TELL-ALL INTERVIEW

Big money tenders at heart of city mess, says Sonko

Governor appeals to Uhuru to replace military general as NMS boss

In Summary

• Governor Sonko says powerful individuals in the Presidency fueling wars in Nairobi to control tenders. 

• He says he will defend his seat if Nairobi is not scrapped as a county in the BBI referendum.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka witness Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa sign the transfer of deed agreement at State House on February 25.
APPENDING THE SIGNATURES: President Uhuru Kenyatta and Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka witness Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa sign the transfer of deed agreement at State House on February 25.
Image: PSCU

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko attributes his woes to a powerful cabal of individuals in the presidency out to shove him off to control the lucrative county tenders.

In an exclusive interview on a wide range of issues with the Star, Sonko appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to recall Nairobi Metropolitan Services director general Maj-Gen Mohamed Badi.

Sonko claimed the powerful individuals in the Office of the President are using Badi to intimidate, blackmail and harass him to surrender so that they can mint billions set aside for tenders.

 
 

“Nairobi problems are created by cartels in the Office of the President - people who want to bring their law firms; people who want to bring their contractors to do business,” he said.

According to the governor, Badi’s military background does not give him the opportunity to understand the issues affecting the mwananchi in Nairobi. This, in his view, has created a vacuum that could hurt service delivery.

“The President and I meant well. The problem is the military man. The President should give us someone else - someone who understands wananchi,” he said.

The governor said the operatives within the presidency have hijacked the Deed of Transfer he signed (with Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa) in the presence of President Kenyatta at State House in February to advance their personal interests.

The clique, he maintained, is playing divide and rule through NMS and a section of MCAs to isolate and portray him as a "failure, goon, ungovernable".

In February, Sonko signed away four county functions - Health, Planning, Public Works and Auxiliary services - to the national government.

“I have not betrayed my people. This was a very humble, polite request from the President. Considering that I am not allowed to access my office, this really hindered my efforts to focus on service delivery to the people of Nairobi, hence the President had to intervene,” he said.

 
 

He admitted he needed the support of the national government to implement certain programmes his administration could not perform satisfactorily like the introduction of Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) System to reduce traffic congestion.

“National governments play major roles in city traffic control. That is the thing I wanted.” 

He said he supports the work of NMS, but abhorred the manner in which the Deed of Transfer of functions is being executed.

Sonko has had run-ins with Badi since the President appointed the military man to head NMS – an entity performing the county functions transferred to the national government.

NMS is domiciled in the Executive Office of the President.  

The governor has accused Badi of employing ‘military tactics’ to threaten, intimate, belittle him and create a ‘competition-like’ relationship between NMS and the county government.

But Badi dismisses Sonko’s claims as politics, which he is not interested in.

“I am here as a servant, not to engage in politics or take sides,” he said last month after a section of MCAs accused him of engaging in politics.

His recent takeover of the mayor’s residence in Lavington, appointment of a new board at the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company as well as seconding county staff to NMS without consultations are some of the issues at the centre of their bitter clash.

Sonko claimed the general came with the mentality of pushing him out. "We  respect the President. That is why we have tolerated very many things.” 

He insisted he is still in charge of the county government despite signing away the functions.  

While doing so, he does not violate any law as the anti-corruption chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti only barred him from setting foot in his City Hall office.

As if to fight off the failure tag, the governor projects his administration had undertaken since August 2017.

He said he had constructed 149km of roads, advanced Sh800 million to Kenya Urban Roads Authority to recarpet roads, constructed four fire stations and five markets in partnership with the World Bank.

On his rocky relationship with county assembly speaker Beatrice Elachi, Sonko said he has never had problems with her. It was Elachi, he said, who changed soon after he fought to return to office.

“I am the person who helped her to come back to office. She decided to change and became my enemy for no reason ... just because I have a court case,” he said.

On the appointment of deputy governor, Sonko said he has been on the safe side of the law ever since Polycarp Igathe resigned in January 2018.

He said he complied with the Supreme Court advisory and appointed lawyer Miguna Miguna, but he was rejected by the county assembly.

“I was summoned to the Senate and I told them to fast-track the passage of the law (on appointment of deputy governor).

“I appointed Anne Mwenda. Someone went to court and stopped it. That case is ongoing,” he said.

He said while he is "a one-term man", he will be defending his seat in 2022 if the city is spared in the looming Building Bridges Initiative referendum. The BBI has recommended the scrapping of Nairobi as a county.

Asked why he makes controversial statements, including last month’s when he asked a Senate committee where the bar was, Sonko said that was his nature and character.

“In 2017, I told Kenyans to know the person they are voting for. They voted for me even though I had been in prison. I did not kill, defile or rape anyone,” he said.

 

- mwaniki fm