Sonko-Badi ‘truce’ is just hot air

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) with Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Nairobi Metropolitan Services Director General Major-General Mohammed Badi during a past event. 

Photo credit: PSCU

What you need to know:

  • Sonko is just being awkward for frustrating the work that NMS is doing despite knowing that he is officially not allowed to perform his duties as a governor.
  • Court decisions are binding on everyone, more so on the parties involved in a legal matter.

My guess is that there is no bad blood between Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) Director-General Mohamed Badi. I believe it is a creation of spin doctors and the ‘brown envelope’ media.

Sonko is just being awkward for frustrating the work that NMS is doing despite knowing that he is officially not allowed to perform his duties as a governor. He is only flapping around to try and save a slither of respect left (if he had any in the first place).

It is pointless to bring the two men together. If, indeed, there are plans for a truce as Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko suggested, it will amount to an ultra vires act. Legally, Sonko, as several of his fellow governors who are, like him, charged with corruption, cannot perform his duties. So, why exactly is the government trying to broker truce between Sonko and General Badi when they know very well that he is barred from office?

Court decisions are binding on everyone, more so on the parties involved in a legal matter. Justice Mumbi Ngugi’s decision to bar those charged with corruption from office was made because that is the law. Partly, it was meant to give the Constitution some credence. When it chooses to go against the ruling that bars alleged corrupt governors from office, the government is, in essence, saying it does not give a hoot to its own “war on corruption”.

Lip service

Hopefully, it is not just lip service. As Justice Ngugi rightly put it, “What message does it send to the citizens if their leaders are charged with serious corruption offences and are in office the following day, overseeing the affairs of the institution?” Brokering truce between Sonko and Badi amounts to giving the former his office back. Never mind whether he will be working from inside, outside or digitally.

Kenya’s political system must shed at least a few layers of impunity to see clearly sometimes for the sake of development.

The issue in Nairobi is not about Badi or Sonko. It is about residents who have suffered due to lack of services. Following concerns of mismanagement and after Sonko was charged with graft, it was decided that NMS come to the rescue. Despite the questions on its legitimacy, it has largely been accepted by consensus that NMS is doing a great job. What is left is to know what to do with a suspended governor still earning a salary despite losing key duties to NMS.

The indecision is causing an unnecessary bottleneck in the capital city. The Devolution CS, whose docket deals with county issues, appears to have lost his tongue to political campaigns. He should be instrumental, together with the Attorney-General, in advising the President on the best way forward. Covid-19 has brought its own challenges to the capital and the last thing the residents want to contend with is not knowing who exactly is in charge.

NMS has been given de facto management of the city and it beggars belief why a governor who, legally, is not allowed to perform his duties keeps being given false hope by the State that he could work with Badi. Are we really being serious about sorting out the problems in Nairobi under Sonko or just playing some cheap politics with the lives of the residents till 2022?

It is not even fair to drag Sonko along — unless there are hidden hands prepared to break the law to keep him relevant and ‘working’.

The confusion, malaise and sheer impunity happening in the name of sorting out Nairobi City County is setting a terrible precedent. There is no need for it. And there is no place for it under the Constitution. And now, it appears some people want to reverse a court decision that bars officials from performing their duties once charged with corruption.

To recognise and acknowledge anything Sonko does for the county after the court ruling by Justice Ngugi amounts to a breach of the law. Were the government an ordinary individual, it would be deemed guilty of sui generis — that is contempt of court to ordinary ‘Wanjiku’ and her kin.

The government must make up its mind on affairs in the city. It has got its knickers in a twist, it seems, and struggling to untangle itself from the mess. However, it chose to go with Badi and must do its utmost best to create a conducive environment that would allow for his team to perform effectively — if not for Badi’s sake, at least for the benefit of Nairobi residents.

The last question is, how then do you solve a problem like Sonko? Let him go away in peace and fight his demons in court. It is only fair. Otherwise, the State will be complicit in whatever else he will do as a barred governor. It also stands being accused of disparaging the rule of law in standing by an accused person for impunity’s sake.

Finally, it would help to respect the law if leaders are serious about fighting corruption.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. @kdiguyo