Reinstated Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero is a man under siege.
He is facing one of the toughest times in his political career as his fate now lies in the hands of Supreme Court judges. They will choose either to send him back to Nairobi voters or dismiss the judgment by the appellate court, which nullified his election.
Observers and his supporters alike acknowledge the timing of the court case might work to his disadvantage should the Chief Justice Willy Mutunga-led court rule against him.
They say having spent so much time laying a foundation within a period that was also punctuated by several interruptions, Dr Kidero may have an uphill task convincing voters to re-elect him.
But the Director of the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, Prof Winnie Mitullah, says that Dr Kidero’s second year in office is the time to separate boys from men.
“His first year in office has been wrought with so many distractions. He was just getting down to work and, as such, it would be unfair to send such a fellow back to the people to get their mandate before delivering on his projects. It will be hard for them to listen to him,” she says.
His legal team led by Prof Tom Ojienda, also a member of the Judicial Service Commission, must then fight tooth and nail to save their man the agony of facing a disgruntled electorate that is haunted by many issues.
City residents today attribute literally everything that has gone wrong to Dr Kidero. Sadly, he also bears the brunt even in cases of functions that should otherwise be rendered by the national government.
“He has failed the most basic of functions – keeping our streets clean. I would be very reluctant to vote him in,” one resident told the Sunday Nation.
But Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati defended Dr Kidero against accusations of sleeping on the job.
“The Sh9 billion Nairobi was allocated is a drop in the sea. It is the same as what it used to get through the Local Authorities Transfer Fund (LATF) yet it has a broader mandate now. You cannot do much with this given the bloated workforce and the huge debts he inherited,” he says.
“My overarching view is that Nairobi is a very unique county that it would be unfair to judge Dr Kidero on the same scale as his contemporaries like say Prof Kibwana of Makueni. The city has deep problems that you cannot sort out in a day and the governor must be framed within this background,” Prof Mitullah argues.
She explains that anybody managing Nairobi must face serious challenges, “in fact you can opt out because when you finally get there, you realise that it is not a walk in the park.”
Senator Mike Sonko, a man who has perfected the art of populist politics, has also not made Dr Kidero’s work any easier. If he is not supporting residents to oppose tax increases, he is bashing the governor on one subject or the other.
At one point, the senator threatened to mobilise one million signatures to force Dr Kidero out of office. His concerted activities have even led to talks that he is positioning himself to be the next governor when elections are called. The trick would then be to keep Dr Kidero as diverted as possible to lose the script and then capitalise on that during the next campaigns.
The governor’s predicament also has ripple effects on a number of things. Losing a seat occasioned by an election petition sends the city electorate to the ballot. His ministers are all in a state of panic now. The entire executive arm of the government is anxious.
On the flipside, some are keeping true to an African proverb which says that when the big tree falls, the goat eats its leaves. Much as it would be inaccurate to say that Dr Kidero’s fate is already sealed, a number of individuals are warming up to this. They are jostling for his seat should the courts send him packing.
Former Makadara MP Reuben Ndolo has, for instance, said he would be seeking the ODM ticket to succeed him in the event of a by-election.
This is happening against a backdrop of rumours that if the Appeal Court decision is upheld by the highest court in the land, some ODM party honchos may deny him the ticket to defend the seat.
To them, the former Mumias Sugar CEO has been a truant boy who deserves thorough rebuttal.
Critics like Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang have previously called for his resignation saying he is trying to create another centre of power within ODM.
“I find it pedestrian for one to argue that he is Jubilee. He must work with both parties. Right now, he needs the support of his party. He would be orphaned if party members were to abandon him now,” says Prof Mitullah.
Mr Arati shares the same view.
“We know he is the city governor and we will stand by him, whatever the outcome of the court case. He has not been given time to run the city. All his time has been spent defending himself in court, he would excel if given time,” he added.
Ugunja lawmaker Opiyo Wandayi says that as a party, they do not care so much whether it is Dr Kidero or somebody else who clinches the Nairobi seat. What matters is that it remains in-house.
“We do not want to lose our grip on Nairobi. Our priority now is to retain the seat whether the court rules in his favour or not. The internal differences that might have been here must now be relegated to the periphery,” states Mr Wandayi, who has not had kind words for the governor before.
His statement gives credence to the possibility that the orange party may settle on another candidate.
“Whether it is him who shall be given the ticket is currently immature and really not an issue, our intention as ODM is to retain the seat,” he adds.
The governor’s critics accuse him of opening many war fronts. This, they say, might leave him overstretched were he to take on all his adversaries.
Matatu operators are among those who have no kind words for him because of the new parking rates he has introduced.
But supporters of Dr Kidero, like former Mayor George Aladwa, say Nairobi is different from all counties that have the advantage of visibility of their projects.
“Nairobi is not as highly visible as other counties given the levels of development here,” he says.
His biggest hope, however, is the fact that his main challenger, Mr Ferdinand Waititu, has integrity questions, with the court recently barring him from getting a parastatal job. The appointment as the chairman of Athi Water Services Board was rejected on that basis. This may be used to bar him from contesting.
Prof Mitullah, however, cautions the governor against celebrating.
“We have watered down Chapter Six of the Constitution. Anybody can go to court and obtain an order not to be barred from contesting. Remember the president and his deputy were able to successfully vie even with International Criminal Court charges on their necks. It is only the public court that may live to the true spirit of integrity and perhaps wield this at the ballot,” she states.