Igathe hangs on Aga Khan pointman in race for Nation CEO job

His close relationship with Dennis Aluanga, a confidant of the Aga Khan, and the Kenyatta family factor are seen as key determinants

When Polycarp Igathe resigned as Nairobi Deputy Governor many were left wondering how he could have easily given in to Governor Mike Sonko’s push for more control at City Hall yet he had the full backing of President Uhuru Kenyatta. It was understood that when Igathe agreed to be Sonko’s running mate in the lead up to last year’s elections, the agreement was that he was to take charge of the county’s government’s operations with Sonko concentrating on the political aspects of running the capital city.

President Kenyatta even set up an intergovernmental committee at Harambee House that was running City Hall. This included awarding of key tenders and making key job appointments. However, when he announced his intention to resign, Igathe cited his failure to earn the trust of his boss and that this had hindered efforts to manage and administer City Hall operations.

Many were left wondering what next for Igathe, who left his rarefied office at Vivo Energy where he was Managing Director for a five-month sojourn in politics. Some opined that it could be a well-calculated move meant to pave way for his nomination as a Cabinet Secretary or Principal Secretary.

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However, with almost all critical positions in the national government now filled, Igathe is now emerging as a front runner in the race for the vacant position of Chief Executive Officer at Nation Media Group, East Africa’s largest media house with operations in print, broadcast and digital.

What is more intriguing is the fact that Igathe’s possible appointment as Joe Muganda’s successor at Nation Centre comes at a time the Kenyatta family is eyeing a controlling state at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE)- listed company.

Interestingly, Igathe and Joe will have literally swiped positions at Vivo Energy and NMG. Even more interesting, Aluanga is also a director at Vivo Energy.

According to insiders, His Highness the Aga Khan is seeking to offload his shares in the company and in the Kenyatta family, he has not only a ready but also strategic buyer given his other vast interests in various sectors in the country.

So did Igathe resign in readiness for the NMG job? All indications are pointing at that direction. Here is why.

Dennis Aluanga, a director at NMG, is known to be one of His Highness the Aga Khan’s key advisors and has a bigger say on who takes over at the company. It is an open secret within NGM circles that Aluanga was keen to succeed Wilfred Kiboro who retired in 2006, but the Aga Khan talked him out of his ambitions, saying he had a more crucial role as group finance director.

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In fact, he even obtained a MBA from the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, which he saw as key to his plan to succeed Kiboro, who was at the helm of NMG for a record 13 years. Aluanga, whose resume includes a stint as Chief Operating Officer, has also previously worked as a COO at Industrial Promotion Services (East Africa), another Aga Khan-owned company.

In the current set-up, Aluanga is said to be actively working behind the scenes to determine who becomes the next NMG CEO.

Insiders say he was central to meetings with prospective candidates before the board settled on Igathe, acting CEO Stephen Gitagama and former Vision 2030 director general Mugo Kibati. His close relationship with Igathe and the Kenyatta family factor are seen as key elements that could tilt the balance away from Gitagama and Kibati, there impressive credentials notwithstanding.

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