A Tale of Three Cities and their Governors!

With the brouhaha and hooha that awaits the determination of the NASA petition to the Supreme Court, it is only fair that we turn our attention to the counties now that many governors have been sworn into office. I turn the spotlight on the governors in our three major cities; Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. Are we likely to witness changing fortunes in them or what does the future portend? The third largest city, Kisumu elected the intellect and social democrat, Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o. We remain to see if his intellectual appeal will translate into development, in a city that has claimed
marginalization over the years. All eyes will be on him. The memorable intellectual demeanor he gave to the senate as regards devolution will be useful as he tries to make a change to a city that is always seen as the epicenter of opposition
politics. The question that begs answers is whether the old prof will be the one to steer development politics over siasa
that is so defined by one man in the region. Are we likely to see a serious fight to the challenges that have hampered
development in the area? Then comes the hustler himself, Mike Sonko. He has been a maverick in Kenyan politics to say the least. But for a man who has always gotten a huge number of voters in almost every other election he has contested over the years, speaks of his populist appeal to many. He has hit the ground running with the clean-up exercise, Operation Ng’arishi Jiji. Many are hopeful that he will maintain the momentum, that has laid bare the inefciencies and malfeasance that plagued Evans Kidero’s reign. One cannot just imagine the amount of garbage that we have been sitting on while hiding under the glamour of an international city, hosting UN and global ofces. But the Nairobi we talk of is the town itself without considering the surrounding estates. Probably this is where Kidero and his city hall mandarins built their ivory towers and could hardly see or smell the garbage in the suburban areas of Nairobi. Sadly so, the town itself has not had any major successes, with increased garbage, an overpopulation of street families and a disorganized market system that has ensured that the running battles between hawkers and kanju went on unabated. Sonko’s entry coincides with the
ban of plastic papers, which from an environmental perspective, it is the right way to go. Wangari Maathai should be so proud. It is a tall order for those charged with the responsibility of enforcing this regulation, as it will be for those whose life rotates around the same hazardous plastic products. But if we can get rid of the papers in our cities, especially, then the clean-up exercise by the governor will have received a major boost. We all remember the opposition former health minister Charity Ngilu had when she came up with a life-changing policy on public smoking. Many years down the line, Nairobi’s air has been kept relatively clean as smokers are left to burn out the last remains of their lungs in congested and smelly smoking booths. With this in mind, I am sure that the plastic ban, with a proactive governor like Sonko will prevail and Nairobi is on the way of reclaiming its lost glory. Nairobi river clean up should be a priority, in memory of John Michuki. Can the same be said about Mombasa? I am hugely pessimistic, but as his party rallying slogan during the campaigns, may be things might just change with Hassan Joho remaining in office. Vindu vichenjaga! Sultan might not be having the intellect of Nyong’o. Far from it. In fact, there is no way you can compare the two. No pun intended; night and day!!! Two, unlike Nyong’o, I don’t think there is a specifc ideology we can attach to him. He could be similar to Sonko in having the same populist appeal to the people who follow them. But I hardly doubt if he is as action-oriented as Sonko.
He has proved this in the past years because Mombasa continues to sink in rot. It still has the dubious distinction of a very dirty city and I can attest to this having been a regular in the past few years. Trafc is a huge problem and so is the drug menace affecting the youth, many of who are also unemployed. His regular fisticuffs with the national government has not made anything easier, and this means that his constituents continue wallowing in poverty, dirt and drugs. He has a
near fanatical support that means that anyone who questions anything that he does is in for a rough ride. I still feel sad
at how they mishandled the astute Hassan Omar; whom I would have given my vote. Probably Mombasa needs a mix of a Nyong’o, in terms of intellect, well-defined political and leadership ideologies, and a Sonko, a leader who is well- grounded in the immediate needs of the people he leads. But as it now, I hardly think that
things will change. His affinity to chest thumping theatrics and empty rhetoric might mean that Mombasa continues to
sink in the muck and mire of underdevelopment. With the devolved governments, no region can continue riding on the marginalized epithet for political expediency. The locals must demand for governance that is sensitive to their needs, one that is accountable but more importantly, leadership that preaches the gospel of development. But key to all the county chiefs, the synergy between the county and national governments is what will see Kenya’s development surge to higher heights. As Lincoln would have told us, the two are not enemies but ‘mystical cords of memory’ that must unite us in development.

Dr. Maina Mutonya is a senior lecturer at a local university where he teaches literature. He writes largely on literature, popular culture and politics. He has published widely on the popular music of Kenya.

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