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Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero: I will be back on the account of the many firsts we have scored for the county

Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero. He's leaving nothing to chance as he defends his seat in the next general election. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

Q: One year into the General Election and nearly four years after you were elected, how do you rate your performance?
A: I remain heavily indebted to the people of Nairobi for overwhelmingly electing me as their first Governor and for honouring me with the most diverse votes in the entire country. In returning this honour, I have ensured that this diversity is reflected in all spheres of my government. Despite working under unfavourable revenue sharing formula which offers us less than what former Local Authorities Trust Fund was offering and which is swallowed by recurrent expenditure, we have managed to do roads, build bridges, light up our city, rehabilitate hospitals, equip them, do a Master Plan, reduce crime, clean our streets, collect garbage and enhance our bursaries and quality of education.

Q: If the allocation is swallowed up by salaries, where do you get the money to do all these other things?
A: There is the little that we collect as rates, amounting to approximately Sh1.2 billion per month. And we collect it under very difficult circumstances. You will be surprised to know that the national government owes us Sh69 billion in rates of their properties. You will also be surprised to know that Parliament and Ministry of Interior have refused to pay rates to the County yet they are enjoying our services. To make matters worse, Interior Cabinet Secretary minister Joseph Nkaissery does not appear to recognise that this country is governed by law when he goes on record and essentially says “can’t pay, won’t pay.”

Q: What is the one thing that you feel you can say this one we did, one you can take and run with as an indisputable success?
A: One thing that I can pick on is reduction of crime. We have considerably knocked down crime in the city. On lighting, we have installed 25,000 street lights and 6,000 high mast flood lights which have improved security by 50 per cent. We have scored big on health. Before we came in, 20 expectant mothers used to die in a single month in our hospitals. We have reduced that to zero, improved bed capacities in our hospitals, provided drugs and employed 437 new health workers. Baby theft or switching is now history. What’s more, we have ensured Nairobi remains cohesive despite all attempts to divide the residents.

Q: Yet your critics say your performance has been underwhelming...
A: Such an assessment would have to be based on lack of information. Every week, every month we are opening or launching an important development project of one kind or the other and in different parts of the city. And unless one lives in these areas they wouldn’t know. When judgment is based on isolated projects, not totality, it might result to such an assessment. You would have to be in my position to have a bird’s eye-view of the tremendous work we are doing against great odds.

Q: Being governor of the seat of the national government is a very strategic post. Do you think you have maximised the opportunities availed by this position?
A: Yes we have. We have seized all opportunities availed to us. We are working with international partners to improve our city. You will also remember that I have hosted high profile dignitaries and important conferences – President Obama, Pope Francis, UNCTAD, WTO, TICAD, GES and many more. We have used these occasions to build strong partnerships and seek solutions to our problems.

Q: Are we totally unable to sort out the garbage, matatu and hawkers menace? What will it take to solve these challenges?
A: We have a good blue print on garbage but we were stopped by the courts courtesy of private garbage collectors. They do not want to be controlled. And so basically whatever we are doing on this end, is undone by private collectors. On the hawkers, we are beginning a programme of closing some streets for hawking and also opening new markets. We are establishing a Sh6 billion market at the junction of Kangundo Road, re-doing markets at Dagoretti Corner, Jogoo Road, Kariakor and Kangemi if some dispute over there is solved in time. We are opening Westlands market within two months, we have re-done City Market.

Q: The impeachment motion. Did you bribe MCAs to keep off?
A: No. We went to court and obtained orders which stopped them. There was absolutely no need to bribe them in the first place. I do not bribe. When they kept off, my assumption was that they were obeying court orders and I hope I am right.

Q: You don’t think they could have been bribed by others in your benefit?
A: I wouldn’t know. From where I sit, they were obeying lawful court orders and I commend them for that. You may also wish to know that the court process aside, they were engaging in a nullity. All the issues they were riding on to move the motion were sorted out through the Senate process and we were given a clean bill of health. They had no basis either in law or in fact. The motion had no backing even among the MCAs and in our party.

Q: What is your experience working with MCAs and what would be your recommendation going forward as regards their credentials?
A: It’s a fact education alone does not confer on one the benefit of wisdom. But also, every job requires certain foundations, a certain bare minimum. I think from our experience, the matter of bare minimum credentials for MCAs as well as MPs needs to be revisited to enable us walk along fairly well.

Q: But you were doing very well until this happened. Where did the rain start beating you?
A: We still have a good relationship with the County Assembly and most of the MCAs. This was a one-member motion and did not even have the blessings of his party. That’s why it could not go further than it went. It’s possible the member was moving it to trigger us to look for him but we put our foot down.

Q: Do you think you make it back in 2017? If yes, what gives you the confidence that you will bounce back?
A: Absolutely. I will be back on the account of the many firsts we have scored for the county. We now have a sound Strategic Plan for the county, we are implementing the fiscal plan, something that has never happened. We are now doing district plans. We are addressing the problem of congestion, doing more roads and widening others, lighting our city. We have plans for light mono-rail, mass transit system, sorting out missing links. We have restored the dignity of the Nairobi pedestrian by ensuring all roads we are doing have foot paths.

Q: Having the foot paths is one thing. Ensuring their safety is another. We see motorcyclists using them as well as foot bridges?
A: Well, that’s within the law and is a question of enforcement. We are employing 500 educated young men and women to help us in enforcement. We want our Nairobi back.

Q: There is a lot of squabbling, a lot of activity in Jubilee and yet zero activity in CORD, who and where are your challengers in CORD?
A: What that should tell us is that we still have the mandate of Nairobians who elected us. My party and those who supported us do not see the need to create unnecessary turbulence when everything is running smoothly. Why would they jostle around when they are happy with our leadership?

