Maybe it's time to take over Nairobi from the politicians
- A man who has for the past two years refused to name a deputy, the governor has extraordinary ideas of how to run a government.
In November 2016, former Murang’a Senator Kembi Gitura proposed a bill that would amend the Constitution to allow for the dissolution of Nairobi County and replace it with an administration under the National Government.
In the bill published on November 21 the same year, the then Deputy Speaker of the Senate wanted the city administration placed under a Cabinet Secretary who would discharge the functions delegated by the Office of the President.
However, before it could be debated, Parliament adjourned months to the 2017 polls.
Mr Gitura’s proposal was that Nairobi should cease to be a county. Instead, it would be a metropolis without a governor, senator or members of county assembly.
To sweeten the deal, the city voters would be amply represented in the National Assembly because the constituencies would remain as they are.
Needless to say, such a drastic measure would have required an overhaul of the entire chapter on Devolution in the Constitution, for the number of counties is fixed.
As it turned out, Mr Gitura lost his re-election bid and the motion died, indicating that either the timing was wrong, or that nobody was willing to expedite the matter for reasons of political pragmatism.
In any case, it is not clear how the motion would have succeeded when emotions were high due to the impeding elections.
This was also a time when the Jubilee government desperately wanted to wrest the city seat from the opposition.
In light of what has happened in Nairobi County affairs since then, Mr Gitura’s reasoning was far-sighted.
He argued that because the capital city was the seat of government, it should not be left to politicians to manage its affairs.
Secondly, should the city voters elect an opposition governor who worked at cross-purposes with the national government, there would be total chaos.
Third, it made sense for the national government to take over the city affairs as that would save billions of shillings habitually pilfered by organised cartels.
In retrospect, the third argument has turned out to be rather specious.
The cartels have not loosened their grip on the county’s revenues as many cases of grand theft pending in court or being investigated have proved.
In any case, grand corruption has never been the exclusive preserve of county governments. Few government ministries are squeaky clean on that count.
Perhaps a more cogent argument is that in many countries with devolved systems, the concept has worked reasonably well.
The prime examples are Washington D.C. in the US, Abuja in Nigeria, Canberra in Australia, and New Delhi in India.
Kampala in neighbouring Uganda is a little more problematic. A dissection of how these cities are run is too complicated for our purposes here, but suffice it to say that in all cases, central governments play dominant roles in their governance.
Back home, the situation is not pretty. On Monday this week, MCAs called for the city government’s dissolution.
This followed a supremacy contest between the assembly’s Speaker, Ms Beatrice Elachi, and Majority Leader Abdi Guyo, which has been going on for two years.
This happened after yet another bout of chaos erupted as Ms Elachi’s supporters tried to evict Mr Guyo.
The Majority Leader had been removed from office the previous week in “a coup”, but he had thumbed his nose at the ouster and gone to court. This matter has a long history.
Ms Elachi had just tried to resume office after 13 months in the cold following her impeachment in September last year.
In May this year, the Employment and Labour Relations Court ruled in her favour, saying her ouster was unprocedural, but the Guyo group would have none of it and pointedly told her to look for another job.
All attempts to reconcile the two groups had failed, hence Mr Guyo’s sacking last week.
As matters turned out, in the end he lost out when the party endorsed a new team; Jubilee had had enough of the pissing contests between the two camps, which have made the assembly members look like a bunch of juvenile delinquents.
How this matter ends is uncertain, but dissolution would have to be a last resort. After all, the majority MCAs are Jubilee members and such a development would not reflect well on the party’s leadership.
As for Governor Mike Sonko himself, the less said in this space, the better.
He is certainly not the best example to his MCAs, for his peccadilloes make the idea of the National Government taking over the county rather attractive.
A man who has for the past two years refused to name a deputy and one who wakes up one morning and fires scores of his ministers, the governor has extraordinary ideas of how to run a government.
Perhaps Sonko’s whole demeanour was best captured by a video of him dancing enthusiastically to the "Parte after Parte" song by a chap known as Ethic.
With county affairs in such a mess, when does the man ever find the time to listen and dance to such stuff?
Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor;