The national government has not hidden its intent to control the capital city and the assumption of Nairobi county governor’s office by Nairobi Speaker Benson Mutura completes a total takeover of the city county by State House.
What started with the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) taking over critical functions of the county government in February has now been concluded.
Mr Mutura now epitomises the final puzzle in the quest by the State to fully control the capital city with the impeachment of Governor Mike Sonko that paved the way for the plot to perfectly fall into place.
It is not lost on observers that Mr Sonko’s refusal to sign budget warrants proved to be his waterloo as his continued rejection of the Sh37.5 billion budget since October would come back to haunt him.
He paid the price for playing hardball and consistently refusing to heed directives from the national government.
On November 30, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani directed the former City Hall boss to release funds due to NMS, explaining that a framework to guide the funding of the Maj-Genl Mohammed Badi-led office had been developed. The CS was also snubbed by the Governor.
“The purpose of this letter, therefore, is to forward to you the framework and request you to ensure adherence to the requirements,” read in part the letter copied to Attorney-General Paul Kihara and Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o.
The budget impasse had grounded operations of NMS, an appendage of the State as one of the departments in the Executive Office of the President.
Three days later, Mr Sonko was out of office after 88 out of 122 MCAs voted to oust him despite his assertions that he had 57 MCAs with him in Kwale County.
The Senate would sanction the assembly’s resolution two weeks later with 27 Senators voting to uphold his impeachment.
“Today I have been allegedly impeached by a few Senators, but I have not been impeached by the people of Nairobi and Kenyans at large. Some of my former colleagues in the Senate had to sacrifice me because of political pressure from their party bosses who personally called them one by one to impeach me,” Mr Sonko would claim two days after his ouster.
And to leave no doubt the State was in control, the first assignment by the new acting governor was to sign the budget warrants that had been shelved by Mr Sonko.
By the stroke of the pen less than an hour after being sworn in, Mr Mutura unlocked Sh27.1 billion funding due to NMS.
“It is unfortunate that due to the budget stalemate, you do not even have medical insurance cover and your salaries have been delayed. As we commence work, my first assignment is to ensure that these matters, especially the budget issues, are urgently addressed in order to restore service delivery,” said Mr Mutura in his inaugural speech.
Mr Sonko, although elected into office through a Jubilee Party ticket, turned into a rebel immediately he was sworn into office, often holding the national government led by Jubilee Party leader President Uhuru Kenyatta at ransom.
During the 2017 campaigns, the former Makadara MP had said he would only handle political affairs of the city while his deputy Polycarp Igathe would oversee the management and technical aspects.
But that was not to be as, only four months into his tenure, the two fell out with Mr Igathe resigning in a huff in January 2018 citing failure to earn his boss’ trust as the reason.
No playing ball
Mr Sonko would henceforth frustrate the State time and again, refusing to play ball even as the national government tried to have him cede some powers after the fallout.
Although he would cede some powers when it became apparent he was going to be removed from office, transferring critical county functions to the State through NMS, he would revert to his former self: Always at loggerheads with the State.
Mr Sonko would turn Maj-Gen Badi into his verbal punching bag and even attacking the President in his social media posts.
Efforts to have him toe the line failed just like an attempt to entrench NMS into the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) flopped as the proposal was scrapped at the last minute. However, the spirit remained.
The new governor now represents the “system's person”, a complete opposite of Mr Sonko.
Running the show
Political commentator Herman Manyora says that in Mr Mutura, the State has 'its person' and will be able to run the show in the 60 days he will be in charge.
“It goes without saying that Mutura is not his own person and, for the 60 days, the State will certainly run the show and everything will be theirs for the taking as he is their project,” said Mr Manyora.
Gabriel Muthuma, a political and governance analyst, says that Nairobi’s significance to the country places it under the microscope of the national government.
“Mutura could be the missing puzzle for proper functioning of the county. Nairobi had been crying out for a competent and level-headed individual to get things done,” said Mr Muthuma.
On his part, Makueni Senator Mutula Kolonzo Jnr avers that it is possible that in Mr Mutura, the State has a person who can play ball to their demands but that will only be temporary.
“It is possible but it can only be temporary as the acting Speaker can only hold office for 60 days and there is no room for extension,” he said.