Even before Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko was indicted on abuse of office charges, it was not lost on many that Nairobi residents got more than they had bargained for.
Ever since he was elected governor of East Africa’s biggest metropolis with a population of four million, Mr Sonko featured in the news, not for transforming what was once described as the city in the sun, but for his sense of showmanship and love for the dramatic.
Mr Sonko’s antics are as numerous as they are embarrassing. And he lays them all out on social media, from bouts with political opponents and concerned city residents, to blaming cartels for his poor performance, showcasing his dancing skills and his appetite for designer attire and expensive jewellery.
To many voters, Sonko was a better option than former governor Evans Kidero who proved woefully incapable of fixing Nairobi’s seemingly intractable problems. Today, the capital city’s voters must be regretting their choice. Nairobi still faces water, sewage, housing and garbage collection challenges, insecurity, joblessness, pollution and collapsing infrastructure. Yet, the city receives the lion’s share of devolved funds.
The city’s crawling traffic defines the good, the bad and the ugly of Nairobi. The insensitivity of the matatu, the discourtesy of motorists and the recklessness of the boda boda all encapsulate a survival-of-the-fittest mentality and utter resignation to fate.
There are those who think blaming Sonko for the entire city’s problems is unfair. Surely, short of a miracle, cleaning up decades-old rot needs time and funds. And as fate would have it, Sonko is now technically a lame-duck governor.
Without a deputy to carry on with his mission at City Hall, Sonko belatedly appointed Anne Mwendwa. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji has contested that appointment, accusing Sonko of violating bail terms.
In truth, Nairobians are paying the price for Sonko’s contempt for the Constitution, which dictates that an office exercising Executive authority like his or that of the President must have a deputy.
Once, he posted on social media an all-female line-up for public voting. Nothing came of that. Last year, this newspaper exhorted Sonko to appoint a deputy because constitutionally, it is mandatory and not a matter of preference. As a principal assistant, a deputy governor offers the governor advice and challenges his decisions – for the common good.
Be that as it may, should the application by the DPP go through, and with Speaker Beatrice Elachi on the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission’s radar, it might be a while before Nairobi gets a substantive leader.
Yesterday, Nairobi MCAs held a special sitting during which a number of issues affecting the city were discussed. In particular, the MCAs suggested that with the governor barred from office and a leadership crisis looming, the Nairobi Regeneration Committee that was set up in 2017 be revived to run the city.
The regeneration committee, comprising officials from both the national and county government, was tasked with improving the livelihoods of Nairobians through effective service delivery.
The regeneration team’s focus was to mainly be on the socio-economic sectors of housing, water, infrastructure, transport, energy, solid waste disposal, environment, as well as the concerns of women, youth and people living with disabilities.
However, it might be necessary to reconstitute the Nairobi Regeneration Committee because Polycarp Igathe, a member of the team, resigned in 2018 and now Sonko, another member, is restricted by his bail terms after the court barred him from office. Technically, therefore, he cannot transact business on behalf of the county.
If nothing else, the leadership crisis in the city needs urgent attention from the national government, especially because of its geographical position and the multiplier effect – Nairobi is part of a cluster of five of the 47 counties where 60 per cent of the country’s GDP output is generated.
No doubt, a long-running leadership dispute undermines the entire country’s economy in many ways. On previous occasions, the national government has stepped in, with initiatives like the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority.
Many city residents are tempted to agree with the Building Bridges Initiative task force’s recommendations to do away with the county government. Needless to say, Nairobians deserve better.