over what he has presided over in Nairobi.
I was told he was on some live show. He has no clue what he does for Nairobi so he has to keep reading notes (illustrates by bending over to the side to peep at some imaginary documents) to find out what he has done.
I saw he also said he’s frustrated by courts and that I’m behind (it). Very, very petty, simple mind. Lack of services in Nairobi should not be distracted by sideshows that Odhiambo Kidero is trying to play.
And basically I think he has no clue what goes on in Nairobi. I saw he went to give waiver to jua kali artisans dressed in a full suit and a tie. I really laughed (laughs) no clue.
So, I have what it takes and I’m ready to work for the people of Nairobi and I can assure them that in six months to one year I’d have decongested this city. I really want our kids to sleep a little longer so that they don’t have to be woken up at 4am. We never had to do it when we were growing up and I feel sad at 3pm when they’re going back home you find them sleeping on the buses.