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Johnson Sakaja: Political Journey and Academic Controversy

Johnson Sakaja: Political Journey and Academic Controversy.

Johnson Sakaja, a senator from Nairobi, has recently been the talk of the town. The candidate for the city’s governorship in the August elections is currently mired in controversy after the Commission for University Education (CUE) decided not to recognize his degree, putting the future of his governorship bid in doubt.

The slick and charismatic Sakaja continues to be, on paper, the biggest barrier to Jubilee Party candidate Polycarp Igathe’s chances of taking the top spot in City Hall in August, despite the aforementioned setback and rising calls to withdraw from the race.

But exactly who is this man who has been a hot topic for more than a week?

Born in Nairobi on February 2, 1985, Sakaja began his political career when he enrolled in Lenana School in 1999, a year after completing his primary education at Aga Khan Nursery and Primary School.

His leadership abilities were first noticed during his time at the national school, where he served as the vice chair of the law club and coordinator for the prefects.

After completing his secondary education, Sakaja enrolled at the University of Nairobi (UON) to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Actuarial Science.

Shortly after, Johnson Sakaja was appointed Vice Chair of the Actuarial Students Association.

Later, after successfully running for and winning the position of Chairman of the now-defunct Students’ Organization of Nairobi University (SONU), he would secure one of the most coveted positions at the university, reinforcing his status as a rising political star.

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Sakaja was not a household name in Kenyan politics, despite being very well-liked among his peers. This would change in 2005 when he used his influence as the leader of SONU to mobilize college students in support of the referendum.

Beginning as a youth organizer before being named the director of the “Vijana na Kibaki” lobby group, Sakaja would also mobilize support for the late Mwai Kibaki’s 2007 reelection campaign.

Following the disputed election results, looting and violence broke out in various parts of Kenya.

Sakaja publicly pleaded with his former boss Kibaki and the leader of the opposition, Raila Odinga, to settle their differences amicably in order to stop the bloodshed.

Sakaja was notably given the podium during this time so that he could speak to Kibaki’s Cabinet about the same.

Even though he was only 22 years old, he seized the chance to rub elbows with some of Kenya’s most influential people, including the then-Minister for Local Government and current President Uhuru Kenyatta.

After a brief greeting, President Kenyatta developed a liking for the bright Sakaja, who later assisted the Kibaki administration in defining the boundaries of constituencies and other crucial issues related to the creation of the 2010 Constitution.

At the age of 26, Johnson Sakaja played a key role in the creation of The National Alliance (TNA), which President Kenyatta used as the basis for the Jubilee Party, whose platform he used to win the 2012 presidential election.

At the time, Sakaja was appointed TNA’s chairperson, making him one of the nation’s youngest political leaders.

In 2013, shortly after President Kenyatta assumed office, the ruling Jubilee Party nominated Sakaja for election to the 11th Parliament, where he successfully sponsored the National Employment Authority Bill and the Public Procurement and Disposal (Amendment) Bill into law.

He was also given a seat on the Joint Committee on National Cohesion and Equal Opportunity of the National Assembly, which he would later lead.

Sakaja received the Chief of the Order of the Burning Spear (CBS) First Class from President Kenyatta in recognition of his extensive legislative work between 2013 and 2017.

Despite initially aiming for the county’s governorship, Sakaja announced in 2017 that he would be running for Nairobi’s Senate seat after much thought.

At the subsequent elections, Sakaja, running on a Jubilee ticket, easily defeated Edwin Sifuna, secretary general of the ODM, by garnering 52% of the vote to Sifuna’s 42%.

He would hold the position for the following four years before leaving Jubilee and subsequently declaring in November 2021 that he would be running for Nairobi governor on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party ticket.

Only time will tell if the aspirational Senator, despite his current difficulties, will fulfill his dream of serving as governor of Nairobi County in the future.

Citizen Digital was recently informed by legal experts that CUE’s decision

Top city attorneys Steve Ogolla and Danstan Omari rejected Johnson Sakaja assertion that the degree controversy was a political witch hunt, arguing that it is Sakaja’s responsibility to establish the validity of the degree he holds.

Ogolla asserts that CUE’s investigations will focus on determining whether collusion occurred or whether the organization was misled into earlier clearing Sakaja.

“If new information has been placed in the hands of CUE indicating that Sakaja may have been cleared irregularly it is within CUE’s power to revoke the prior recognition of the degree. IEBC does not authenticate degrees…

“In Sakaja’s instance, somebody must have misled CUE. Whether there was collusion between an official at CUE and Johnson Sakaja, to have the commission irregularly validate his degree will be the outcome of investigations,” Ogolla said.

For his part, lawyer Omari stated that if Sakaja truly possesses a valid degree, the “game is over” and that he should not “waste time” seeking legal redress.

He noted that CUE is the only authorized organization in this nation where any foreign university is submitted for accreditation, grading, and acceptance as a degree recognized in this nation. 

“It has spoken loud and clear that Sakaja is not qualified or the paper he presented is not a degree for the purpose of the Kenyan market. That is closure and the court cannot overrule the national accredited entity to do that job,” said Omari.

“Johnson Sakaja can only challenge the CUE decision if he has a degree. Any foreign degree must be confirmed by CUE and CUE has confirmed that he does not have it.

“If Sakaja had a degree he would have just presented it and the matter ends. Any legal avenue available for Sakaja is a waste of time,” he added.

Johnson Sakaja: Political Journey and Academic Controversy

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