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Nairobi CECs reveal how it feels to work under abrasive Sonko

By Eric Wainaina
Thursday, February 27th, 2020
City Hall, the seat of the Nairobi County Government. Photo/PD/FILE
In summary
    • Former Education CEC Janet Muthoni Ouko, said she resigned due to constant intimidation, insults and threats from the governor and painted a picture of a chaotic County Executive wing running on autopilot.
    • The flamboyant governor, who was barred from accessing office when the was paraded in court over alleged theft at City Hall, has been running the county like a madhouse, sources say.
    • This is manifested by the number of sackings, recalling and reshuffling of CECs and chief officers even while out of office.

Nairobi County Executive Committee Members (CECs) are describing the working atmosphere under Governor Mike Sonko as full of fear and only comparable to the biblical Tower of Babel.

According to some of the CECs who declined to be named for fear of victimisation, Sonko, who was on Tuesday forced to surrender key functions to the national government, hates independent, creative and intelligent reasoning.

The officers, whose positions are political, in separate interviews with People Daily yesterday, painted a picture of an institution that is a scene of extreme fear and confusion, whereby employees operate under lingering shadow of threats, intimidation and blackmail from the abrasive governor.

Professional advice by the officers, some fished from the corporate world, is unwelcome, and according to them the administration was being run like a family business where, “City Hall has been Sonko and Sonko has been City Hall.”

These are some of his undoings that could only give his political career many parallels with the life of Simon Makonde, a man who  lived a bizarre one-week life, but has also reduced City Hall to a den of shenanigans even as the Capital City continues to rot in pungent filth and congestion.

“There is no room for professionalism at City Hall and that is why many things have been going south.

If you choose to go against the grain by staying firm about respecting professionalism, you should be ready to deal with the consequences which include daily internal and external threats and eventual sacking if the intimidation and blackmail do not make you toe the line,” a CEC, who has been a victim of Sonko’s melodrama told People Daily.

The circumstances have left the county with less CECs and chief officers (COs), who are then picked to act in different portfolios in order to fill the gaps, drastically affecting operations.

Most CECs and COs have been in acting positions for long and working under “hostilities and fear of intimidation” perpetrated by the governor.

This, well as inability to provide leadership was one of the grounds tabled in his impeachment motion last week.

Sack staff

The governor, who prides in his past criminal record and who has often been described as an academic dwarf due to his secondary school score of D, which he boast about, reduces his highly educated staff to parapets.

“When asked to jump, instead of asking why, the CECs are supposed to ask how high.”

A CEC, who is still in office, once revealed that he survives on painkillers to ease the effects the aggression of the governor through his controlling nature and lack of respect for county staff, which he said is characterised by use of derogatory language that sometimes was explicit.    

Sonko, according to City Hall insiders, does not listen, does not take instructions even on matters that he does not understand and Cabinet meetings are just a matter of formality because whatever is discussed dies there because “it’s either his was or the highway”.

The governor, who appears to have little regard for the rule of law, and whose associates described as paranoid could just wake up and sack staff who refused to abide by his unilateral decisions even when they are illegal. 

To achieve this, a CEC, who did not want to be identified lest he becomes a victim of Sonko’s antics, said officers are accused of working with cartels and shortly after, they are given dismissal or suspension letters.

“There is no security of job at City Hall because the governor, without following the due process, can hand you a suspension or a sack.

He will ensure to disgrace you publicly by branding you a criminal,” the officer said. 

One also has to be cautious when engaging him on phone because he could record a call conversation and easily leak it or share screenshots of WhatsApp messages if they could disrepute them, like he has done to several officers.

Former deputy governor Polycarp Igathe, who resigned citing frustrations and a strained relationship with Sonko, had his text messages with the governor leaked.

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