- When the worst of the pandemic is gone, Covid-19 will have created new parameters of leadership.
- Post-pandemic leaders will be those who stood with the people in a time of dire need
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has earned a place in the public psyche. This is a politician whose governor candidature Nyeri voters rejected during the 2017 general election. Kagwe’s daily briefs and directives give hope to the citizenry of life beyond coronavirus. The message is, there are soaring infections, hospital admissions, and deaths. But there are also recoveries, and possibility of reconstruction if the people behave responsibly.
Kagwe’s niche won’t change even as revisionists claim the CS gets his briefs from Afya House professionals, and other coronavirus task force delegates. Other CSs also have reporting experts, but some have not excelled. They are riding on patronage.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, too, has offered national leadership, with Kagwe cascading Nairobi thinking to largely indifferent governors. This contrasts with the US, where State governors, like New York’s Andrew Cuomo, are pleading for leadership from President Trump. Trump is pre-occupied with November elections.
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Kitui’s Charity Ngilu and Kakamega’s Wycliffe Oparanya are showing leadership during the crisis. But others are keeping themselves safe for 2022 elections. Some are locked in Nairobi – a good excuse for no-show in the counties.
Within weeks of the first reported infections, Joho had acquired 30 more ventilators, and a low temperature sterilizer for Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital. He also acquired respiratory support appliances. The county government further enhanced the capacity of the referral hospital, with additional medical equipment worth Sh64 million.
Mombasa has procured face masks for free distribution to people in congested areas such as matatu termini, and at the ferry. Automated disinfectants have been installed at the Likoni Ferry and Nyali Bridge.
Ninety-five trainee nurses have been hired for Mombasa under the public service paid internship programme. They are to augment medical services and response to the Covid-19 crisis. Joho has created a rapid response team that includes his political rival Suleiman Shahbal, for a cause that transcends partisan boundaries. The Joho Foundation, the Suleiman Foundation, and other networks have set aside Sh700 million for food to feed 227,402 needy families.
Homa Bay set up a public fundraising account, with the devolved unit putting in Sh2 million without a publicised needs assessment.
Kirinyaga, under Governor Anne Waiguru, joins the queue with practical steps to prevent infections. The county has established 700 handwashing points, with regular supplies of water and soap in markets, matatu and boda boda termini.
Within a week of the first reported cases of infection, Kirinyaga set up an isolation unit with a 14-bed capacity, handed out personal protective equipment, face masks, and hand sanitiser to healthcare workers.
Kirinyaga has marked out parking lots as markets for traders to ensure social distancing. The county has expanded open air markets to open fields to enforce social distancing. This means business continues, while taking precaution.
The county is also identifying groups that may need relief food and other essentials. Timelines for payment of taxes have been extended for two months, and waivers given to vulnerable businesses.
Meanwhile Homa Bay, Kisumu, Siaya, and Busia, among other counties, shall be importing face masks from Kitui, where Governor Charity Ngilu opened a production line within a week of local infections.
Homa Bay has tailors and can produce more cotton than it needs to make face masks. Here, people have been asked to buy masks, wash hands and taught new sneezing and coughing skills. They have also been asked to stock food in the face of closed businesses and massive job loses. Kakamega is giving incentive payments to health workers, soap, water dispensers, detergents and disinfectants.
When the worst of the pandemic is gone, Covid-19 will have created new parameters of leadership. Post-pandemic leaders will be those who stood with the people during a time of dire need.