“Never been arrested. Won’t be. Show me an OB Number.”
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja fired this tweet when reports emerged he had been arrested drinking out past curfew hours.
Sakaja has presented himself — and perceived by many — as levelheaded, sober and objective politician since his days as TNA chairman and nominated MP.
He has demonstrated this through debates in the chambers and on TV and radio shows. He won the Unicef International Children’s Debate while at Aga Khan Primary School, Nairobi.
He told the Star on Thursday that he derived this from his mother, whom he lost at a tender age of nine. She was 41.
“She was a champion and taught me many things. One, is that good name is better than riches,” Sakaja said.
His mother, Emily Ayoti Kubasu served in Prisons, where she rose up the ranks, and was an athlete who won medals at international level for 200m and 400m races. He credits her for the man he is today.
The father of two also comes out as a disciplined politician, which he messed up in the recent incident. He apologised, pleaded guilty, was fined Sh15,000, and resigned as chairman, Senate Covid-19 Response Ad-hoc committee.
But even before the dust settles, the self-styled ‘Super Senator’ is facing another challenge.
It emanates from the revenue sharing formula standoff.
Sakaja, a Jubilee senator, is not playing ball and has rallied a number of senators from the party and marginalised areas under the banner “One Kenya Movement”.
He has thus been accused of being a traitor, and the Jubilee leadership has threatened to crack the whip, including removing him and others from the party.
Banners labelling him a traitor were on Tuesday morning mounted around the city and were reinforced by a Twitter hashtag #SakajaBetraysNairobi.
Asked whether he is charting his own path, Sakaja says he is following the “principles that call for one Kenya, unity that gives every Kenyan an identity”.
“That’s why I came up with the TNA slogan “I Believe” and Jubilee’s “Tuko Pamoja” as I was in charge of Branding”.
He says he is not afraid as he is speaking what he knows is in the heart of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“Uhuru, when he was Deputy Prime Minister, told me development follows infrastructure when Thika Road was being built. We, therefore, have to ensure other counties are shielded and feel part of the country in resource allocation,” he said.
He says they adjourned because they would have won but lose the country.
“You also heard what Raila said on the formula. It is all about fairness”
But nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura, has an explanation for what could be behind Sakaja’s woes.
“That formula seeks to increase revenue allocation to among others, counties from Mt Kenya region, including Nairobi, where nearly half of the population is from Central,” Mwaura says.
“This reminds me of my journey as an ODM nominated MP, when Sakaja was nominated by TNA. When I moved to Jubilee due to the reality of local politics, Raila called a meeting at Orange House and demanded I return the seat to ODM. Sakaja is exactly in that position today, with the owners of the seat asking him to own up to their expectation that he should vote on their behalf,” he says.
Where is this coming from?
Sakaja, a perceived Luhya politician who has been nurtured in the confines of a largely Gema party (TNA), is expected to toe the Jubilee line, Mwaura says.
The Lenana School and UoN alumni’s dalliance with national politics started during the referendum campaigns of 2005.
As the chairman of the Student Organisation of Nairobi University (Sonu), he used the platform to rally the youth behind the referendum.
The Mwai Kibaki team lost but Sakaja would later join the President’s team ahead of 2007 elections, first as a driver to the Vijana na Kibaki director, later heading the lobby group.
In PNU, he says, he formulated the party’s strategy and was also in charge of numbers, which led him to meeting Uhuru.
After the 2008 post-election he joined Uhuru in the Ministry of Finance, where he was in charge of political affairs and strategy. He was at the time running Arthur Johnson Consultants, a financial firm.
Sakaja was also involved in the Constitution making, particularly the formulation of the delimitation of electoral boundaries chapter (Article 89), representing PNU at 24 years, while ODM was represented by Prof Francis Aduol, now VC Technical University of Kenya.
“After that [referendum] I told Uhuru Kanu would not be viable in the 2013 elections. That’s how we formed TNA to unite the country against the backdrop of 2007 violence,” he says.
Uhuru made him chairman and nominated him to Parliament.
Perhaps this is what Mwaura means when he says Sakaja was “nurtured in the confines of a largely Gema party”.
But as 2022 approaches, Sakaja is hesitant to declare his next move, saying he is against early campaigns.
“I believe you first perform where you are and you can latter seek for another position. I am not beholden to a position but I have ambitions. One day I want to be President. One day!” he says.