POLITICAL WAR

Mike Sonko: A political threat or just unlucky

Despite it all, Sonko was a man whom the head of state kept close even after being arrested and charged over corruption charges.

In Summary

• Sonko had conquered the capital city, having won every enviable political seat that was on offer in rapid succession, before everything came tumbling down.

• The clash between Sonko and PS Kibicho was in the limelight for over a year.

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko
Former Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko
Image: EZEKIEL AMING'A

The rise, fall and attempted come back of Mike Mbuvi Sonko to politics has been quite an interesting journey.

Born February 27, 1975 in Mombasa, to late Mzee Gideon Kioko Kivanguli and Saumu Mbuvi, Sonko later relocated to Nairobi and ventured into the matatu business in Eastlands.

Fast forward to September 2010, he made an entry into politics when he won in the Makadara by-election with over 19,000 votes.

The flamboyant politician would make headlines in Parliament placing him on the wrong side of the political decorum due to his dressing and shaving style.

Former deputy Speaker Farah Maalim ordered Sonko out of the house due to his dressing but he responded saying that he represented the youth.

“It is not supported in the standing orders but I am representing the youth.”

By then, Sonko belonged to Narc Kenya but in August 2011, the party led by Martha Karua expelled him after he allegedly campaigned for Party of National Unity (PNU) candidate – now MP – Yusuf Hassan, instead of campaigning for his party’s candidate, Brian Weke in the Kamukunji by-election.

Never afraid of expressing himself Sonko said, "Shida ya mama ni kuchemka. Nitarudi kwetu nitafute kura. Nisipochaguliwa there’s life after politics."

The courts however, blocked  Narc Kenya, the Registrar of Political Parties and the Attorney General from effecting the expulsion until the hearing of all parties in the application.

Before the 2013 General election, Sonko had cast himself as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s defender-in-chief not knowing that seven years down the line, he would give the green light to have him impeached from City Hall.

Uhuru was then one of two Deputy Prime ministers and was about to run for President on The National Alliance (TNA) party ticket with William Ruto of URP as his running mate.

The two were one of four Kenyans facing crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Demonstrating his political loyalty, Sonko shaved his hair and curved Uhuru’s name on his head and flew to the hague to lead demonstrations in support of him.

Whenever Uhuru appeared in court, Sonko would wear a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Respect our Prezzo,” “Takataka nyinyi ghasia.”

In 2013, he transitioned from being a member of the National Assembly, to becoming Nairobi’s first Senator.

He kept the then Governor Evans Kidero on toes and even started Sonko Rescue Team (SRT) which provided service to residents free of charge.

Through SRT, his reputation as a man ready to splash cash on the poor and helping needy children, youth and women as well as Kenyans in distress grew.

He was later seen as Nairobi’s hero in May 2014, when he publicly made a phone call to President Uhuru Kenyatta and a ministerial operation to demolish houses on supposedly government land in South B was called off.

With Uhuru’s second term with the Jubilee party, Sonko went for the big seat and won the 2017 Nairobi Gubernatorial election.

At this moment, Sonko had conquered the capital city, having won every enviable political seat that was on offer in rapid succession, before everything came tumbling down in his third year at the helm of City hall.

His choice of running Kenya’s capital as a one man show led to criticism and caught the attention of the National Government.

The then governor's unorthodox leadership saw him fall out with a number of people, including President Uhuru Kenyatta who was a bosom friend and this saw his political stakes dwindle drastically.

His woes would start on December 6, 2019 when the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji ordered for Sonko’s arrest and prosecution over corruption allegations.

In February 2020, Sonko was almost kicked out of office but a court stopped a motion in the city's County Assembly pushing for his impeachment.

President Uhuru thereafter convened a meeting of all Nairobi MCAs at State House to whip them into abandoning any bid to remove the governor from office.

Still in the same month, history was made through Executive Order No. 3 of 2020, when Sonko signed a deed of transfer handing core county functions to the National Government.

The services included; county health services, transport, public works, utilities and ancillary services, and county planning and development.

