Ignore the poor masses at your peril

I watched the recent debate on a local television station between the two main protagonists for the Nairobi governorship from the Cord and Jubilee coalitions, Dr Evans Kidero and Mr Ferdinand Waititu, and I had plenty to ponder.

First, during the TNA (Jubilee) nominations, I least expected Mr Waititu to beat investment banker Jimnah Mbaru.

I was expecting the final race for the crucial seat to be between Dr Kidero and Mr Mbaru as I felt that the two gentlemen have immense knowledge to offer to Nairobians and the larger international community.

Having known Dr Kidero and Mr Mbaru for a long while, I was sure they are good for a a metropolitan city like Nairobi. But I think the voters see things differently.

What has been made clear is that the poor and those who derive their livelihood from the informal sector are the majority. You can only ignore them at your peril.

Whether it is a commercial product like cooking oil, soap, toothpaste, banking services, transport, beer, soda and so on, you have to factor in the economic demographics of the country. Similarly taking politics as a product, it is critical to factor in the individual economic realities of the Kenyan population.


That is why Mr Mike Mbuvi alias Sonko, who is contesting the Nairobi senate seat, and Mr Waititu seemingly tick with the poor of Nairobi.

Don’t forget that the lower class is far bigger than the middle class working in formal employment, the rich and generally the office workers in Nairobi.

You can’t ignore the matatu subsector workers, hawkers, maize roasters, hand cart pushers and pullers, car washers, brokers, job seekers and cheap brew merchants and so on and hope that you are feeling the electorate’s pulse.

The middle class has other challenges. During the nominations, most of them were still at their work places. What in a sense I’m seeing and what probably is replicated in the national politics is that majority of the voters are poor and largely not very well informed.

Sly politicians know that very well and that is why they keep focusing on basics like food, water, cheap schooling and sewerage etc.

Perhaps Mr Waititu may surprise us that he can lead Nairobi well. But history is not on his side reading from Kenya’s past and on global scale.

Perhaps it is time for Dr Kidero also to fine tune his campaigns as he may end up being the winner considering the sentiments expressed by a large section of the middle class, investors and considering the tribal mix in the city.

Both candidates have an equal chance at this juncture. But Nairobi can’t afford to fail.

The writer is a Nairobi-based consultant