Top Stories / 2017 Elections
Saturday, 19 Nov 2016 15:17 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
As the campaigns start for the Nairobi gubernatorial seat in 2017, the discussion on the most important political office aside from the presidency is bereft of an objective assessment of the performance of the current office-bearer. The race to succeed Governor Kidero is shaping as a game of intrigue, tribalism, and money in politics.
Will Peter Kenneth get the Jubilee ticket? What will the party do to Senator Mike Sonko? Will CORD give Kidero a direct nomination or will a super alliance bring Musalia Mudavadi? What happened to Jubilee’s idea of a Luyia candidate? While the prognosis of the race is intense, Kidero’s performance is missing in the debate and for good reason.
“Nairobi is at the bottom of the pile on the performance of county governments. While other counties have built county headquarters, hospitals, schools and even tarmac roads from scratch, Nairobi, which has one tenth of the entire spending by the 47 county governments, has nothing to show for the billions it spends each year,” said an analyst contacted by the Kenya Free Press.
Nairobi has built no health institution in four years. It has not built a new road, or school, or college or a fire station even though the city is teeming with a high population demanding services. On the contrary, the city is teeming with street children who are in reality street gangs. From City Market to Odeon matatu terminus to Jeevanjee Gardens to Gikomba, street boys menacingly demand money from vulnerable women. To deal with these gangs require some police work, but the government has failed to provide leadership.
Hawkers are extending their reach into the town centre. Gabbage management has never been worse since the last decade. Matatus termini are uncontrollable, their scramble for parking space having resulted in deaths. Some roads in the CBD and Kamukunji areas have been closed by garbage. Patients have been reported to die in the county’s health facilities due to nonexistence of drugs or inattention by staff.
There are no easy ways to fix Nairobi’s problems, and even a hardworking governor would have had to put enormous effort to turn the capital city around. But there are many easy ways of making the capital worse, and Nairobi’s failures over the last four years stop at the doorstep of one man: Governor Evans Kidero. Nairobi had realised tremendous progress before the advent of devolution which the governor could build on. Previous administrations had revitalised services at City Hall, with accounting and personnel reforms that had established the county’s staff capacity business systems and financial management failures.
There was a discernable effort to green the city. The city had been well lit and it provided litter bins at strategic locations throughout the cbd where citizens could dispose trash. Working in partnership with the business community including the Central Business Association (NCBDA), the city had programmes to promote security, hygiene and greenery. These efforts have largely crumbled under Mr Kidero. As soon as he got into office, the governor appeared to have lost focus of his contract with Nairobi voters. He preoccupied himself with national politics, touting his association with the Jubilee government supposedly in preparation for a future presidential run.
Immediately upon winning the governorship, he seemed to have assumed that he had stepped over the first hurdle on his path to the presidency, projecting himself as a potential presidential running mate in 2017 and generally working hard to undercut his party leader Raila Odinga whom he saw, being a Luo like himself, as the stumbling block on his path to higher power. The governor expended considerable political capital on fundraisings and political maneuverings in Luo Nyanza.
At a time Jubilee was striving to assail Mr Odinga's national prominence, the governor's fights with the CORD leader bought him favour with influential sections of Kenyan society and the press, with his weaknesses highlighted only in extreme moments such as December 2015 when the filth in the capital made the hashtag #KiderofailedNairobi to trend for weeks, or later in January when the media reported of the crimes including killings by City askaris on hawkers.
Likewise, after reports emerged of children dying at the Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital a generally sorry state of healthcare in Nairobi, the governor felt some pressure, to which he responded by creating a task force with a mandate to “review processes, systems and resources related to running our major public health institutions and focus on prompt Accident and Emergency response.”
The 11-member was chaired by the county Public Service Board chairman Philip Kungu (an architect by profession), while all but two of the other members were officials of other health institutions in the county. Among the two was a comedian, Walter Mongare, who holds a senior communication job in Kidero’s government. As expected, its report broke no ground for the understanding the malaise of Nairobi’s healthcare system, whose doctors were recently in a long strike over non-payment for salaries for a whole year.
The governor has marginalized productive stakeholders that helped drive the changes of recent years, most notably the NCBDA. He takes no personal interest in the running of Nairobi’s entities like the water company, where corruption and nepotism have taken hold. City Hall is increasingly more corrupt in the management of land transactions, evidence of which include the dramatic arrest of the governor’s own chief of staff George Wainaina this January in connection with a grabbed county government land reg no LR NAIROVI/BLOCK 90/599, which belonged to the water company.
A number of analysts contacted by the Kenya Free Press foresee the Nairobi governorship campaign becoming the centerpiece of Jubilee’s fightback against ODM as a party of reform. Going with Mr Kidero in 2017 will be tantamount to pressing for the status quo of corruption, land grabbing and ineptitude not only in Nairobi but nationally. As Mr Kidero is allowed to act as the sole ODM candidate, the party is sending the message that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s supporters have deployed against itself: that however bad things are, there is no better alternative for the status quo.
“In an election that will be more volatile with the entry of Peter Kenneth who, wrongly or rightly, has built a persona of ‘performance’ around himself, Mr Odinga's giving the ticket to Mr Kidero will be akin to the Democrats’ choice of Hillary Clinton in the recent U.S. election. Mr Kidero's sole recognizable selling point is that he has the resources needed for the campaign,” said one analyst, explaining that Mr Kidero doesn't excite the ODM base due to his frayed relations with the party.
The expert predicted that Mr Kidero's candidature would undercut the party’s reach to a large swing vote including new voters, non-aligned communities like Somalis and other CORD supporters who might look elsewhere should a fallout emerge on the coalition’s presidential nominations. “Mr Kidero’s main campaign tactic over the last four years consisted of playing CORD against Jubilee, believing that he could tread a fine line between both and thereby win some Kikuyu votes in 2017.
That prospect will be nil with the entry of Mr Kenneth,” said another expert, pointing to the governor’s repeated defence, when challenged about his lukewarm support for his party, that he had to work with the national government to be effective. CORD counties seen as having been most effective, and whose counties realized major gains in healthcare, infrastructure and better leadership, include the likes of Makueni, Kisii and Wajir whose governors never touted the need for cooperation with the government. Neither can one can claim Kiambu Governor William Kabogo’s fantastic relationship with the president has made him a better performer.
"That CORD lacks a viable challenger for Mr Kidero, who is arguably the coalition's worst-performing governor, with less than a year to the election reflects its lack of concern for Nairobi's development," concluded the expert who did not want to be identified.