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Time for Nairobi to rethink its leadership

Saturday December 7 2019

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Friday’s arrest of Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko did not come as a surprise.

In fact, it was long in coming given the trail of accusations that have been levelled against him for the malaise and major rip-offs at City Hall.

If ever Nairobi, which is the seat of power and economy, was brought to its lowest, it was under the farcical Sonko regime.

All rules in the book have been thrown out of the window and bedlam institutionalised.

But the Sonko arrest is a debacle of momentous proportions in the context of devolution. It has created a constitutional conundrum.

There is a vacuum in the Office of the Governor; he leaves the office without a replacement.


Early in his administration, he squeezed out his deputy, Mr Polycarp Igathe, by making his stay at City Hall untenable.


Since then, he has sacked nearly the entire Executive Committee and top officers. Every so often, he has shuffled the officers and ensured instability and discontinuity, instilled fear and intimidated everyone.

For two straight years he has run the City Hall single-handedly. What he purposed to do was to make himself so indispensable that arresting or kicking him out would create a succession lacuna.

According to the Constitution, in the absence of the governor, the deputy takes over and when there is no deputy, it is the Speaker of the County Assembly who assumes the office.

In Nairobi County, there is no deputy governor. The office of Speaker of County Assembly is shaky.

Speaker Beatrice Elachi has been fighting to keep her job and although she has returned to office after a recent court ruling and making truce with the MCAs who were fighting her, she is not sitting pretty.


Essentially, Nairobi County is staring at a major crisis. Mr Sonko has to exit the scene as he fights his case in court.

But we have to go back to the basics: as we chastise Mr Sonko for his deceit and recalcitrant behaviour, Nairobians must answer the question: what did they expect when they elected Sonko?

What was the motivation for electing a person with recorded evidence of crime and who has perfected the art of bullying?

Nairobi is an eyesore today. Services long ground to a halt. Garbage collection, sewer systems and infrastructure have collapsed.

Planning is a foreign language as kiosks sprout all over and boda boda riders take over the city.

Underground but fiercely brutal gangs closely associated with the governor have taken over the city in the guise of delivering services.

Mr Sonko’s arrest should create the urgency among the city residents to rethink their county and its leadership.