The wild ride to office by former governors Mike Sonko and Ferdinand Waititu ended in a ruthless fall before our eyes. Their impeachment still scares governors to the core.
Fretful county chiefs believe ward reps are baying for their blood day and night, and even paying top dollar to kick them out. Amos Nyaribo of Nyamira, Meru’s Kawira Mwangaza and Siaya Deputy William Oduol recently tasted the dark abyss.
And as a desperate reaction of sorts, Council of Governors (CoG) chair Ann Waiguru is now leading excellency members in calling for a review of the impeachment laws – they do not want to be kicked out in the first two years and in the last year to an election.
Could they be overthinking or simply seeking a blanket amnesty in advance? But even as they pursue this self-preservation route, a popular verse in the Bible rings a bell from a distance. The guilty always flee even when no one cares to follow them up.
Listening to the governors speak on Monday shortly after the CoG elections, they seemed to deny the obvious – the fact that there are many wayward leaders among them who will do the unthinkable in the absence of stringent checks like the impeachment provisions.
Since 2013, devolution has transformed some counties but is a faraway reality in others. Some county bosses have done a sterling job but others have presided over mediocrity – looting, nepotism, cronyism and all malpractices that come with incompetence.
From the glitters on the streets, smooth roads and the remodeling of hospitals and schools, a few counties have given Kenyans the impression that a broad rebirth of the nation is probable.
In places like Kisumu, Makueni, Laikipia and Kakamega, we can track progress. Growth indicators like infrastructure, trade, production and investments have fully taken shape.
On the flipside, counties like Busia and Homa Bay still give off images of places where quality of life is by far pitiable. Waiguru and the CoG leadership should, at this point, engage one another to push the transformation agenda rather than perpetuating rot by way of watering down constitutional checks and balances.
For the record, good leaders have no reason to look over their shoulders in fear of the so-called detractors.
The current broadside against the impeachment provision, in my view, is purely underpinned by selfish fear-based political motivations. When governors’ focus is to protect their turf, devolution and its dreams will all go up in smoke.
Meanwhile, influence peddling and the big man syndrome in counties have led to the temptation by the national government to take back devolved functions.
Renewed calls by Waiguru and her colleagues to have functions fully devolved must be tempered by proven financial prudence.
It is also deeply worrying that governors have given President William Ruto’s austerity measures a wide berth. Somewhere in Southern Nyanza, a new double-cab vehicle is used full-time to ferry a governor’s chair to events to the chagrin of officials and public. Call it majesty!
Counties must strive to respect the public purse. Since 2013, they have received an estimated Sh2.5 trillion. But more and more, we’ve been treated to serious dereliction.
A conversation on the future of struggling counties would suffice led by CoG. It shouldn’t reduce itself to a clueless elite club.
As devolution trudges on, we may need a rule book for governors complete with safeguards to ensure meritocracy in employment, prudence in project conception and general accountable utilisation of funds. In President Ruto’s words, Kenyans don’t need ‘cat-walking’ and ‘kizungu mingi’ to make things work.
As renowned author Daniel Coyle once said, baby steps are the royal road to skill.
Kenyans must make devolution work through its nascent stages. It’s another ‘mambo ni matatu’ moment – prudence, accountability and results.
The writer is a communications practitioner. @markoloo