When he appeared before the Senate Committee on Devolution a month ago, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko brushed off concerns by the Senators that it had taken him long to pick a deputy.
Mr Sonko cited the yet to be signed Assumption of Office of Governor Bill (2018) as the reason for his long delay in picking a deputy.
Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Act into law — which gives strict guidelines on what and when to do what should the office of governor and deputy governor fall vacant for one reason or another.
The Act stipulates that should the position fall vacant, it should be filled within 14 days. The expectation therefore is that sooner, rather than later, Mr Sonko will unveil a nominee for the position of deputy governor.
Nairobi — the biggest metropolis in the East and Central Africa region with a population of 4 million — has been without a deputy governor since the abrupt departure of technocrat Polycarp Igathe 15 months ago. While throwing in the towel, Mr Igathe said the working relationship with his boss had deteriorated beyond repair.
Mr Sonko has made heavy weather of the task of fixing Nairobi’s seemingly intractable problems; insecurity, joblessness, housing, pollution, sewage and collapsing infrastructure. Perhaps a deputy will give him the heft to get the job done or at the least, moderate him. As a principal assistant, a deputy governor offers the governor advice and challenges his decisions — for the common good. Sonko’s antics are as numerous as they are embarrassing.
From impromptu — mostly in the wee hours of the night — inspection visits of City Hall or Pumwani Maternity Hospital; to needless social media bouts of fights with concerned city residents; to blaming cartels for his poor performance. Nairobians have wearied of it. Surely Nairobi’s 6 million souls deserve better than the drama of this attention-grabbing politician.
Indeed, the new law spells out the role of a deputy governor going forward. Previously because of no clarity about the role and function, deputy governors had been denounced as flower girls for the governors who tossed them around wherever it suited. This bred bad blood between the two top officials and their followers. No wonder the purge of deputy governors at the last elections.
Hopefully, a deputy will keep in check Mr Sonko and if nothing else, get him to deliver the job. Yet it would be unfair to declare Sonko a failure considering the rot he inherited from his predecessor Evans Kidero, who proved woefully incapable of regenerating a city that had gone to the dogs in the first place.
Sonko’s gravest mistake has been to imagine that flamboyance and a dash of show mania would work. He has been proven wrong. Nairobi needs real work done on it.