Only last month, John Gakuo’s name filled the political space as a potential replacement of Polycarp Igathe who quit in January as deputy Governor of Nairobi.
His tenure as Town Clerk of Nairobi won him accolades and many had hoped he would replicate the brilliant performance if appointed to the vacant position.
This may not happen anytime soon following Tuesday’s shock decision to jail him for three years for abuse of office.
On the cold Tuesday morning, Mr Gakuo cut a dejected figure when chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti pronounced a guilty verdict that handed him and his co-accused a lengthy stay behind bars unless saved by successful appeals.
Besides a three-year jail term, Mr Gakuo was slapped with Sh1 million fine over a cemetery land scam when he served as Town Clerk.
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His co-accused, former Local Government PS Sammy Kirui, ex-Nairobi City Council legal secretary Mary Ng’ethe and tender committee chairman Alexander Musee were also handed similar sentences.
Mr Kirui and Ms Ng’ethe were found guilty of failing to adhere to procurement laws and giving misleading information to the tender committee.
They were all convicted for their role in the purchase of land meant for a cemetery in Mavoko, Athi River, in 2009.
The twist of events has left the once powerful and commanding City Hall boss cooling his heels in Nairobi’s Industrial Area Maximum Security Prison — hoping that his lawyers will secure his release.
The court said the former officials ought to have stopped the payment of Sh283.2 million to Naen Rech Limited that received the money for the irregular purchase of the land. It said both were beneficiaries of the illegality and that they received substantial financial benefits from the procurement of the land, which was priced above the prevailing market rate.
The land was intended to replace the already full Lang’ata cemetery in Nairobi although it was found unsuitable for use as a burial site.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission investigated the deal and recommended prosecution.
“All the accused were persons in authority and they acted passively, allowing corruption to take place,” said the magistrate, adding that the law gave them powers to stop payment at any stage.
But Mr Gakuo denies the allegations and feels that they were sacrificed, holding that the real architects of the scam are walking free.
Mr Gakuo served as Nairobi Town Clerk in the defunct council and later in Kidero led administration, before being co-opted by the current Nairobi governor Mike Sonko.
Mr Sonko in February replaced former deputy governor, Polycarp Igathe, with Mr Gakuo appointing him as the co-chair of the Nairobi Regeneration Committee.
Nairobi residents hold him in high esteem although that is yet to translate into votes for the former City Hall clerk during elections.
In 2013, he lost to current Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu in the contest for the National Alliance party’s ticket to vie for Nairobi governorship against Mr Kidero. He came third behind Mr Waititu who polled 17,223 votes and Jimnah Mbaru’s 14,029 votes, with only 461 votes.
Mr Gakuo is remembered for his firm stand and his administration acumen when he was town clerk that saw him clear garbage from the streets, dealt with the smokers and kicked off lighting and beautification of the city.
This is the experience that the Nairobi regeneration team will miss as Mr Gakuo starts his life behind bars.
In a past media interview, he spoke passionately about his work at the city council and when he served under the late John Michuki when he was deployed to spearhead rehabilitation of Nairobi River.
Mr Gakuo hopes that the High Court will give him a reprieve and grant him bail as his appeal is heard but whatever the outcome the memories that Nairobians have for the services he delivered as a clerk, will definitely live long.