The shock and dramatic exit of Nairobi Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe has thrust to the fore the succession question in county governance. It also tests the wisdom of selection of running mates often driven by political expediency rather practical realities.
For example, what happens when the pair finds they are incompatible and cannot continue working together as has happened in Nairobi and most likely in other counties?
In law, the deputy governor succeeds the governor in case of a vacancy in that office, which is what has happened twice in Nyeri.
When the first governor Nderitu Gachagua died early last year, he was succeeded by his deputy Samuel Wamathai. However, the deputy governor’s position was never filled and the office remained vacant until the August elections. Again, when newly-elected governor Wahome Gakuru died in a road accident last November, his deputy Wahome Kahiga ascended to power but since, the deputy governor’s office remains vacant.
Essentially, the problem is lack of an enabling law. It is silent on what happens when a vacancy occurs in the office of the deputy governor. County Governments Act, the Election Act and the Constitution do not stipulate what happens when a vacancy occurs in the office of the deputy governor.
Yet, little has been done to cure this anomaly. To be sure, the Kenya Law Review Commission had flagged this inconsistency and, logically, it was expected that the Attorney-General would take it up and make substantive proposals to Parliament for debate and ratification. But that never happened and the country is now faced with a constitutional crisis.
Given the two cases that have arisen within the past two months — in Nyeri and now Nairobi — it is evident that urgent legislative proposals are required to address this gap and provide a framework for continuity.
Outside the law, there is the political question about the criteria of selecting running mates. Often this is driven by ill-thought-out alliances but devoid of practical considerations.
Critics long argued that the pairing of Mr Igathe and Mike Sonko was ill-advised and untenable given their intellectual and social orientations, but the political euphoria masked that.
A similar situation is evident in Kiambu where governor Ferdinand Waititu is not sitting pretty with his deputy James Nyoro.
Voters feel cheated when they are tricked into voting such pairs because it was politically expedient when, in reality, the teams cannot work together and deliver. We must quickly review the legal and political processes of electing governors and their deputies.