By Viscount Francis K’Owuor
September 12th 2017
For the fifth labor, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to clean up King Augeas’ stables. King Augeas’ riches were more than that of any man in Greece. He had many herds of cows, bulls, goats, sheep and horses. And because of the size of his stables and the complexity of the work involved they lasted several years without being cleaned up. Therefore Harcules fifth labor, like all his 12 labors was not a mean task. But being the ingenious fellow that he was he devised an efficient and effective strategy by diverting the causes of rivers nearby into the stables. Within just one day he accomplished the task.
It looks like Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko just like Hercules has got for himself a labor of no mean proportions. Will he succeed where his predecessor the immediate Governor Dr. Evans Kidero stunningly failed? In one of his columns written back in 2014 prolific writer and linguist Philip Ochieng opined that Nairobi would kill Kidero, and true to his words, from the results of the recent elections Kidero has definitely landed in a ditch. The rot that is Nairobi was too deep for him to dig through. As a man who had a sterling career in the corporate world it was very humbling for Kidero to be defeated by a riff raff. In fact, up to very late into the campaigns no one believed that Sonko could beat Kidero. But it seems voters thought differently.
Sonko is now in charge. The question is, does he have the capacity to bring life out of Nairobi’s decades of decay? Will he be able to drive out the cartels out of the city? Like Miguna Miguna would put it, will he drain the swamp?
The putrefaction that covers every sector of Nairobi is not a simple phenomenon. It is both systemic and cultural. Systems failed for so many years the people had to adapt by coming up with habits and attitudes that would enable them to cope with the sorry state of things. So there is a culture of poverty within the various informal settlements that dot the city, as well as a culture of impunity both from among the elites living in posh areas like Runda and the hoi poloi from Eastlands.
Structural failures means that authorities refused to expand facilities to correspond with rising population. Governance failures mean that for close to five decades Nairobi was the center of everything, including prostitution. All these caused an overwhelming pressure on every sector. Today even if a competent person were to govern Nairobi it would be very difficult for him to create order in a place where disorder has become the norm.
Not that it is impossible, but it needs more than philanthropy and street politics to address Nairobi’s challenges. It is going to require very bold moves from the National Government and from Sonko’s administration to bring Nairobi back to shape.
If I were in a position of authority I would limit Nairobi to administrative functions and cause commercial activities to be moved to other cities. Alternatively, we should see more resources and services being transferred to other counties so that attention and interests are diverted away from Nairobi. A decrease in population will translate into a decrease in pressure, which will in turn allow the city county government to review plans and demolish structures to give space for public utilities.
Without a bold move and support from the national government Nairobi will kill Sonko.
The writer is a Human Rights Activist and a Political Scientist based in Kisumu.