A section of ODM politicians consider Dr Evans Odhiambo Kidero a Jubilee mole in their party. But the Nairobi governor vows he is ODM damu even as it appears some politicians are spoiling for a fight with him.
They think that the pharmacist is working with the “enemy” to undermine Cord leader Raila Odinga and eventually inherit his political constituency.
Veteran journalist Philip Ochieng recently told us that Dr Kidero was capable of succeeding the ageing Mr Odinga but feared that the city job “could kill him.”
So when it was alleged that the governor had slapped Nairobi MP Rachel Shebesh many thought that his goose had not only been cooked but also eaten.
The governor was reluctant to talk about the matter but the former media manager and sugar miller chief executive came across as a man ready to face the turbulence.
Mr Ochieng reckons that Dr Kidero occupies a critical position which he can use as a stepping stone to national leadership but the major challenge, he argues, is that the governor is not as charismatic as Tom Mboya.
“If it were Tom Mboya, he would have used the position to transform himself into a key presidential contender,” said Mr Ochieng.
But Dr Kidero resists comparisons with his father-in-law and independence hero who was among the pioneer politicians in Nairobi from where he fought many political wars with Raila’s father and the country’s first Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.
He also thinks that for Nairobians to receive improved services, they must tighten their belts and be ready to pay more taxes.
“It is only in Nairobi where you don’t pay for collection of public garbage,” he says.
“In the rest of the world you pay $20 a month per person. If it is a family of five, you pay $100. In London, the parking fee is five pounds per hour.”
The governor also told us why he will continue sharing a cup of tea with President Kenyatta — whenever he can.
Q: Why did you storm out of the Tuesday Cord PG/NEC meeting?
A: I did not storm out.
The meeting was supposed to start at nine, and I was there before nine.
I was chairing the South-South Development Forum at noon and I excused myself a quarter of an hour before 12.
There was absolutely no problem. Those are rumours from the same people who are fuelling strife in ODM.
Q: You have been at the helm of the Nairobi County government for the past seven months yet the ordinary city dweller fairs not any better.
A: We have increased the number of ambulances at Pumwani Hospital from one to five. And this was just from friends like DT Dobie and others.
We recently brought in Francis Munyambu (the new head of the Metro Security) to professionalise security in the city.
The amount of water coming into the city has increased by 40 per cent and we have managed to reduce the price of water in informal settlements.
We have partnered with the World Bank to bring the price of water in such places as Soweto down by 250 per cent.
I have mandated the Nairobi Water Company to reduce the price of water everywhere. We are also coming up with laws to reduce congestion.
This effort will be aided by the completion of the northern, southern and eastern bypasses in about four to five months.
Q: Former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani and Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola have been singled out as the epitome of transformative leadership of cities. What lessons can the Nairobi leadership draw from the two respected leaders?
A: All great leadership must have a vision, which is then followed by pragmatic actions.
However, the most important ingredient is the people who must accept and live that change.
For example the clean-up which we do here monthly started in Kigali 10 years ago and every Saturday life in the Central African city comes to a standstill as people from all walks of life come out to sweep their town.
Here in Nairobi we are introducing it but people are saying we pay for the services, why must we do what we have paid for?
Q: Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka says Fashola is “ruthlessly transforming Lagos State because he is not a politician”… you know placing pragmatism over party loyalty. Does that explain your dalliance with President Kenyatta, the man who beat your party leader Raila Odinga in the March 4 poll?
A: I was elected to give service to Nairobi — which has 42 tribes.
We are not going to connect water to ODM supporters only and refuse to unblock sewers to Prof James ole Kiyiapi’s home because he was not in ODM. Nairobi is unique and even the Constitution in section 5 (2) expressly obliges us to sign an agreement with the (national) government.
Q: This has made some party members to label you a black sheep among your fold, you know, a TNA mole in ODM.
A: I think the people making those claims want to pigeonhole me into a narrow constituency.
I am not a Luo governor; I am the governor of Nairobi, which is home to all communities.
When they question why I did not go to campaign for Cornel Rasanga, for example, they are not putting the same question to the governors of the counties neighbouring Siaya such as Kisumu’s Jack Ranguma, Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) or Sospeter Ojaamong of Busia.
Q: They insist you are not loyal enough.
A: I don’t know what being loyal enough is.
If by increasing water flow to our people by 40 per cent is disloyalty then I am quite happy with that. I was elected by Cord and I am in Cord in mind, soul and pocket.
