Equity Group Chief Commercial Officer Polycarp Igathe says he’s been “listening to the ground”, which has told him to run for Nairobi Governor.
Igathe states that his two-week consultations with the mwananchi made it clear to him that he was needed at the helm of city politics.
Until Tuesday, April 19, no one had imagined that Igathe would nutmeg Richard Ngatia for the Jubilee Party ticket. Ngatia had spent a lot of money on campaigns and billboards to popularise his candidature.
How he was put on the back burner in a span of hours, would make for an interesting study in a political science class.
Igathe: he’s well-connected, well-educated, has an enviable corporate reputation, and, above all, knows who pulls the important strings.
The strings-puller, in this case, the rumour mill on social media claims, is President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Reports in a section of the legacy media gave credibility to the speculation, with one of the respected publications in Kenya reporting that Igathe’s candidature was hatched at State House, Nairobi.
ODM’s Tim Wanyonyi is said to have accepted to take up the Deputy Governor position out of respect for Uhuru-Raila camaraderie that has now stood the test of time.
Wanyonyi, the current Westlands MP, called for a press conference on Wednesday, April 20. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he’ll announce that he’d accepted to deputise Igathe.
Despite being linked to Uhuru’s intervention, Igathe denies that he is being fronted by the President for the top city job.
“I am not anyone’s project. People are talking about meetings I have [reportedly] held [with the President at State House, Nairobi]. However, the only meetings I have held, are with business people, the residents of Nairobi and women associations,” he said on Spice FM on Wednesday, April 20.
In what would be described as an almost-instant contradiction, he said President Kenyatta was keen on who governs Nairobi, Kenya’s key economic hub.
“Of course there are conversations taking place at the [Executive] leadership level about Nairobi. Remember, the city accounts for 40 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product,” he said.
“The [Jubilee] Party leader (Uhuru Kenyatta) has a resounding demand for a competent executive to run Nairobi County,” said the Equity Group commercial boss.
On January 12, 2018, Igathe quit his position as former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s deputy, barely five months into their reign.
He said he had failed to earn the trust of Sonko to enable him work for the County Government.
“I regret I have failed to earn the trust of the Governor to enable me to drive administration and management of the county. Without fear, favour or ill will, I step down to avoid abusing or betraying my oath of office to Kenyans, Nairobians and my family,” he said in a press statement.
And now, Igathe says his critics are using the issue on his quick resignation as DG to plant distrust in the President’s mind.
“The cartels are now the ones going to the highest levels of our parties to tell our Party leaders ‘Polycarp will abandon you in week two weeks’ time’. These cartels have never financed me [so I don’t owe them any loyalty or reciprocation],” he said.
“I am putting cartels on notice that here comes a man who, with the power of God and the people, will do his very best,” said the former Vivo Energy Managing Director.
The 49-year-old said in the Spice FM interview that he was the brainchild behind the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) after exiting his role as DG.
Igathe says he will use the experience he’s acquired at the top of corporate leadership to govern Nairobi.
“In every business I have done, I have made a difference for the customer because if you make a difference for the customer, you make a difference for the management, employee and the shareholder,” he said.
“I am a customer evangelist. The customer of politics is the voter, and that is what I have come back to,” he added.
Igathe has enjoyed a lucrative run in corporate governance. He’s worked at the Kenya Breweries Limited, Haco Industries Kenya Limited, Vivo Energy Kenya, Equity Group Holdings Limited, among others.