Governor Sakaja Struggles To Balance Politics And Governance

By The Weekly Vision Reporter

The recent appointment of five chief officers by Nairobi City County Governor Johnson Sakaja has sparked controversy, with concerns raised about their lack of professional skills and expertise required to effectively oversee county operations in their respective new dockets. The governor, however, maintains that the recent appointment of the new county chief officers, who underwent a rigorous vetting process and received approval from the County Assembly of Nairobi County, was solely based on merit. 

In his recent appointment, perhaps in recognition of his unwavering political loyalty to the current establishment, Mr Machel Waikenda, who previously served as the State House Director of Political Affairs and the Kiambu County CEC member responsible for youth affairs, sports, and communications, has been appointed as the new chief officer for Economic Affairs. Doubts have been expressed regarding Waikenda’s decision to embrace the role of chief officer, a lower rank as compared to his previous post as CECM. 

Amidst a wave of controversy, Bernard Kiala, the former deputy governor of Machakos County, has been appointed as the new chief officer in charge of the department of boroughs and sub-county administration. Speculations suggest that his appointment may have been facilitated by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka. 

David Sande Oyolo, who contested for the senate seat in Nairobi and lost to the UDA party in the last general elections, was appointed as the chief officer to oversee the Department of Digital Economy. Sande enjoys a strong relationship with Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, leading to speculation that it was Mudavadi who may have influenced his selection as chief officer.

Despite this connection, he was unsuccessful in the UDA nominations during the lead-up to the most recent general election, losing to Bishop Margaret Wanjiru. Subsequently, he applied for the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) position, but unfortunately, he did not progress to the shortlist. 

In a surprising turn of events, the Public Service Commission (PSC) modified its shortlist for CAs during the recruitment process, adding Oyolo’s name to the revised list. However, Oyolo’s name was absent when President Ruto made the appointments, which were later invalidated by the courts. It was only after a prolonged period of waiting that Oyolo was able to secure a role as Chief Officer at City Hall. 

Gladwell Cheruiyot, who previously held the position of Baringo women’s representative, has now been designated as the Chief Officer responsible for Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources.

Speculations are circulating that President Ruto was involved in pushing for her appointment. Nonetheless, it raises questions as to why a politician who has attained the position of Women Representative would willingly assume the role of chief officer, seemingly diminishing her stature. 

There are previous cases where Governor Sakaja’s appointments faced similar questions, with suggestions having been bandied around that he favours political loyalty over merit when making such appointments. The allegations made in the past were regarding his alleged interference in the Public Service Board’s appointment processes. 

Currently, Governor Sakaja is faced with a tough balancing act as his party, UDA, is outnumbered in the Nairobi County Assembly by Azimio. This is perhaps why he has chosen to appoint members of the opposition party, ODM, in his cabinet and several chief officers to secure his political future.

In his latest appointments, Sakaja has reinstated previously rejected politicians at city hall, merely to grant them a renewed chance in the realm of politics. Moreover, it is of utmost importance to recognize that the majority of the appointees have taken up positions that hold less clout than their previous roles. Observers speculate that the governor is positioning these politicians at City Hall to secure their political future.