Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko is an amazing politician. Few Kenyan politicians can match his theatrics, drama and showmanship. And for that, the city sheriff is loved and loathed in equal measure. In his wake, Sonko has felled political giants including former Makadara MP Reuben Ndolo and immediate former city governor, Evans Kidero.
When he burst onto the scene, the governor wowed Kenyans with his philanthropic acts, helping out poor folks in slums and responding to tragedies like the Sinai oil explosion. He would also adopt kids in distress, dish out handouts to mama mbogas and endeared himself to youths by helping establish car wash and small business stalls. As city senator, he formed the so-called Sonko Rescue Team, which would make highly publicised ‘bailouts’ for families in mourning by providing vehicles for funerals. However, when he announced he would vie for city governorship, many laughed off the idea. They thought Nairobi was too complicated for Sonko. He did not think that way and he steadily plotted his walk to City Hall.
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By the time last year’s elections were called, his gubernatorial opponents were gasping for air and it was ‘Gavanare Sonko’ all the way. They could not catch up with him. Not even political party machinations could block the Sonko juggernaut. They tried to hit him below the belt, but the more mud they smeared at him, the more Nairobians wanted Sonko.
Now at the helm of City Hall, you could say Governor Sonko is nearly everything Governor Kidero was not. Today, Sonko is up against a host of challenges, least of them the resignation of his deputy Polycarp Igathe. As he left in a huff, Igathe said he had failed to win the trust of his boss, which was hardly surprising given the different deportment of the two men despite the brazen show of camaraderie during the campaigns. Still, the city county government must deliver the promises the duo made and Nairobians are highly expectant. The 100 days of change have lapsed and there’s nothing much to write home about.
The once green city in the sun is chocking in garbage, poor lighting and traffic is still uncontrollable. Many Nairobian households have to pay dearly for clean water after the taps went dry several years ago. The matatu madness is still on and boda bodas have added to the pain for residents. And what has miffed Nairobians is the suggestion to form an anti-mugging squad. How will that work out in a city that has police officers on patrol, county traffic marshals and city askaris? This can easily morph into a vigilante grouping which in no time can turn into a mugging gang.
Methinks Nairobi does not need a Superman, that fictional character in American movies who rescues people in seemingly insurmountable danger. The city’s challenges call for a multi-sectoral approach and the governor should take a more pronounced role bringing all stakeholders together. Creating parallel teams will only breed contempt and conflict. He will need to be tough though, because the city has been run by cartels for decades. His predecessor Dr Kidero always reminded us that cartels made his the most difficult job in town. How the governor navigates through this mix will make his tenure a success or a spectacular failure.
How about removing stumbling blocks mounted against private and even public bodies trying to put up waste management ventures in the city? How about streamlining collection of land rates and protecting rightful owners of properties from land grabbers? How about roping in city stakeholders in his vision but using legal means? How about using digital platforms to seal loopholes where the county loses revenue to corruption? Majority of Nairobians would want the governor to succeed, and return the city to its former glorious days. Many of us are regaled with tales of well paved walkways, timely public transport, affordable services in health centres, refuse collection and repair of county houses. Mr Governor, these are within your reach if only you work with the right people.
-The writer is Revise Editor at The Standard, Weekend Editions. [email protected]