If elections were held today, Nairobi East Member of Parliament Babu Owino would defeat the current Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja to clinch the seat.
This is according to the latest opinion poll released by Kenya’s most respected and reliable opinion poll company, the Centre for African Progress (CAP).
The poll, conducted between November 16th and 17th, 2023, in all 17 constituencies in Nairobi with a sample size of 3,000 registered voters, placed Babu Owino in front with 42.0 percent, ahead of his closest rivals Governor Johnson Sakaja, who was elected on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket in 2022, polling at 23.0 percent, and Embakasi North Member of Parliament James Gakuya, who had a rating of 12.0 percent.
Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi came in fourth with 11.0 percent.
While Babu Owino currently holds a leading position in the polls, he has not formally announced his intention to pursue the seat.
However, there is a notable and mounting pressure on him to enter the race.
Advocates for his candidacy assert that he represents the best chance for the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) to secure victory in the upcoming election.
Meanwhile, when comparing Sakaja and Owino in a head-to-head matchup, 58% of respondents favored Owino, while 40% opted for the incumbent.
A 2% minority did not express a definitive opinion. Conversely, in a match against Tim Wanyonyi, Sakaja secured 55%, surpassing Wanyonyi’s 43%.
The remaining 3% did not align with either candidate in this comparison.
The study also examined the factors shaping voter decisions.
The economy took the lead, scoring 30%, followed by corruption at 26%, unemployment at 20%, and transportation at 12%.
Other issues, including security and the perceived problem of tribalism, garnered attention, reflecting the multifaceted concerns of Nairobi’s electorate.
The survey revealed the vulnerabilities of Sakaja as a candidate who rode the Kikuyu community wave to office with the support of Ruto.
Despite strong support from Luhya, Luo, Kamba, and Kisii voters for Azimio’s Polycarp Igathe, Kikuyu voters played a pivotal role in securing the governorship for Sakaja due to an anti-Uhuru/Raila sentiment created by President Ruto and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua.
As the struggling economy under the UDA regime puts President Ruto in a challenging position, he must decide whether to support an unpopular Sakaja accused of overseeing fictitious payments and facing potential arrest.
Sakaja’s challenges extend beyond corruption allegations.
During UDA nominations, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru expected to be the party’s gubernatorial candidate but was surpassed by Sakaja, causing discontent.
Kikuyu voters, initially hesitant to accept Sakaja, eventually did so due to Ruto and Gachagua’s influence.
However, complaints about a difficult business environment and Sakaja’s taxes have sparked dissatisfaction among Kikuyu voters, directing blame at President Ruto for endorsing the wrong candidate.
The weakened Sakaja presents an opportunity for ODM, especially if Babu Owino emerges as their candidate.
Owino, a controversial second-term legislator for Embakasi East, commands significant popularity and could secure the governor’s seat, as indicated by the CAP survey. However, Sakaja faces additional challenges, including tribal perceptions and criticism from MPs who describe him as selfish, corrupt, and aloof.
With only 18% approval from respondents in the CAP study, Sakaja’s vulnerability may prompt UDA to seek an alternative candidate.