Weekend with the CEO

Igathe: Job hopper with a streak of luck


Equity Bank Group chief commercial officer Polycarp Igathe. FILE PHOTO | NMG

"May the God of Mr Polycarp Igathe also find you, you who are searching for new opportunities and jobs,” wrote a Kenyan on Twitter.

This was after the news went around that State House had brokered a deal for Mr Igathe to be the Azimio candidate for Nairobi gubernatorial seat.

The announcement was received with mixed reactions but many Kenyans believe that Mr Igathe is one lucky fellow. This is because he came from nowhere and is now the frontrunner in the quest to become the city’s fourth governor.

“(Mr) Igathe seems to be the Simon Makonde of the Kenyan politics. He pops up from nowhere, then disappears, pops up from nowhere again, and disappears,” Nairobi lawyer Danstan Omari posted.

If the 49-year-old bags the Nairobi governor’s position, he will not be a newcomer at City Hall. During the 2017 elections, the ruling party Jubilee settled on him and Mike Sonko and managed to wrestle the seat from the incumbent and ODM candidate Evans Kidero.

Nairobi residents were told that whereas Mr Igathe who became the deputy governor, was to run the policy, administration and management of the city-county, Mr Sonko was to do the politics.

The union, however, worked for a few months as Mr Igathe resigned from office on January 12, 2018, citing frustrations. He wrote a letter to his then boss Sonko and copied it to the Speaker of the county assembly, although he later said, none of the two acknowledged it.

He also wrote a regret letter to the residents of Nairobi saying “Dear Nairobians, it is with a heavy heart that I resign as the deputy governor of Nairobi effective 1 pm on Jan 31, 2018. I regret that I have failed to earn the trust of the governor to enable me to drive administration and management of the county.”

Before joining politics, Mr Igathe was first appointed to chair the Anti-Counterfeit Agency in 2015, where he served for a year.

He was then appointed chairman of the Special Economic Zones Authority of Kenya in October 2016 before joining Vivo Energy as chief executive. He resigned in May 2017 to join the political arena.

After leaving the murky world of politics, Mr Igathe went back to the corporate world and joined Equity Bank as the chief commercial officer in May 2018 rising to the managing director position.

The former Nairobi deputy governor would then resign in August 2019 as managing director and the following month get appointed as Vivo executive vice president, sales and marketing.

About seven months later, Mr Igathe resigned from the position on March 13, 2020, and rejoined Equity as the group chief commercial officer.

His announcement was a surprise because he jumped the queue in the Azimio team ahead of other candidates such as Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi and Richard Ngatia, who joined the race to become the city’s governor months ago.

The two have put so much into the campaigns erecting billboards. Paying nomination fees to their respective parties and marshalling campaigns teams.

Mr Igathe had in the meantime done nothing. It was only after news broke that he would be in the race that he embarked on a meet-the-people tour starting at City Market. Billboards were already out announcing his entry into the race.

When Kenyans questioned who was behind his rise, Mr Igathe shot back, “I am nobody’s project. People are hungry for competent leadership, not confident people,” adding that it is the Nairobi residents who asked him to go for the seat.”

Political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi defended Mr Igathe saying, “Some are asking WHY Polycarp Igathe has been “Grass-Hopping” from one ORGANISATION to another. They are NOT telling us that he is MOVING from one WORLD-CLASS organisation to another. Like Messy, Ronaldo and Branadoe, all the WINNING teams want him. What is the PROBLEM with that?”

Some made fun of his entry into the race, saying Mr Igathe might throw in the towel midway for another position. Time will tell.

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