Nairobi chokes as the Sonko dream appears to have faded

A man walks past a pool of water at Kimathi street lane. Filth and potholes have become synonymous with most areas within the CBD. [File, Standard]
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s choice of a deputy governor has generated debate across the country. Nairobi County has been without a deputy governor since Polycarp Igathe resigned last January, citing irreconcilable differences with Mike Sonko. Igathe’s resignation did not come as a surprise to many, especially those who had expressed scepticism that the technocrat could survive the rough and tumble of politics, more so in Nairobi County.

That Sonko could nominate embattled Miguna Miguna, proceed to state that the nominee had met all the constitutional requirements for appointment to the office when clearly the government avers Miguna is a Canadian, and even deported him on that account, raises a number of questions.

Did Sonko act impulsively, or did he consult? Was Dr Miguna approached before his nomination was made public? It is easy to read mischief, but what purpose would that serve? And even as Sonko’s choice of a deputy generated discourse, there are more pressing problems in Nairobi that need attention.

After Sonko was sworn in as Nairobi County governor, he was given the chance to prove to skeptics that he had what it takes to manage Nairobi. Those who braved the morning chill and long queues on August 8, last year to vote for Sonko had a lot of confidence in him.

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They believed it took more than just good academic papers to deliver, for indeed, Sonko had been derided by competitors, among them the man he has nominated to be his deputy, for his obscure academic background. But Sonko is not one to put down so easily.

Governor Sonko hit the ground running. He hired 1,000 youth to start cleaning up the city. Nairobi, as many can attest to, is important not just to Kenya, but to the region, Africa and the whole world.

It is estimated that 65 per cent of the country’s GDP of $70.53 billion (Sh7,081,458,855,000) is in Nairobi. It is a centre of trade and commerce that needs prudent and pragmatic leadership to harness its full potential. Sadly though, it has been wasted. Only a few months into his governorship, Sonko appears to have floundered. Nothing seems to be working anymore. Garbage piles continue to choke the city. Water rationing hurts a section of residents. Crime is on the increase, the roads are bad, and hawkers occupy every available space to the disadvantage of pedestrians. The matatu menace continues and housing is a big problem.

In truth, Nairobi’s 6 million inhabitants deserve better than what they are getting. Clearly, what they have is not what they bargained for in 2017. That the Sonko dream of a better Nairobi seems to have fizzled out so soon is a big disappointment not helped by the fact that the governor finds refuge in blaming his predecessor for his shortcomings. That will not wash, for we do not live in the past, and Sonko gave a clear undertaking to Nairobians that he must deliver.

The biggest city in East and Central Africa wallows in a legacy of corruption, dishonesty, greed and incessant power games that have seen the metropolis lose its glitter and allure of yester years.

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As noted by this newspaper before, the nightmare of the city’s managers has been how to make it a more pleasant, modern city with a functioning public transport network; with systems that deliver value to the tax payers.

What was famed as a symbol of Kenya’s ingenuity, the matatu, has morphed into a symbol of defiance; unruly conduct and outright disrespect for law and order. Shockingly, the relevant authorities seem powerless, and unable do anything about it.

The solutions that have so far been prescribed by successive leadership in Nairobi have been short-sighted at best; at worst naïve. There was no reason to believe that Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s prescription to remove matatus from the central business district would work, for in reality, he is engaging in what has been tried and tested, but failed.

It is the fervent wish of every Nairobian that their governor does not lose focus and engage in sideshows. Sonko should avoid the pitfalls that saw his predecessor fail to deliver by offering the much needed guidance.

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Nairobi Governor Mike Sonkonairobi garbagepoor roads