The first public debate for candidates seeking the Nairobi governorship was an anti-climax of sorts as it was snubbed by two key contenders and those who participated ganged up against the incumbent, Evans Kidero.
Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, who is seeking the seat as an independent candidate, totally snubbed the event while Jubilee Party’s Mike Sonko opted to dispatch his running-mate, Polycarp Igathe, who was nevertheless kicked out by the organisers on the grounds that the debate was strictly for candidates.
Later in the day, Mr Igathe scoffed at his ejection, describing the debate as ‘a baraza for Mr Kidero sponsored by his youth wing.
“The debate was not about the personality of the governor but issues affecting the people of Nairobi. Why muzzle opinion?” he asked in a text message.
When asked about the whereabouts of Mr Sonko and why he didn’t show up for debate, Mr Igathe replied curtly: “The candidate will appear for more serious debate.”
Attempts to get Mr Kenneth proved futile as he neither picked calls nor responded to messages sent to his phone.
The debate was organised by Kenya Alliance of Residents Association (Kara).
On the podium six candidates, including the incumbent, lined up in a two-hour slugfest in which they enumerated their vision for the county and policies in health and sanitation, infrastructure, corruption, the county debt, traffic jams, urban crime and how to promote business in the capital.
But it was Mr Kidero who got himself on the receiving end as his opponents accused him of failing to deliver and presiding over a regime characterised by cartels that have undermined delivery of service in Nairobi.
Painting himself as a candidate who stands for integrity, Miguna Miguna (independent), chose to portray Mr Kidero as a corrupt leader whose regime has failed to deliver because it is beholden to corrupt networks within City Hall that are more interested in stealing than delivering essential services.
“Mr Kidero has a litany of corruption allegations to be a good leader; that is why he can’t dismantle cartels at City Hall.
“They are thriving and they are stealing land. Mr Kidero has acknowledged as much but he is unable to apprehend those involved because he is part of the problem,” he said.
Mr Michael Mutinda of Agano Party said that it was time for leaders who value integrity to be elected as a cure to theft in the county.
“We must have a governor who will give an account to God and those who elected them,” said Mr Mutinda, the 41-year-old who described himself as a Bible teacher, businessman and a born-again Christian.
Mr Godfrey Wanyoike (independent) said that a clean government right from the top to the bottom, free off cartels, was necessary if services have to be delivered to the people.
“We need integrity and a staff that is accountable because with such, resources that are key in delivering essential services will be looted,” he said.
And Lawrence Kamau Macharia (Party of Democratic Unity) indicted the Kenyan society of celebrating material wealth over hard work but promised that under his regime, the buck on corruption allegations in his administration will stop at his doorstep, vowing to “fight corruption mechanically”.
Dr Kidero acknowledged there was corruption at City Hall, revealing his regime had taken action against those suspected to have indulged in the vice, adopted the use of technology in payments of services to reduce corruption and also established an enterprise resource management planning system which monitors procurement from the beginning to the end to limit any possibility of foul play.
“We have fired over 300 people suspected to have participated in corruption and it is easier to point fingers as all my opponents are doing but I understand they are looking for the job while I am working,” Mr Kidero said.
On hawkers, the candidates acknowledged the problem was sticky and must be dealt with.
However, there was consensus the problem will not be dealt with through force.
While Mr Macharia said he would create space for hawkers by taking over golf courses and turning them into spaces for the small traders, reduce licensing fee, Mr Wanyoike promised to reduce or remove license fees paid by small businesses, register them and build modern markets to ensure order in the city.
However Mr Kidero said they were investing Sh6 billion to build modern markets in the city.
Mr Miguna also said he would build modern, affordable markets for the youth who want to do business in the city in addition to science-based incubation centres to give them skill.
On traffic jam, all candidates were in agreement that the only way out is to get rid of roundabouts, introduction of light railway, subways and getting matatus out of the central Business District.
Mr Miguna promised an infrastructural development plan which would introduce a light rail and a subway system which would be the first in East and Central Africa.
Mr Mutinda said he would do away with roundabouts and also introduce multi-storeyed interchanges to reduce traffic jams and push matatu termini outside the city so that fewer get into the CBD.
“We must have a CBD that serves the people of Nairobi and not the other way round. If it is not helping us then who is it helping?” he posed.
Mr Wanyoike said that he would introduce additional exit roads from the city, put up additional lanes on road junctions and ensure that only 70 per cent of matatus access the city centre. He also said under his regime matatus will pick and drop passengers outside the CBD.
Mr Macharia said that he would work with the NTSA and the Ministry of Transport to reroute matatus so that no route originates or ends in the CBD. He will also not allow inter-county matatus to enter the city centre.
Dr Kidero said his government was constructing matatu termini in Muthurwa, in Ngara from where matatus will drop their passengers without accessing the city.
On Environment, Water and Sanitation, the PDU candidate said he would reduce water wastage and install high pressure pipes to ensure every resident gets piped water.
And Mr Wanyoike would work with the Ministry of Water to ensure adequate water supply to Nairobi, reduce wastage, leaks and deal with cartels that were undermining opportunities for clean water for the capital. He will also provide water to the slums for free or at a minimum cost.
Mr Macharia promised to give Sh2 billion to business people as business development money, decongest the informal settlements through funds from the exchequer and other financial partners.
Mr Mutinda described the slums as a ticking time bomb and called for concerted efforts between the two levels of government, the church, civil society organisations to develop decent housing for slum dwellers.
Mr Miguna promised an integrated waste management system that would recycle waste and get rid of dumpsites.
However, Dr Kidero revealed that a Germany partner had been identified to put up a Sh27 billion plant to for solid waste management which will be implemented in the ‘next few months’.