Wednesday, December 10, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Atlanta, Georgia
December 10, 2008

While far away from home, I read a distressing story concerning John Gakuo; the only Town Clerk in Nairobi I can remember to have performed his public duties beyond expectations.

I have nothing personal about the holder of the office. I hold no brief for John Gakuo and neither do I have the right to tell Minister Mudavadi how to run his office. However, there are a few facts government ministers need to bear in mind as they effect changes in their departments.

This country is bleeding with bureaucratic incompetence. If we find one who can do his or her job and has the energy to do so, let us not pay attention to when or where he was born as use both as an excuse to deny him his life’s satisfaction to serve this country.

I have never met John Gakuo in my life and I doubt if he even knows me. But I am compelled to pitch tent for him because during the few years he has been in the City Hall, he has reminded me of the Nairobi I used to know as a college undergraduate in the 1970s. In those days, the city was safe and streets were clean. Uhuru Park was a spectacle to behold. It was a lovers’ paradise.

As students we had the freedom of the street to walk leisurely from our Halls of Residence on State House Road, through University Way and down town Koinange Street Any time of the night without muggers, prostitutes or bribe taking policemen. Koinange Street was indeed the Students Street.

In those days, there were public service city buses plying our streets and they were only schedule. The charges were affordable to both adults and school going children. More importantly, they were relatives safe.

In those days, we could afford to go window shopping after supper in the evenings and we felt safe and free in a free country. There were lights all over the city in all streets including Tom Mboya and River Road. We could afford to cross over from Moi Avenue to Halliance Club on Tom Mboya Street because it was safe.
Yes, Bururu, Madaraka, South C, South B and Milimani were places to behold. They were truly residential areas in the true sense of the word; not infested with bars, loud music and criminals; some in police uniform as we have today.

All this splendor of the Green City in the Sun went up in smoke when mediocrity, greed and land grabbing entered and settled in City Hall. For the better part of the Moi regime, City Hall was more famous for graft, rot and ineptitude. As the city wallowed in the miasma of objectionable stench, city fathers bloated with ill-gotten wealth with each passing day. They carted everything away including at one time the Mayor’s official residence which was grabbed by a minister in the Moi regime.
In the few years John Gakuo has been Chief Executive of City Hall, we cannot claim that he has completely restored the City to its pre Moi era glory. Hawkers are still on our streets.

Traffic congestion is still a nightmare. We still have insecurity on our streets. The rot in Eastlands, Madaraka and other slum areas is still an eye sore. Nairobi River is still stinking with pollution from homeless Nairobians. However, we can count tangible changes effected by John Gakuo’s tenure. Flowers and trees are back on our streets. Street lights are back with relative safety at night. He has given us back our Uhuru Park. The streets have been rebuilt and the entire Uhuru Highway all the way from Waiyaki Way to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has street lights.

These days we hardly hear of riots and demonstrations coming from unpaid City Hall workers. Councillors are under a tight leash. Rogue ones are heading to court to face charges of corruption.

As three Nairobi residents have rightly pointed out, the Minister’s reason for sending Gakuo home is scary. John Gakuo is the number one reason that there have been so many positive changes in Nairobi. Succession planning is important but it must be structured. If not; it will end up being another misadventure in the management of the City Hall.

With this kind of record; John Gakuo deserves another four years to accomplish the task. After all there are older individuals still sitting pretty in the Public Service!

Yes, change should come at City Hall but not at our expense and certainly not at the expense of service delivery.