This left him a ceremonial Governor after Uhuru placed the functions under the Nairobi Metropolitan Services led by Lieutenant General Mohammed Badi.

Despite it all, Sonko was a man whom the head of state kept close even after being arrested over corruption charges and subsequently being arraigned and then barred from accessing his City hall office, over Sh357 million graft charges.

Despite the court cases over his head, Sonko still attended a number of State House events much to the ire of Kenyans who felt he was being treated differently to other governors who were also facing graft charges.

However, things seem to have taken a turn for the worse for the former governor when he went back on a truce between him and Lt General Badi in August 2020.

Sonko fought Badi to the extent of referring to him as "Saddam Hussein" stating that he had a mustache similar to the late.

The ex-governor would refuse to sign a supplementary budget which was necessary for the NMS to embark on various projects as directed by the President.

From being given a wide berth during important occasions in the county as well as those involving his fellow governors, the once "first among equals" county boss, who was always just an ear-shot away from the President, had been stripped off such privileges missing from a number of State functions attended by the President.

Sonko was also at a war path with Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho all through 2020. 

At one point he branded Kibicho as the ‘deep state’ while appearing on local Television.

When Sonko’s first impeachment flopped in February 2020, he lamented, claiming that police officers who were frustrating him were working under the instructions of the Interior PS.

The clash between Sonko and PS Kibicho was in the limelight for over a year.

The flamboyant former county boss further announced that he planned to take Kibicho and the then Regional Police Commander Philip Ndolo to the International Criminal Court for allegedly committing crimes against humanity.

Sonko also claimed that together with Kibicho, they planned chaos in Nairobi during the 2017 General election where they printed ODM T-shirts, bought second-hand cars, then burnt them on Ngong Road so as to be seen it was ODM supporters that had burnt them.

Kibicho distanced himself from the accusations and recorded a statement with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) accusing Sonko of character assassination.

An impeachment motion which was ‘blessed’ by the state would then be brought on December 3, 2020 and despite his spirited efforts, he would be voted out by 88 MCAs against only two in his support.

It later proceeded to the Senate on December 17, 2020, where they upheld the resolution to remove him from office.

Not going down without a fight, Sonko went to corridors of Justices to challenge his ouster, maintaining he was illegally impeached

The Court of Appeal upheld a decision by the High court that he was legally impeached in 2020.

Sonko still went to the Supreme Court where a ruling is pending.

Not giving up in politics, Sonko made a come back to politics, which he started by resigning from the Jubilee party and joined former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Party as a life member.

He was then the party ticket to run for the Mombasa gubernatorial seat.

He later in an interview said he initially had set his eyes on the Nairobi gubernatorial seat but Kalonzo advised him not to after explaining that the top county seat had a lot of interests.

His decision to succeed Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho rubbed many the wrong way including the incumbent.

In a move to block his bid, DDP Haji called on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) not to clear leaders who have either been impeached previously or facing cases of corruption, noting that electing Sonko as Mombasa Governor would only translate to glorifying mediocrity.

What followed next was the Mombasa High Court which temporarily barred IEBC from clearing Sonko to contest for the Mombasa governorship in the August polls.

Justice John Mativo issued the restraining orders on Thursday last week, pending hearing and determination of a petition filed by three civil society organisations; Haki Yetu, Kituo Cha Sheria and Transparency International, who want Sonko disqualified from the polls.

In an interview on Spice FM last Friday, Chief Justice Martha Koome said individuals who have been convicted in court or impeached from public office are ineligible to hold public office, unless the verdicts are overturned.

She argued that filing an appeal to reverse a sentence or an impeachment did not mean the verdict was set aside.

Despite this, Sonko has continued to hold impromptu rallies in Mombasa amidst intensifying debates in political and legal circles, on whether he is eligible or not.

They are threatening us with court matters every time. Do not worry, we have a plan B if they block me. But we shall ensure Mombasa gets fresh leadership”

“I have not received any communication from any State office on the matter so I will continue with my campaigns,” he added.

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