Friday, August 26, 2016

Running On Empty

“Even a dog would have been elected” lamented the late KANU stalwart, J.J. Kamotho, in 1992 following the rout in the former Central and Nairobi provinces of the then ruling party in the first multiparty elections. In both municipal and Parliamentary elections, pretty much anyone who stood on a Ford-Asili ticket won. Such was the revulsion with which KANU was held that it seemingly did not matter whether alternative candidates had credible visions of their own.

In the near-quarter century since, and as control of the capital has veered between the opposition and the ruling party, the fortunes of the city’s long-suffering residents have continued to dwindle. In the four elections that have been held since 1992, politicians have rarely been elected on the basis of their plans. Quite the contrary. Most have been content to run against the perpetually dismal record of the incumbent rather than on what they intend to do for the city.

Now this is not to say that there have not been grandiose promises. Of course there have. The 2013 gubernatorial debates were replete with promises of fixed sewers, new infrastructure, more schools, cleaner streets. However, little was offered in the way of plans.

In his inaugural address, Governor Evans Kidero declared that his first 100 days in office would be dedicated to clearing up the garbage; fixing traffic problems; decongesting the city and the Central Business District; sorting out crime, security and city planning; improving trade with other counties; creating jobs and business opportunities; and improving the county’s revenues. However, he did not say how he would go about any of this and, perhaps predictably, 1250 days later little of this has been accomplished.

I remember asking on Twitter -prior to his inauguration- what Kidero planned to do about the violence and abuse suffered daily by the city’s women and girls and getting quickly shut down by his online fan club. Six months later, our TV screens were showing that he was not exactly averse to engaging in a little violence against women himself.

As we approach the 2017 election, Nairobians are once again inundated with promises, declarations, visions and manifestos from a plethora of candidates hoping to unseat the hapless incumbent. Most can eloquently articulate the problems afflicting the city. In vague and flowery language, they talk of their vision of a better Nairobi. However, like Kidero three years ago, they are a little vague on the details.

Take the bombastic former chief advisor to the Prime Minister, Miguna Miguna, for example. On his second run for the governorship, Miguna has published a lengthy vision and manifesto. In them, he rightly identifies integrity and accountability as the cornerstone of any competent administration. “Integrity is the software of leadership without which a leader is nothing but a primitive dangerous beast with power,” he writes, while declaring his own “unimpeachable background and an unyielding commitment to the fundamental transformation”. Much of what follows is a condemnation of the “looting” of the city under Kidero. So what does he propose to do about it? Aside from ensuring only individuals of proven integrity are part of his administration, he also promises playgrounds, markets, infrastructure and at least 100,000 “well-paying jobs for the youth and engineers per year starting 2018”.

This is all well and good. However, how exactly he plans to deliver this remains a bit of a mystery. He does not say how much it might cost, where he will get the money for it or even whether he has identified any particular projects. When asked about this, he and his online crew are wont to brand their questioners as apologists for Kidero and the cartels robbing the city.

Miguna is not alone in this reluctance, even refusal, to be specific. Esther Passaris, another who has thrown her hat into the ring and described the county administration as “a total mess”, also makes promises of 24hr service, parking, markets etc. Not much detail on how any of this is to be achieved.

Like KANU had by the 90s, Kidero’s tenure has been characterized by incompetence and thievery. He makes for an easy target. However, for the sake of Nairobians, it should not be enough to just be a “dog” running against him.

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