What Polycarp Igathe, Johnson Sakaja missed during city governor debate

Nairobi gubernatorial candidates Johnson Sakaja and Polycarp Igathe at CUEA on July 11, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The battle for the soul of Nairobi played out during the Nairobi governor candidates debate on Monday evening, but it did not provide tangible solutions to problems facing the city.

Despite the two leading candidates - Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja (UDA) and former Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe (Jubilee) staging a mettlesome debate, they concentrated on personal attacks at the expense of real issues.

“The two candidates spent almost 60 per cent of their time on personality issues and a brief time on the real issues. At the tail end, they started talking about water, housing and public transport. Still, they were mentioning the same without clear implementation plans,” said Philip Kisia, a former Nairobi Town Clerk.

The question-response time allocation of one and a half minutes notwithstanding, there was a general feeling that they “glossed over” key issues.

On water scarcity in the capital, for instance, none of them responded adequately. Data from Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company indicates that the city receives approximately 500,000 cubic metres of water - from Ndakaini dam and other water catchment areas - against a demand of 750,000 cubic metres daily.

This means the incoming governor should find ways to plug the 250,000 cubic meters deficit.

Mr Igathe said there was a shortage of new water sources, only promising to work with the national government to address the same.

“We are short of new sources of water. The issue of who will do it is the problem. There is too little supply for such high demand. That is a task between ourselves and the national government. Thank God we have Martha Karua (a former Water minister) who is the original champion of water and who will help us address this issue,” he said.

Revenue growth

Mr Sakaja proposed sorting out water distribution channels and hastening construction of the Northern collector tunnel to increase supply to the city.

“You must sort out the distribution issue because it goes hand in hand with the housing. It’s not about waiting for an angel from the national government to come and do it. We are already at 90 per cent with the Northern collector tunnel,” said Sakaja.

“There are many places that do not have piping and in other areas where people messed with the water infrastructure but by using technology as the governor, I will see where water has been cut using my phone and address it,” he added.

Another key issue was revenue collection, which Prof Alfred Omenya, an urban planning expert, says was not adequately canvased. He was concerned that the two hopefuls did not address how the county would grow its revenue. 

“We want counties to be engines of economic growth and none of them articulated how Nairobi can grow its economy. Sakaja talked of borrowing while Igathe spoke of land rates. My concern is that none of them will do a good job when they get into office,” said Omenya.

On Tuesday when Mr Igathe spoke, he foretold of enhanced intergovernmental collaborations to ensure Nairobi thrives financially.  “We are going to have a city that is well funded and together with my deputy, we will make the city a place of your dreams and visions. It’s not possible to extrapolate the pledges we have in three minutes but our manifesto will be in all newspapers for people to read,” he said. 

Mr Sakaja, on the other hand, promised a negotiation of the county debts, debt swaps and restructuring of loans to financially cure the capital.

“Nairobi needs proper financial and political planning even with the county’s debts. There are a lot of areas where we can do debt swaps where the National government owes the county government and vice versa. I am confident I have a competent team to address that,” he said.