It was grave oversight to let Nairobi be county

Monday, September 30th, 2019 00:00 |
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. Photo/File

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko is in the news again for all the wrong reasons. This time, he has suspended 16 key county officials, including two ministers, ostensibly over the tragic incident at Precious Talents Top School in Dagoretti area, Nairobi, that left eight pupils dead.

What this action has reinforced is the perception of the governor; he is highly unpredictable and destabilising.  

True, there is nothing wrong with trying to instil a sense of discipline, commitment and integrity especially in public service, but this is done systematically and strategically, guided by a well thought out and well managed programme.

What Nairobians now know is that their governor runs his office through all manner of theatrics and shenanigans. 

His now famous soap operas where he publicly releases private and intimate conversations are disgusting, while his vitriolic and vulgar attacks on people he disagrees with portray him as a loose cannon.

Who has forgotten the absolutely chaotic attempt to stop matatus from coming into Nairobi central business district?

His staff live in fear of whimsical sackings and suspensions. He keeps claiming he wants to build a world class Nairobi.

But two years down the line, Nairobi is still dominated by slums, sewers are overflowing, hawkers rule the streets,  garbage is an eyesore, expansion of unplanned settlements continues unabated, insecurity is rife, you name it. Services remain a major challenge with no solution in sight. 

One might even argue that if he really wants to clear Nairobi of dangerous buildings, he has been sitting on the list that his predecessor, Evans Kidero, compiled but never implemented. What is Sonko waiting for? 

During Kidero’s tenure, Sonko was Nairobi senator and the biggest critic of Kidero’s failures. Maybe it is time Kidero returned the favour.

What is now clear is that the governance problems in Nairobi are structural and go beyond Sonko or Kidero.

Two governors down the line, and it is now apparent that Nairobi should never have been left to the whims of capricious governors and the buffoonery of county assemblies.  It was a big mistake.

Nairobi is too important, not just to Kenya, but to the entire East African region.

Nairobi has, by far, the biggest population of any urban centre in Kenya and the region, and the biggest infrastructural needs requiring massive resources.

It is a global centre where the world converges to talk and do business, and controls 60 per cent of Kenya’s economy.

Slow motion

It is a leading air connectivity hub between Africa and the world, the seat of the government, and home to many Africa headquarters of global businesses and institutions. It is a first world capital imprisoned in a third world body. 

Continuing down the same path is disastrous. Nairobi is unravelling in slow motion. The National government has tried to intervene through remote control, presuming on the co-operation and goodwill of the governor.

Unfortunately, the governor has been hostile to these attempts, and keeps asserting that it is only he, as elected governor, who has the power to run Nairobi. This unhelpful attitude has nullified government efforts.

The National government must become more assertive, bite the bullet and  declare the government of the county of Nairobi a failed experiment, and suspend it immediately with all its structures. 

Appoint a special board in the interim to take over the running of Nairobi with a special mandate. Bring in a manager, not your normal politicos, to run the city.

In the meantime, use whatever legal means and political levers necessary to change the governance structure of Nairobi, to turn the capital city into a special district under the National government. 

The special district should be run by a board representing all interests in Nairobi, and the chief executive officer should be competitively sourced, complete with targets and key performance indicators. 

Nothing short of such a drastic move with make any difference to Nairobi, a city that is unravelling in slow motion.

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