Open letter to Nairobi governor by-election candidates

We voters would like to know first your considered opinion about the takeover of functions

In Summary

• Dear candidates, you are asking us, the voters of Nairobi, to turn out to vote for you despite the risks associated with crowded places because of the virus.

• Some of us may feel reluctant to run the risk. Your answers may help us decide.

City Hall Building that houses the headquarters of Nairobi City County.
CITY HALL: City Hall Building that houses the headquarters of Nairobi City County.
Image: FILE

The Nairobi by-election may be delayed – pending court decisions. Maybe it won’t happen at all. If it does: these questions would be relevant.

Dear candidates, you are asking us, the voters of Nairobi, to turn out to vote for you despite the risks associated with crowded places because of the virus. Some of us may feel reluctant to run the risk. Your answers may help us decide.

Why do you want to be Governor?

This is a bit of a puzzle. If you win you will get to serve for fewer than 18 months. Why bother?

If you want the basis for this statement, please go to Article 182(6) of the Constitution. Anyone who assumes the office of governor under Article 182 holds office until the newly elected Governor takes over following the next election under Article 180(1).

The election for which you are now standing or proposing to stand does come under Article 182 (clause 5). And the election under Article 180(1) is to be on the second Tuesday in August, in 2022, same as for MPs.

What is more, it seems that since, if you win, you would be assuming the office of Governor, albeit for a short time, that would count as the first of your two maximum terms as governor. The only exception to this rule is for a Deputy Governor who takes over when a governor dies or is removed.

To Ferdinand Waititu: At this point we can pass over the issue of whether you are disqualified from standing. It will very likely be resolved in court.

Even if that issue does not debar you, another interesting question would arise: You assumed office as governor in Kiambu in 2017 and thus are deemed to have (it means treated as having) served a full term (Article 180(8)).

You can only hold office 'as a county governor' for two terms. Does this mean any county governor, or governor for a particular county? The courts may have to decide. One asks you again – Why do you want it?

To return to all the candidates.

Will you be a complete governor or a hamstrung one?

Another reason for wondering why anyone wants to be governor of our county is Article 187, Major General Mohammed Badi and the national government have taken over many of the county’s important functions.

The Office of the President said that the functions taken over are health, transport public works, utilities and auxiliary services and planning and development.

Interestingly, the media have suggested that the reason the BBI final Bill says nothing about Nairobi is that the current national leadership does not feel strongly about the general issue; it’s just about Mike Sonko and his incapacities.

We voters would like to know first what is your considered opinion about this takeover? Is it valid? Is it your intention to reverse this action?

Do you have the power to do so? Do you have some understanding of how the current national government would respond if you asked for your powers back? Could you do it by August 2022?

What do you make of Article 187(2)(b)? This says that even if powers are transferred “constitutional responsibility for the performance of the function or exercise of the power shall remain with the government to which it is assigned by the Fourth Schedule."

Can you please tell us what powers of real importance to Nairobians you would retain if the takeover remains?

And if it does remain, what shall we be paying you for?


Let’s first consider powers that currently remain county functions. Agriculture is one.

Are you aware of the steps that Nairobi county has taken to encourage urban agriculture? What should be done – what would you do – to implement these measures and strengthen them?

What is the state of pre-primary education in Nairobi? If you don’t know, what would you plan to do to find out? What is your vision of a good pre-primary education system for the city?

How about pollution in Nairobi? Pollution remains a county function. Do you know the figures for the extent of air pollution?

What would you propose to do to improve it? And, by the way, if a significant source is commercial vehicles, including buses, how will you deal with it if you don’t have control over county transport?

Can you explain why there are places in this city – even in the CDB - where rubbish sits in rotting and smelling heaps? And why for some places there is simply no service to dispose of rubbish? And what is your plan?

What is the scope for improving local tourism in the city? How would you go about it?

If you are able to take back powers from the Major General, what is your plan for health services in the city? What do you know about how the facilities have been – or not been – able to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic? What does this mean for the future of health services in Nairobi?

You must be aware that at least half (some say 60 per cent) of the people of Nairobi live in informal settlements. These occupy, however, only about five per cent of the land in the city. One of the most important questions must be, how will you make their lives better?

How will you do so if the Major General is still responsible for water (it falls under public works), health services, refuse (it comes under health services), local roads (they come under county transport) and housing (comes under county planning and development)? Can you do anything to curb police excesses? Be honest – what use can you be?

And, if you have full powers – how will you use them to benefit those 60 per cent?


Though Nairobi does better than other counties in local revenue collection, it does not manage to collect what it plans. Last financial year it fell 55 per cent below target. And you would come into office, if elected, a year after the disastrous pandemic began.

What is your strategy for improving county revenue? Indeed, how will you help Nairobi and Nairobians recover generally from the impacts of this last year?

First about you: Tell how you satisfy Chapter Six on Integrity. By the way, can you please analyse the shortcomings of the previous governor, and how you intend to be different?

More than four million people live here. Nairobi contributes 22 per cent of our GDP, though its economic growth rate is only average.

What is your vision? How will you make Nairobi a beautiful, dynamic, smoothly functioning and just city, worthy to be our nations’ capital? And how does that vision (if you have one) connect to that for the lives of ordinary Nairobians?


Many bodies (other than politicians) are required to produce strategic plans. They include not only their visions and their objectives but timelines and benchmarks.

By such and such a date they will have achieved certain stages in their plans. They have to identify indicators – measures that enable us to see whether they are going in the right direction.

So tell us, please, what you intend to achieve by, say, the end of the financial year 2021-22? How will you know whether you have achieved anything? And how shall we know?

Or is it that you are planning on having a honeymoon period in which a lot of talk, and maybe some new broom action, will endear us to you, and which will last for 15 months, so we shall re-elect you?

This is our city and we care about it and the lives of the people who live here. Do you? Do you even live here?

A final question: would you dream of participating in an election that defies court orders?

If you were being interviewed for this job, and could not answer these questions satisfactorily, we would not appoint you. Why should we vote for you if you cannot?