The rise and fall of Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko


The rise and fall of Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko

The arrest and expected arraignment of Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko could spell the beginning of the fall of a man who has courted controversy since he came into the political limelight nine years ago.

Sonko has not only branded himself as a man of immense resources who stands for justice for the poor, but also one of defiance choosing to speak his mind rather than toe the line of authorities.

Before his win in the Makadara by-election of 2010, Gideon Mbuvi Kioko was a little known young and rich businessman.

When Reuben Ndolo successfully challenged the late Dick Wathika’s election to parliament, Sonko put his name into the race.

His stature, a total contrast to the then veteran city politicians.

He had only been known for his business interests in the public transport system of Nairobi, but he appealed to the poor of the city; with his apparent deep pockets and a heart for the downtrodden, he captured their imagination and earned the tag “Sonko”.

“Mimi si tajiri…nategemea Mungu,” said Sonko in September, 2010.

On the night of September 20, 2010, Sonko trounced his rivals winning the race with over 19,000 votes, followed by Ndolo who garnered just over 17,000.

But soon, the young and flashy unlikely politician was on the wrong side of political decorum. He had taken his unconventional dress code to the honourable house.

“It is not supported in the standing orders but I am representing the youth,” said Sonko in March 2011.

“You will remain out of the house and come back when properly dressed,” ordered Farah Maalim- then Deputy Speaker in 2011.

Despite giving Martha Karua’s party its second parliamentary win, he defied her by supporting the G7 group comprising of among others Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto in their presidential ambition.

Never mind that Karua harboured similar ambition under Narc Kenya.

An attempt to discipline the Makadara MP was an invitation to chaos for the flower party. Crowds of supporters stormed the Narc Kenya offices, blocking the way for Karua. He had been expelled from the party, yet unapologetic.

Shida ya mama ni kuchemka. Nitarudi kwetu nitafute kura. Nisipochaguliwa there’s life after politics,” said Sonko in October 2011.

Months before, Sonko was already courting controversy. On November 29, 2010, chaos erupted at the Kibera Law courts as the man of the moment faced charges of fraud amounting to a total of Ksh.3.3 million. As is custom now, masses escorted him to the court.

Months later he was seen destroying clamps on his car locked by officials of the very county he would six years later lead as governor.

He was charged with destruction of property and theft of City council property, a charge he denied.

Through his journey, he knew his was a special story.

Ni wengi tulisoma nao, walienda vyuo vikuu lakini mimi sikwenda na sasa nimewaajiri,” said Sonko in September, 2010.

In 2013, Sonko teamed up with Rachel Shebesh and Ferdinand Waititu to run for the Nairobi county leadership.

Sonko won the Senate election but Waititu lost the governorship. The two would four years later run for governorship in Nairobi and Kiambu but now suffer a similar predicament in charges.

At one time Sonko got into a scuffle with former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero at a Senate committee hearing on June 15, 2016.

Sonko who was not a member of the committee was in attendance and accused the governor of murder and signing off with a few unpalatable words.

Before his father died in September 2015, Sonko had been running a controversial parallel service for the poor under the banner Sonko rescue team.

“I have five hearses to transport bodies to any part of Kenya,” said Sonko in January 2015.

The service appeared to endear him to the poor, but his lifestyle, a mystery to many.

He is a man who leaves around cash in his homes and offices, surrounds himself with heavily armed security officers, guns, high-end cars and is dressed in glittering clothes and jewelry.

In May 2014, a ministerial operation to demolish houses on supposedly government land in South B, Nairobi was called off after the then senator called President Kenyatta and a humble pie was served for then CS Felix Koskei.

Sonko clinched the Jubilee Party’s Gubernatorial ticket for Nairobi’s in 2017 beating Peter Kenneth by more than double his score. His voting bloc mainly of the lower economic class.

Governor Sonko was abandoned by his deputy less than four months into office.

He has had the highest turnover of County executive members and now serves with majority of his CECs in acting capacity.

His leadership style so unique that despite the city crisis both at the executive and assembly, he still affords to enjoy life albeit unconventionally.

He faces charges of graft. Despite efforts to interfere with the investigations at the EACC recently, his arrest and expected arraignment could change the matrix for him.

Should the court keep with precedence set in cases against Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu and Samburu’s Moses Lenolkulal’s corruption cases and he is barred from accessing his office, operations in Nairobi could be interfered with.

The constitution provides that in the absence of a governor, a deputy governor should act as governor. But Sonko is yet to name a new Deputy Governor.

Even though the law allows for Speaker of a County Assembly to act as governor in circumstances when the Deputy Governor is not able to act, it is only when the office of the governor is vacant.

Sonko will remain governor until he resigns or is impeached. Former Constitution Implementation Commission member Kamotho Waiganjo opines that: “If Sonko cares for Nairobi, he would appoint somebody as Deputy governor and later ask the Court to allow him formalize the appointment.”

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Story By Sam Gituku
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