Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Small men, big consequences

In the middle of drafting a pretty difficult statutory instrument, I made the fatal error of watching the former deputy governor of Nairobi City debate the City's senator. The two deeply flawed candidates hurled accusations (and shade) with unpractised unease, stumbling over memorised zingers and forgetting practiced put-downs. Both tried, and failed, to paint themselves as the City's Second Coming. We deserve so much better.

Let us begin with the former deputy governor. In March 2017, according to him, he made the conscious decision to stand in the general elections as Mike Sonko's running mate. After they were elected, he only served for six months before quitting. He claims it is because Mr Sonko refused to give him work and, consequently, his conscience could not allow him to continue earning a public salary for no work done. 

What he doesn't say is that after he resigned, and it became clear that Mr Sonko would not be impeached as swiftly as his rivals had hoped, an unseemly campaign was launched to declare his "resignation" as anything but a resignation so hat he could be brought back into public service so that when Mr Sonko was finally pushed out the door, the former deputy governor could step into the breech. That plan was swiftly abandoned when someone read the constitution and pointed out that as the former deputy governor had already taken up new employment, he could not legitimately claim that he had not resigned, and therefore his path to the governor's office must, of necessity, pass through a fresh election. No one wanted that.

The former deputy governor's political antics recalled the fiasco that was his appointment as the chairperson of the board of the then Anti-Counterfeit Agency. His appointment was challenged in court. It was declared to have been unlawful. Even then, it appeared that he did not know what he was getting into when he took up the appointment and when controversy followed the appointment, he did not have the professional or technical skills to tamp down the flats and he eventually left the job under a cloud.

The candidacy of the senator is not without its own dramatic turns. He has struggled to put to rest rumours that the does not possess the statutorily-required university degree, trying to obfuscate the matter by alleging state-sponsored machinations in the imbroglio. He offers no proof of the hand of senior state officers in his tribulations.

One recalls when, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when the state was cracking down hard on violators of Covid-19 rules, the senator was found to be involution and, rather than tae his lumps, he attempted to use his high office (including as chair of a Covid-19 oversight committee in the senate) to avoid responsibility. He made threats. He claimed support from the same high state officers allegedly persecuting him today. Whatever integrity he claims today was missing when he was clearly in the wrong.

His record as senator is not as rosy as he paints it. While he has been quite active in senate business, it is not reflected in the way the city's county government has been overseen. The senate's role includes protecting the interests of counties and county governments. As the city's senator, when it became clear that the governor and deputy governor were incapable of governing effectively, it was his responsibility to lead the charge in having them removed from office. Instead, he claims that a senate convention prevented him from doing so - that he would be accused of conflict of interest in supporting the impeachment of the governor. Even if that were true, as part of the city's political leadership, he should have intervened to ensure that the county government was governed, and overseen, effectively such that it would not require the intervention of the national government or the appointment of a military officer to undertake municipal services.

Nairobi will get the election it doesn't want between candidates it can't stand. That has been the tragedy since the advent of devolution. None of the City Fathers have covered themselves in glory. While we pray for the best, on the basis of history and current shenanigans, I fear that we must prepare for the absolute worst.

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