Janet Ouko’s po­lit­i­cal quest after City Hall

Ex-nairobi ed­u­ca­tion ex­ec­u­tive tells Sonko every po­si­tion has terms and con­di­tions, it’s not a favour

Business Daily (Kenya) - - FRONT PAGE - John Mu­tua jmu­[email protected]­tion­media.com

City Hall has been thrust into tur­bu­lence as Gov­er­nor Mike Sonko and for­mer ed­u­ca­tion ex­ec­u­tive Janet Muthoni Ouko traded ac­cu­sa­tions over her res­ig­na­tion on Tues­day.

The for­mer City Hall ex­ec­u­tive has taken on the gov­er­nor in a rare show of bold­ness in a county where most serv­ing and for­mer se­nior staff keep a low pro­file even as Mr Sonko hits out at them.

But who is Janet Ouko?

She was the first fe­male sec­re­tary-gen­eral of stu­dents union at Moi Uni­ver­sity and was mem­ber of a task-force on af­ford­able ed­u­ca­tion in 2014 as the coun­try laid the ground for start of free day sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion.

But it has not been an easy ride for the ed­u­ca­tion re­forms ac­tivist who has hinted at join­ing pol­i­tics after ex­it­ing City Hall.

She once served a three-year sus­pen­sion at uni­ver­sity that threat­ened to scut­tle her de­gree stud­ies and is now tak­ing on Sonko. Some­what, she has seen it all.

Ms Ouko had said she was re­sign­ing to pur­sue per­sonal in- ter­ests even though a day later the gov­er­nor ac­cused her of over­see­ing a cor­rupt docket that mis­used bur­sary funds at City Hall.

Sonko claimed the for­mer ex­ec­u­tive should take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the loss of Sh357.5 mil­lion in a bur­sary scheme meant for the city’s needy chil­dren.

"I will not tol­er­ate any cor­rup­tion case from the ex­ec­u­tives. If any one of them is in­volved in any, they will be charged and jailed.

The of­fi­cials who ben­e­fited from the bur­sary fund will carry their crosses. There is no cat-walk­ing when pub­lic funds go miss­ing," Mr Sonko said when he ac­cepted her res­ig­na­tion on Wed­nes­day.

The fiery gov­er­nance and ed­u­ca­tion rights ad­vo­cate hit back, be­com­ing one of the few se­nior ex­ec­u­tives at City Hall to pub­licly take on Sonko, ques­tion­ing his lead­er­ship style at City Hall.

“You know there are peo­ple who be­have like when they ap­point you to a po­si­tion it means so much, it is like they have mar­ried you, it is like they have given birth to you. That is not the sit­u­a­tion. This is a job and the terms are very clear,” Ms Ouko re­sponded to the gov­er­nor.

A friend who went to school with Ms Ouko at Naivasha Girls de­scribes her as hard-work­ing, fo­cused and a go-get­ter.

She would later defy the odds to be­come the sec­re­tary- gen­eral of the stu­dents union at Moi Uni­ver­sity, earn­ing the nick­name ‘Mama Rain­bow’ for be­ing the only fe­male in the top lead­er­ship in 2002 at the learn­ing in­sti­tu­tion.

The Mama Rain­bow moniker was a lofty one for the stu­dent leader since it was the now Ki­tui Gov­er­nor Char­ity Ngilu who was known by the alias. Ms Ngilu was the only woman in the top lead­er­ship of the Na­tional Rain­bow Coali­tion (Narc) when the coali­tion ended for­mer pres­i­dent Daniel Moi’s 24-year rule in 2002.

Ms Ouko was sus­pended in her fourth year after ri­ots be­tween the self-spon­sored and reg­u­lar stu­dents turned chaotic, forc­ing the uni­ver­sity to close down.

She com­pleted her de­gree in Busi­ness Man­age­ment after serv­ing three of the five-year sus­pen­sion.

“I dis­cov­ered my pas­sion for cham­pi­oning peo­ple’s rights while I was on cam­pus. That time, there were very few seats in classes, not enough beds in hos­tels, toi­lets were flood­ing and a few lights and sock­ets were func­tion­ing. It was com­plete mis­man­age­ment of the uni­ver­sity,” she once said in an in­ter­view.

Prior to her ap­point­ment to the ed­u­ca­tion docket at City Hall, Ms Ouko was the na­tional co-or­di­na­tor at Elimu Yetu, a civil so­ci­ety ed­u­ca­tion move­ment.

She re­signed amid an on­go­ing probe into the al­leged theft of mil­lions of shillings from City Hall’s bur­sary kitty for the funds dis­bursed last year.

She won­dered why the mat­ter was be­ing raised now yet she has been serv­ing as a county ex­ec­u­tive all along. There is spec­u­la­tion she is eye­ing the Em­bakasi South par­lia­men­tary seat in the com­ing by-elec­tion. She re­mains coy, though. “I will con­test for a po­lit­i­cal seat but not this by-elec­tion,” she told the Busi­ness Daily.

She lost out in the pre­lim­i­nar­ies for the Nairobi Woman Rep­re­sen­ta­tive seat in the 2017 poll. This was Ms Ouko’s sec­ond ma­jor stab at pol­i­tics after pre­vi­ously los­ing out on the coun­cil­lor’s (now County As­sem­bly) seat for Waseges Ward in Ron­gai Con­stituency.

There are peo­ple who be­have like when they ap­point you to a po­si­tion it means so much, it is like they have mar­ried you, it is like they have given birth to you. That is not the sit­u­a­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kenya

© PressReader. All rights reserved.