By her own confession, Eunice* who joined the council in 1990, saw her fortunes transform when John Gakuo, joined City Hall as the Town Clerk in 2005.
“It’s a known fact the before Gakuo joined us, prostitution was rife in the council. If you had to put food on the table… Achieng* can tell you we used to go to River Road because our salaries never came on time.”
“But this man, (Gakuo) personally went to the bank and negotiated for us to get loans, (when banks avoid council employees). Now I own a plot of land and I have a matatu that’s bringing me some money.”
On Monday, the man credited with cleaning up the country’s capital that evolved from a once Green City in the Sun to a den of filth, corruption and crime, launched his bid to be Nairobi Governor joining a crowded field that boasts among others, Philip Kisia his successor at City Hall.
“The governor must come to this city with a very clear agenda to serve the residents of this county if he wants to excel,” Gakuo said during the launch of his bid.
Eunice* remembers that within weeks of Gakuo’s arrival, morale at the council was at its highest.
“If you can truly say that Gakuo has never helped you and you have lived in Nairobi you better go to the Langata (Cemetery) and bury yourself because you will never be able to appreciate anything,” Eunice* said.
“For the first time since I joined the council, I was made to feel like a member of staff, before that we were given names such a labourer or watchman but when he come that changed. You could wake up at 3am eager to go to work even when it’s not your shift.”
For Gakuo, who left City Hall in 2009 it was a nostalgic moment as he addressed supporters mainly consisting of Nairobi City Council (NCC) workers who had gathered at Charter Hall, where he explained that his experience of managing the city makes him the best candidate for the position of governor.
“My four years experience in the management of this city taught me that with sheer determination, focus and passion this city can be transformed beyond the expectations of many people,” he said.
“The objective of any serious manager or governor should not be to merely restore the lost glory of this city but to invariably surpass the goals of 1960s and 70s and build a modern city of the 21 Century,” Gakuo added.
Former Town Kisia was not spared during the speeches, as a remarks he made a few years back came back to haunt him.
While justifying a planned headcount at the council which was done in conjunction with an audit firm, Kisia is quoted as saying that the council was full of “illiterate employees”.
It is this very statement that was repeated as the staff rubbished his candidature.
“Go and tell Mr Illiterate, and please do not lie to him, tell that we have said he should go vie elsewhere but not in Nairobi. Mr Gakuo we will vote for you even if you vie on a party named after a dog,” said Jeremiah Muli, a representative of the Kenya Local Government Workers Association.
Evelyn Auma, a former disabled hawker who used to operate outside Bruce House until one day Gakuo rescued her as she was about to be bundled into a council lorry during one of the swoops, vowed to lead Gakuo’s campaign among those living with disabilities.
“Just like the Bible says, we all have our strengths… let the preacher stick to preaching, let the businessman stick to running his business and let the person who is good in governing the public, govern,” said nominated councillor Michael Gache.
Gakuo made his political foray at function attended by ODM nominated councillor Aratti Simba and Ibrahim Ahmed, popularly known as Johnnie, who has vied twice and lost the Kamukunji parliamentary seat.
Gakuo said he will announce the party through which he will seek office after he finishes consultations. But it is likely that he might be headed for Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA) Party.
“We know it will be tricky if he went as an independent, because people usually vote six-piece (political speak for voting in for your preferred candidates for president to county assembly ward seat on the same party) and people will not have the time to peruse and look for his name. We have told him he must get a party,” a campaign team member said.
Last week, Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru who is also the Housing Assistant Minister, launched her bid for the Nairobi governorship on an ODM ticket.
Other aspirants who are eying the seat are Kisia, Nairobi Central Business District Association chairman Timothy Muriuki, Embakasi MP Ferdinand Waititu, Investment banker Jimnah Mbaru and former Mumias Sugar Company Managing Director, Evans Kidero.