Nairobi County needs a change manager, not an executive one
During my vacation last month, and having been away for a while, I did a random survey on Nairobians’ perception of the city in four neighbourhoods. From the low income earners in the vicinity of Jogoo and Outering roads and the middle class estates in Kasarani, Buruburu and Lang’ata to those in the CBD, Westlands and Kileleshwa, I came face-to-face with a lot of city dwellers choking with anger and frustration over the future of the city they call home.
It didn’t matter which location one lived. The average Nairobian thinks and easily confesses that things have been on a downward trajectory since the launch of the county government in 2013.
And after listening to the recent Nairobi gubernatorial candidates debate, I opine we urgently need change in East Africa’s largest and most popular city. Most of the candidates are still chained in the mentality that performance is gauged by how best they can articulate or implement policies that serve the middle class or the rich.
The debate exposed the dire need for a governor who will address the needs of both the ‘bottom millions’ and the middle class, not an overwhelming bias in favour of the latter. We do not need a ‘documents’ governor; we need an ‘action’ governor.
Documents normally tabled at the county assembly from the executive attempt to clearly give a picture of many ongoing development programmes but very little on what is completed and functioning.
Nairobi is in tatters. Nairobians are tired of the ‘on-going projects’ narrative. For example, many city roads have been a fixed budget item for the last four years, making motoring and walking across major estates a nightmare.
Many of us never understand why Nairobi is still filthy with all the documents showing partnerships between the county government and international development actors.
On average, Nairobi County receives Sh13 billion every year from the national government while its revenue collection is about Sh10 billion every year. Availability of resources is therefore not the problem. Action and real time service delivery leadership is the missing gap.
I agree with Senator Mike Mbuvi ‘Sonko’ that our human resource capacity, in the form of our jobless youth, is just what may be needed in the short term to clean up the garbage mess. A long term view should look at, for example, decentralising garbage collection and recycling to sub-county levels.
Our candidates, Governor Evans Kidero, Peter Kenneth and Miguna Miguna outline manifestos which share a strong element of pro-middle class voter policies.
The problem with the middle class mentality is that it alienates majority of city dwellers who are low income earners and who also drive the economy of the city, and the country.
In my view, only Sonko elaborated a modus operandi that targets voters keen to improve the lives of low income earners from a hand to mouth lifestyle. Yet both groups are joined in the hip in as far as the smooth running of the city is concerned.
Take for example Sonko’s espousal on the hawkers’ mess and high taxation of small scale traders. Allowing hawkers to operate on some streets at certain hours and during weekends in addition to construction of markets in the sub-counties would highly decongest the city centre.
Abolishing daily fees for hawkers and road side traders is laudable. Mr Kenneth would argue that this is a populist idea that cannot be sustained by any government. However, people pay these fees so that the county government can offer essential services.
My view is that Nairobi needs a ruthless change manager, an agent of change destined to implement things in partial disregard of the ubiquitous red-tape blamed for slow rolling off of even the noblest of programmes.
The bureaucracy experienced in management of county affairs has been a deep thorn in the flesh of Nairobians who desire to live a quality and decent life.
It is time city residents elected a change manager, not an executive manager.
- Mr Kimaru is a political scientist