The erratic and unorthodox leadership style of Governor Mike Sonko at City Hall once again reared its head again on Tuesday last week when he suspended four county officials over insubordination.
County Secretary Peter Kariuki, acting Health executive Vesca Kangogo, County Attorney Lydia Kwamboka and Health Chief Officer Mahat Jimale were the latest victims of the governor’s scattergun approach.
The four were sent home for allegedly contradicting the governor over the happenings at Pumwani Maternity Hospital.
But even as critics opine that ‘the King is slowly becoming naked’, Governor Sonko has vowed to continue with his style, saying that he has no apologies over his leadership style, adding that “I will go the ruthless way as Evans Kidero (former governor) tried the corporate way and failed.”
“It is working and it is going to work. Nairobi needs controversial and fearless leaders not corporates. I will not entertain cartels and the corrupt in my administration. People have to understand me. That is my way of leadership. I deal with cartels ruthlessly,” said Governor Sonko while appearing on Citizen TV.
And true to his words, the City Hall boss has been clearing his house ‘off those not loyal to him’, an exercise that he has been consistent on since.
Even a threat of impeachment by MCAs has not deterred him as he maintains that the county legislators are ‘his friends’.
This came to pass as a threat to censure him has since been shelved with the MCAs, saying they do not have any reason to remove him from office.
However, since the City Hall boss came into office last August, more than 100 county staff have either been suspended or sent packing on flimsy grounds including being lazy, alleged corruption, traveling abroad without his permission and ‘working with his enemies’.
Just two months, in October, into his administration, Mike Sonko suspended 15 officials from the lands, rates, legal, debt collection and urban planning departments for allegedly colluding with a syndicate to steal land whose leases had expired.
Some of the officials sent on leave included legal services director Karisa Iha, senior lawyers Nyagara Nyamweya, Violet Oyangi, Evans Mogire, John Ombogi and principal counsel Newton Mungai.
A month later, he sacked three of his aides – Bernard Mulwa, his former personal assistant, delivery unit deputy director Joseph Ireri and Michael Mutua – for allegedly soliciting bribes from unemployed youths, promising them employment as security constables and firefighters.
This was a warning sign of more to come. And yes, they kept coming.
In March, former Finance executive Dr Danvas Makori was suspended together with his chief officer Ekaya Alumasi for allegedly ‘working for people fighting Governor Sonko’.
Three weeks later, Dr Makori was sacked while Mr Ekaya got back his position but currently his fate is not known after his latest suspension in July 30.
That same month, he sent home 30 county procurement staff on forced leave after they were accused of inflating and issuing Local Purchase (LPO) and Service Orders (LSO) without the requisite approval by the governor.
The same fate also befell the legal department where out of 38 officers in the department, only two officers now remain crippling both the departments leaving them to work on almost empty desks as the revolving door of sackings and suspensions sweeps through.
Another suspension befell another county executive yet again in June. Veska Kangogo, the inaugural Finance executive, was suspended on June 5, 2018 for insubordination after she allegedly travelled to the United States of America on June 1 without her boss’s permission.
She was serving as the Devolution executive. Interestingly she has again been fired as an acting Health executive.
Fast forward to July, another cull fell on three county officers – Chief of staff Brian Mugo, acting chief finance officer Mr Alumasi and acting head of county Treasury Stephen Mutua – after being accused of misuse of public funds.
Two days later, in August 1, Health executive Hitan Majevdia joined the list of county executives to have been suspended by Sonko in his embryonic tenure.
He was suspended together with county health director Thomas Ogaro over alleged laxity at work. Theirs was a public humiliation in front of people who had come to attend the opening of Kangemi TB laboratory at Kangemi Health Centre, in a plot reminiscent of President John Pombe Magufuli’s reign in Tanzania.
His critics say that the City Hall boss likes to operate out of rumours, propaganda and unfounded fears resulting in the tendency to suspend and sack staff at the county left, right and centre.
“You cannot operate an institution without the Finance department and basically closing down the department as a whole and you purport to be running an institution is a fallacy. It has affected the entire operations of the county,” says Embakasi MCA Michael Ogada.
His sentiments are shared by Minority Whip Peter Imwatok who has on numerous occasions chided the governor for bringing to a halt operations at the county by firing staff from critical departments at the county.
Mr Imwatok alleged that majority of staff in legal, finance and procurement departments have been sent home by Sonko pointing out that the governor has fired staff at the legal department which had 38 officers with only 3 officers now remaining for almost seven months now.
According to the Makongeni MCA, the procurement department has also allegedly suffered the same fate where out of the 36 officers in the sector, only two, the director and another officer, are remaining.
“The same staff are saying that everyone is in a panic mode. We cannot make decisions in this county as they are micromanaged by the governor himself. He ran on the platform of being people's defender but he has turned into people’s tormentor. He is never there,” he said.
There is also a school of thought that the governor is simply clearing his administration of the staff who had been imposed on him from officials he claimed ‘operated from State House’ always citing interference from them.
Political analyst and University of Nairobi lecturer Mr Herman Manyora thinks that might be the case as he seems to be ‘changing the people that he was told to work with’.
“People said the same thing people said of Igathe. Otherwise the governor’s actions are symptomatic of an erratic person- the kind of people who do not have the strategic management skills to approach an issue. His actions could also lend credence to the fact that you can behave like a clown, a cartoon….but still managing to have your way- doing what pleases your heart regardless of what people say,” said Mr Manyora.