Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko is sparing no one as he embarks on a bid to consolidate his grip in the city.
This week, fired Nairobi County Finance Executive Committee member Danvas Makori joined an increasing list of City Hall senior officials shown the door by the governor in recent months.
Although Makori was fired for allegedly ‘leaking’ information about a financial audit to former Governor Evans Kidero, Sonko has in recent weeks transformed his approach to issues, leaving both friend and foe guessing what cards he has up his sleeve. In just five weeks, the governor has rotated his Cabinet, ignited a war with politicians from Mt Kenya he accuses of working behind the scenes to scuttle Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential bid, cancelled contracts for some Kidero era suppliers and launched a brutal crackdown on hawkers.
On Monday, he reignited the debate about which political seat he would vie for next, saying it could even be an MCA post or the leader of opposition. He then led his CECs on Friday to State House where they took a commitment to resign if they do not meet some ambitious goals on the regeneration of Nairobi, including clearing garbage within 30 days.
“The Cabinet Secretaries and the Principal Secretaries who are part of the team will tender their resignation to President Kenyatta while county executives will hand theirs to Governor Mike Sonko if they fail to deliver,” said a statement from PSCU
All this and he still has time to respond to his followers online, mostly in sheng and in a manner some residents might perceive as being crude.
On Thursday, one of his followers on Facebook asked him whether public toilets can be made free. “I was almost beaten for lacking Sh20 at a public toilet today,” Dennis Mugo told Sonko online.
Sonko’s response was crude. “All public toilets in the CBD charge Sh10 unless you requested for a whole roll of tissue,” responded the governor, creating an outpouring of reactions.
Still it is a far cry for the Sonko who a few months ago took a laid back role at City Hall as he tried to fit in from his loud, unruly, out of control, crazy hairstyle self from his time as MP and Senator.
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“The reason people sometimes find me abrasive is because I cannot tolerate those who stand between me and my target to deliver to the public. Whether it is a lazy county employee, or another person out to frustrate my efforts, I will never relent,” said the governor.
“I have nothing against informal traders and matatus,” he says of the decision to destroy structures owned by hawkers this week in the CBD. “The people of Nairobi deserve to live in an orderly society. If it takes being called abrasive to get the job done, so be it.”
Besides former Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe, others who have fallen on the wayside are Sonko’s personal assistant Bernard Mulwa, Delivery Unit Deputy Director Joseph Ireri and Michael Mutua. They were fired at the end of February, barely three months after they were hired.
But Sonko did not just fire them. He published their names, ID numbers and photographs in the dailies, warning the public that they are no longer employees of the Nairobi County government. Mukami Kamau, who was the media liaison officer, was also sent home in December for unclear reasons. Some say Sonko’s recent actions are motivated by a need to be in full control of City Hall after a fight with his former deputy left him exposed.
It is understood that Igathe’s team had set up a parallel leadership at City Hall with the backing of operatives from State House in the hope of turning Sonko into a ceremonial governor, only to be stopped in their tracks. Igathe, who has since taken a low profile after quitting his post, refused to be quoted for this article. It is however Sonko’s remark that some politicians are meeting at night to scuttle Ruto’s State House bid that has rubbed people the wrong way. For the residents, the politics at City Hall notwithstanding, all they want are better services. The city continues to face immense challenges especially traffic congestion, lack of adequate water supply and traffic jams.
On Thursday, Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC) Managing Director Nahashon Muguna told a County Assembly committee that unless the catchments received more water, rationing in the city would go on.
“The whole of Eastlands receives water only on one or two days a week. The most affected areas are South B, Lang’ata, Nairobi West and South C,” said Muguna.
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“It is clear that fixing Nairobi requires concerted efforts of both State and non-state actors,” said Henry Ochieng, the chief executive of Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (Kara).
Next week, Sonko will for the second time attempt to evict matatus from the CBD. A former matatu operator and chair of Eastlands Matatu Operators Association, Sonko finds himself in a spot where he has to implement rules he once went to court to fight and won. As Senator, he also fought a lot on behalf of hawkers.