Resurrected a city, died a convict

Kinyuru Munuhe and Seth Onyango @PeopleDailyKe

Once upon a time, there was a city –and it was under the Sun. Then, corruption, greed, pilferage and mismanagement clouded out the light.

The city’s fortunes took a dramatic slide, choking with garbage, insecurity and general disorder. When all had seemed lost, a new appointment at City Hall breathed fresh life into the dying giant.

Almost overnight, the streets were cleaned, flowers sprouted where heaps of garbage lay and even smokers were confined in particular sections. The man leading the charge was the Nairobi Town Clerk John Gakuo.

But such being life, the man who gave Nairobi a new lease of life died yesterday morning at a ‘lowly’ city hospital with a prison warder beside his bed.

It was a catastrophic fall from grace and the sudden demise has brought tears among those who considered him the best governor Nairobi never had.

“I have known Gakuo for close to 14 years. He was a man full of integrity and high ideals. It is quite unfortunate that we had to lose a man of his calibre in such a manner,” his immediate successor Philip Kisia said.

Gakuo met his death while serving a three-year jail term for irregular procurement of Sh283 million cemetery land in Mavoko for the defunct Nairobi City Council.

His sentence dimmed his otherwise sterling career as a performer in public positions and at a time  when he was being touted a possible replacement for Polycarp Igathe as Deputy of Governor of Nairobi.

He was jailed for abuse of office alongside former Local Government permanent secretary Sammy Kirui, Mary Ng’ethe and Alexander Musee despite the court not finding him guilty of pocketing the proceeds of the cemetery scandal.

It appears the architects of the cemetery scam finally managed to drag Gakuo to the cemetery quite literally. Before his sentencing, Gakuo served as a member of the Nairobi re-generation committee co-chaired by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Tourism Minister Najib Balala.

“My condolences to the family of the late friend John. It is only this morning that my wife asked me when I was to visit John I told her I purpose to visit him since it has been a while,” Kisia added at Lee Funeral Home where the body  had been transferred.

Although Commissioner General of Prisons Isaya Osugo remained tight-lipped on circumstances surrounding his death, Gakuo’s health is said to have degenerated while behind bars at the Nairobi West Remand Prison where insiders say he complained of general body weakness.

Gakuo’s had appealed the sentence but the High Court declined the application for him and co-accused to be released on bail pending the hearing and determination of the case.

In his ruling, Economic and Crimes Division judge John Onyiego said the appellants did not demonstrate that their appeal stood a high chance of success.

In addition, the judge said he was not convinced Gakuo’s alleged ill health was a justifiable reason. The appeal was due for hearing this morning.

“Some of us who knew John personally know the kind of man he was. Why deny him bail? He is not a flight risk. We know people who are corrupt to the core and they are given bail. This is unacceptable!” Kisia said.

Gakuo and Kirui were sentenced to three years each and a fine of Sh1 million each. Ng’ethe was sentenced to three years and a fine of Sh52 million, or additional year in jail. Musee was also sentenced to three years plus a fine of Sh32 million or an additional year in jail.

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