Q: Some people say that it is because you already have the ticket in your pocket?
A: Oh no! We have not conducted any nominations yet. We are still waiting for that phase to come and people appreciate that it is ODM which is in power in Nairobi and probably also appreciate that there is no need to unnecessarily rock the boat.

Q: Others say – and it’s common talk – that the party probably needs you more than you need it, if you know what I mean?
A: Absolutely not true. I would say it is because of the sound convergence of my philosophy with that of the party that people may say these things. We share the same vision of beating to a pulp the four ills that afflict our society – poverty, disease, ignorance and bad governance. That is why CORD won the majority of the 47 counties and rules the larger share of the counties.

Q: From the array of Jubilee candidates which one of them do you consider a most worthy competitor?
A: A competitor is a competitor, I think. And they are welcome. All I can say is that Nairobi needs a missionary, not a mercenary. A good bunch of them are mercenaries and that’s why they are coalescing on ethnic numbers and tribal consideration. Nairobi does not need those kind of fellows.

Q: Your Senator – Gideon Mike Sonko – has threatened to run you out of town? He’s raring, he can’t wait...
A: I was born in this town and I am not about to run or be run out. I am ready for him and trust me, he will be in for a rude shock.

Q: You rode to power through the middle-class vote which bolted from the traditional ethnic bloc voting on account of uncomfortable choices they were presented with. Are you sure you have retained this group and that you can count on them?
A: I have retained and grown this group. I have brought order into this city. I am sure you do not see those ugly street fights you used to see, people rolling on the ground and others punching on the walls and doors. The environment for all that is simply not there. Instead, we have promoted business by ensuring their convenience and enhancing capacity of those who want to grow in our city to do so.

Q: People have formed a very strong impression that City Hall is irredeemably corrupt. What will it take to regain people’s confidence and what have you done as a County government?
A: It is true there were cartels, two types of cartels; the land cartels that duplicated people’s titles and supply cartels that supplied air and were paid millions. For the land cartels, we are creating a shared portal with the Ministry of Lands to knock them out. The supply cartels are very unhappy with me and they would wish to end my government any day. I have put a moratorium on Sh7 billion worth of fictitious commitments to pay for services that were never rendered. I have fired more than 300 people since I came in. We have signed a MoU with EACC to improve our systems. We are undertaking a culture change programme to improve on how we serve Nairobians.

Q: Two scenarios: It’s September 2017 and you have lost the poll. What will you do? What if you are re-elected, what will you be up to for the next five years?
A: When you are used to working with communities, you don’t stop or you do not need to be in a particular place to do it. My wife runs a successful scholarship programme which has taken under-privileged Kenyans to Ivy-League universities and changed their lives. I was doing these things before I came over here. And so, I will continue doing so. But that’s beside the point because I would be back to finish my term. There is a reason why leaders get second terms. If former President Kibaki did not get his second term he would probably not have had any legacy to write home about. The best parts of the first terms are always lost in setting out and settling in.

Q: What is you very honest view of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s performance?
A: I am too preoccupied with Nairobi issues to start judging others at different levels of government.

Q: But you are also a Kenyan?
A: Yes, but in my capacity now I am more concerned about Nairobi than anything else. With respect to Nairobi, however, I wish the President did more to ensure that Nairobi gets more budgetary allocation to reflect its status and that the national government paid up its dues to the county government.

Q: Most governors often complain about their relationship with the national government. You?
A: It must be borne in mind that we are the first governors of the new order and obviously these dynamic tensions are likely to be there. Over and above that, it’s a known fact that devolution has succeeded beyond Kenyans’ wildest dreams and that over time these things will be overcome.

Q: What is your relationship with your party leader, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga? At some point it looked like you were pulling part?
A: We have an excellent relationship with the Right Honourable former Prime Minister and my party leader. We were friends before and we are even better friends now.

Q: What’s your strategy for winning your second term? Are you retaining your running mate?
A: Nairobi is the capital city of this country. You cannot appeal to only certain groups and succeed. I intend to galvanise all communities under my vision and also to explain what I have done and what else I intend to do for them. I plan to retain my running-mate Deputy Governor Jonathan Mueke. I am the one who invited him to run alongside me because I identified with his philosophy, his mission and vision. I trust him and his qualities are just what we need to make our county better.

Q: Ethnic mobilisation for votes is a constant factor of our politics, are you worried by the arithmetics at play on the other side?
A: People underestimate the intelligence of Kenyans and Nairobians for that matter. Everyone born or who comes into this city has a mission for themselves and they will vote for those whose vision align with their mission in the city. I am that person.

Q: What is your budget for the 2017 election, and how much did you spend last time?
A: I did not spend too much... not much really. And really, I would say the figures given by the electoral body the other time is exaggerated. For the Sh50 million IEBC was talking about, you would have to be a governor for 50 years to recoup it.

Q: But some people may not be interested in recouping the amount they spend, like you I would guess...
A: Well, I am investing in ideas and systems. My investment is the social intellectual output rather than material aspect of it. Kindly, also, I am a businessman and I know my material investment must be commensurate with the outcomes.

Q: Finally, where do you think we are headed as a country?
A: The level of our debt is worrying. Even more worrying for me is that we are not doing enough to integrate our communities. The greatest danger facing this country is the lack of national outlook and the philosophy of winner takes all. The country is bigger than political parties, than any one given individual or community. The only way to succeed as a country is to hold on to each other and to move as one people.