Some lessons from the televised Nairobi city governor debate

Having watched the four candidates for the office of governor in Nairobi County battle it out on the Nairobi gubernatorial debate, key issues emerge. This city that was once christened The Green City Under the Sun is home to a number of international institutions and, therefore, calls for a more clearly strategic approach to regaining its glory. The slightly over three million residents need well-planned and effectively delivered services, thanks to devolved governance.

The person to hold the mantle of political governance here is one that is well-combed in personality. Sonko said that he had gained experience from being a first-degree graduate from one of the local universities. His flow of speech raised doubt on this credential. " ...I scored second degree.....I did management of accounting" are some of his words that made the public perhaps think twice about the kind of speech this politician would be making at important functions.

Image consultants

It is worth appreciating that image consultants have done a commendable job on this candidate but more still needs to be done. He became fussy during the show and even attempted to hand a document to Miguna Miguna, a fellow competitor. Sonko's image team needed to have advised him on how to present himself on a TV show of this ranking. He sustained one chorus on how Governor Kidero stole money and has never delivered, among other accusations, but with little proof.

In any case, this show was not a court of law. A good public speaker, especially one that is set to become the governor of an internationally recognised city such as Nairobi, needs to have data on his/her fingertips - the kind of figures Joseph Kamotho, when he served as a minister in the Moi regime, would release during press conferences, without referring to any document around him. This senator was not conversant with various sections of our Constitution, leave alone interpreting some of the Acts. Sonko came out as an advocate of the poor, but needs some classes in public speaking.

Foundation of governance

One candidate that kept the moderator busy was Miguna Miguna. He seems to have what it takes to be the next governor of this city that is sitting on a messed up foundation of governance. He, however, needs to tone down on flamboyancy. Leadership is about humility. The use of words like "......they are thieves", on a live TV show made him sound as if he wanted to win attention from the auditorium audience and viewers at large.

His quoting classic leaders such as Martin Luther King Jnr, Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela implies that these doyens are Miguna's role models. He, however, did not display traits that would convince any scholar of political science that he is a well-trimmed student. He is abrasive, does not give his opponents space, as seen when he interrupted Sonko, who was responding to a question on his understanding of the requisite legal framework as governor-to-be. Miguna had a good grasp of data and general information about the city he longs to govern.

Whenever one was appointed an assistant minister in the government before the Kenya Constitution 2010, he or she was held in high esteem even after leaving public office. Peter Kenneth missed it. He kept moving his body, sometimes bending forward, raising his eyebrows, and making faces. This was unexpected of him, given that he had even served in the highest office at Kenya Reinsurance. This kind of poise makes a candidate of this high office in Nairobi city look uncertain, worried, panicky, and therefore not a suitable candidate. PK, as he is popularly known, had a reasonable understanding of what ails the people of Nairobi.

Governor Evans Kidero, despite some of the accusations levelled at  him during the show, is a well-known name in institutional management circles in Kenya. During the gubernatorial debate he needed to, therefore, register more poise, confidence, and not make faces, grin, and fidget in the face of hitting-hard questions or comments. He lost an opportunity to present, through the debate, a clean track record on key milestones, including how he has managed revenue collection.

Strategic plan

Except for one candidate who had a manifesto that sounded more like an action or strategic plan, the rest had no documents of reference when it came to how they plan to turn Nairobi around.

Key to this is that in any public speaking forum of this nature, your personality stands out better when you have a well-coordinated flow of facts and you are composed and witty at responding to the comments that emerge.

Mr Ogonda is a journalist and comments on social issues