Q: Books make men. What form of literature made you what you are today? A: I loved fiction a lot when I was much younger, but now I read practical books.
One of my greatest writers is Malcom Gladwell who wrote The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw.
One of the most influential books I have also read is Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership.
It is an inspirational guide for business managers. It combines spiritual and professional advice on how to work with and motivate others as a means of accomplishing shared goals and achieving economic success.
Q: What are you reading now?
A: I am reading Joshua Agbo’s How Africans Underdeveloped Africa: a Forgotten Truth in History. (A critique of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Agbo asserts that we cannot solely blame slavery, colonialism and imperialism for the underdevelopment of Africa.)
The book dissuades us from the hangovers of neo-colonialism.
I am also reading When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner.
It is on how to deal with difficult situations. I re-read it in the aftermath of the Westgate attack. Here were people who went to the shopping centre with great dreams for the future only for their lives to be cut short.
In such situations you almost come to the conclusion that life is meaningless, but even in misfortunes that happen to us, there are lessons for other people.
Q: You manage East Africa’s largest metropolis. When do you find time to read?
A: There is time for things you like. Things that add value to your life and the people you serve. I read late in the evening and early in the morning.
Q: There is the perennial complaint that Kenyans don’t read. As a book lover what are you doing to make Nairobi a reading county?
A: We used to have mobile libraries and social centres like Pumwani and Kariokor social halls where we would play games and borrow books.
Those facilities are no longer there or are dilapidated.
We are reviving these facilities as centres of entertainment and stocking them with books.
However, now that the Internet space is very rich we will supply floating Wi-Fi for the whole city so that people can access e-books as they ride in matatus.
Those TV programmes that people are watching now can be educative, but they are not intellectually stimulating.
Q: Which one book would you buy for Uhuru?
A: Living the Life You Are Meant To Live by Tom Paterson.
It pretty much reflects what we are here for as missionary leaders.
You know there are two types of people, mercenaries and missionaries. We need missionary leaders — people who feel the call to offer service and add value and even if they earn from it, it is only incidental.
I would rather a lot of leaders are the mercenary type, people like Abraham Lincoln.
Q: What of Raila?
A: I would recommend the same because leadership is one, whatever the position.
Q: Philip Ochieng has singled out Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno and yourself as possible future presidents from Luo Nyanza, but fears that the job of governor “could kill you.” This fear appeared to lent credence to your confrontation with Nairobi MP Rachel Shebesh.
A: I am a Kenyan leader in Nairobi. I didn’t stand because I was a Luo. The matter (of Shebesh) is under investigation. The due process is being followed so we cannot talk about it now.
Q: When did you last call her?
A: No, we have not met, neither have we spoken since the incident but very soon I believe we should be able to meet because we all serve one people. We can work together again.
Q: What is your relationship with Raila?
A: I enjoy an excellent relationship with the former PM. I even spoke to him this morning.
Actually we talk more or less on a daily basis. I think the problem is the people surrounding him who shout when the king is around hoping to be noticed.
Q. Some are seeing a parallel in your resurgence to a replay of the ancient hostilities between Mboya, another Suba like you who is also your father in-law, and Jaramogi.
A: No, No, we are two different people living in different times.
During Mboya’s time Nairobi had 300,000 people while Kenya had barely six million. Today Nairobi has nearly five million and the country has 42 million.
Q: Mr Ochieng has castigated the self-inflating nature of the Gor Mahia fan, calling the soccer lovers ragamuffins while Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo celebrates their conduct as the only avenue for venting frustration over what he calls historical injustices perpetrated against the Luo.
A: That is being very unfair to the Gor Mahia fans.
If you meet a Kikuyu criminal you cannot say all the Kikuyus in their millions are criminals. Gor are fun-loving people who have well over a half million fans. You cannot fail to have a few criminal elements.
Q: Some MPs have vowed to mobilise delegates against you ahead of the February ODM elections. In the face of this seeming hostility are you still keen on the position of vice-chairperson?
A: There have been calls by the Nairobi branch, Nakuru, Homa Bay, Migori, Mombasa, Kwale and Wajir that I stand but I have not made that decision.
However, I am an ODM member like any other and if other members think I can add value, why disappoint them?
Q: There are those who trace the serious problems now afflicting Mumias Sugar Company to your tenure.
A: No. A number of companies were licensed without complementary cane development.
West Kenya, Kibos, Sukari and Trans Mara were built even as Butali was expanded.
There is also the management of the dumping of the commodity from the Comesa market but cane shortage is the bigger issue.