Shell Kenya CEO Igathe plunges into politics

Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko (left) and Vivo Energy's Polycarp Igathe. PHOTOS | FILE | NMG
Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko (left) and Vivo Energy's Polycarp Igathe. PHOTOS | FILE | NMG 

Polycarp Igathe, a renowned executive who has held high-profile corporate positions including chief executive of Shell Kenya and Haco Industries, is set to become running mate of Jubilee party nominee for Nairobi governor seat Mike Sonko.

Mr Igathe is said to have resigned on Wednesday from his position as Vivo Energy CEO (trading in Kenya as Shell) to hit the campaign trail with Mr Sonko. 

Mr Igathe was up against eight corporate titans who were in contention for the running mate position.

Mr Sonko had early this week revealed a shortlist of nine candidates from where he was to pick his deputy.

They included investment banker Jimnah Mbaru, former KenGen #ticker:KEGN director Millicent Omanga and former Education PS and 2013 presidential candidate James ole Kiyiapi.


Others on Sonko’s radar to serve as running mate were former City Hall town clerk John Gakuo, ex-Kenya Tourist Board chairman Raymond Matiba, civil rights leader Janet Muthoni-Ouko, and former legislators Margaret Wanjiru and Dennis Waweru.

Mr Igathe was in the public eye in February this year when he was caught on camera in a gun drama with nominated senator Paul Njoroge.

The altercation, in which Mr Igathe was almost shot, arose from the ownership of Shell Naivasha View service station located along the Naivasha-Nairobi highway.

Mr Sonko, a flamboyant and populist politician and current Nairobi senator, had publicly declared that he wanted to tap a deputy from the business community – perhaps a strategy to endear himself to Nairobi investors.

He is banking on Igathe’s management experience, and deep roots in Kenya’s business circles to jointly capture the Nairobi governor seat from incumbent Evans Kidero.

Mr Igathe has served as chair of two powerful business lobbies; the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, and Kenya Private Sector Alliance.

The executive has twice caught the eye of President Uhuru Kenyatta with an appointment to chair the board of the Anti-Counterfeit Agency, but the High Court has on the two occasions quashed the appointment on grounds of conflict of interest.

Mr Igathe now joins a long list of businessmen and technocrats, and professionals who have traded their cosy c-suites for the murky political terrain.

Among them is billionaire businessman Bundotich Kiprop, who is contesting the position of Uasin Gishu governor as an independent candidate.

Mr Kiprop in November 2013 sold his milk empire, Buzeki Dairy, to Brookside Dairies in a deal estimated to have been worth Sh1.1 billion.

Suleiman Shahbal, founding chairman and shareholder of Gulf African Bank, is eyeing the Mombasa governor post.

Ex-Wall Street investment banker Mwende Mwinzi is seeking Mwingi West MP post. Also on the list is Patrick Wainaina, founder and chief executive of Jungle Nuts, a macadamia nuts processor in Thika.

Mr Wainaina, an independent candidate, has also adopted the name ‘Jungle’ and wants to be Thika Town MP in the August polls. 

Ndindi Nyoro, a 31-year old entrepreneur, is gunning to represent the people of Kiharu constituency as their MP. He is the owner of Investax Capital, a stock broking agent.