By Ngugi Maina
There is a palpable feeling in the air since Peter Kenneth announced his possible intention to offer himself for the leadership of Nairobi County.
I know he said he is consulting and is yet to choose between Nairobi and his home county of Muranga but a leader of his stature would get lost in Muranga. By running for the presidency before his time PK showed that he is the kind of leader who likes challenges-there is no bigger challenge than Nairobi County.
Nairobi County is peerless in terms of economic significance- it is the heartbeat of Kenya’s economy and East Africa’s capital in more ways that one. Despite this mighty stature the county is synonymous with a inefficiency, corruption, poor service, poor infrastructure, congestion and many other evils. If you follow the trail of these issues to their source you will come to one place and one answer-mismanagement.
This is why the idea of Peter Kenneth in Nairobi County is so exciting-he is not the mismanagement type at all. The best way to understand this candidacy is through what I want to call the Waititu realization. What do I mean? Let me explain.
Why did Ferdinand Waititu despite coming so close to winning the Governorship switch political base and head to Kiambu? He lost by only 70,000 votes and with no Jimna Mbaru this time round he would surely do much better? Why would he switch bases and never look back?
The answer is simple. Waititu realized that Nairobi is not like any of the other counties and the voters expect this to reflect in the type of leader they elect. He realized that unlike other places where the party ticket and the ethnic configuration are all you need to win-In Nairobi its different.
Voters want more; they think the county is special and they expect leaders who bring more to the table than just a party nomination and an ethnic bloc. He realized that there are voters in Nairobi who are more concerned with the ability to deliver than the candidate’s last name; who are willing to put aside the ethnic agenda for the Nairobi agenda.
This is how he realized that Nairobi was not his cup of cake. He is an ordinary politician of no particular attraction or skill. In the ‘kanjo’ days he would have been perfect but now. This is why 50,000 people voted for Jimna knowing full well he was on the ballot and in a stronger position to win. They were voting against him.
This uniqueness that Nairobi voters want; this ‘executive’ persona that they need to run the county is what made Waititu flee and what makes Kenneth the perfect man for Nairobi.
Peter Kenneth has a track record as a performer; as a leader who addresses issues and this is exactly what Nairobi needs. Kidero came in under the same executive tag but he has done it and himself a great disservice. There is no tangible sense of improvement or advancement under his leadership. It still feels like a “Kanjo’ county. This is why the voters will let him go next year.
Even within Jubilee Peter Kenneth is coalition’s best bet to reclaim the crown jewel of counties. There are those who say that Eugene Wamalwa should get it because it will galvanize the luhya vote at the Presidential level. The simple answer to that from a Nairobian like myself is: gamble with another county not mine plus there is no evidence to suggest that such an approach would work. This is the capital city-you cannot use it as a political hail mary.
Then there is the widely popular man Sonko. The Nairobi senator is a grew fighter for the people but he lacks the managerial nous to run a county that is home to 40% of the country’s GDP. Sonko’s brand is about fighting and agitating; its not about leadership, policy and or fiscal management. He has not reached the level where you can trust him with budgets of billions of shillings and expect him to implement policies and programs.
I know he has done things for the people: a water tank here, an ambulance there and so on but this is exactly the problem. Governing is more complicated than that. If you are looking at water or health you have got to factor the 3 million plus residents of the county and develop a strategy and plan that serves everyone.
Plus if I was an investor looking into putting money into Nairobi I am not sure meeting Sonko would push me to make the decision faster.
Peter Kenneth is the candidate that Nairobi has been waiting for- the candidate to put our Kanjo days behind us and drive us into a new era of an efficient capital that we can be proud of so wherever you are good sir, Kindly announce so that we can get this show on the road.