Sonko county crisis: Politicians' 'expert' views are amateur

Politicians' 'expert' views on Sonko crisis are amateur

In Summary

• You cannot substitute rationale meaning making by over quoting every other politician who holds an opinion. 

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko in court on Wednesday, December 11, 2019.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko in court on Wednesday, December 11, 2019.

Governor Mike Sonko’s arrest in dramatic fashion and his arraignment in court has attracted a lot of headlines and attention that one would say befits the flamboyant governor for both the right and wrong reasons. One headline even alluded to the Governor’s tribulations as the end of what essentially insults the intelligence of the very people who elected Sonko.

In fact, it appears that most of the headlines allude to the fact that the popular governor is all but finished politically. Nothing can be further from the truth, but I will leave that to our justice and political system, just like I will save you agony of the story of state officers in the name of legislators, essentially the very people who are supposed to oversight Sonko’s government, but are part of his legal team.

This may not raise legal issues and as advocates of the high courts these state officers are within their constitutional rights to represent any client. However, if the DPP’s assertions that he has enough evidence is anything to go by, we have got to ask so many questions of the very people we have given power to safeguard the distribution and allocation of state resources.

Suffice to note, Governor Sonko is a such a heavyweight that all of a sudden it has become an issue that calls for legislative framework with orders from the very top, yet we have heard state officers in the name of senators and MPs representing accused individuals in many cases in the past. Then the political maverick that is Governor Mike Sonko happens and here we are looking at the eminent conflict of interests bill. Interesting times indeed. 

Granted, there are so many truths about the arrest of Governor Sonko but three are inviolable. One, Governor Mike Sonko is innocent until proven guilty.Two, if we are facing a constitutional crisis it is because we watched, perhaps cheered, when the good governor played around with our psyche and operated without a deputy for more than a year. Third, we are actually in a constitutional crisis and it is not clear what happens at this time that the governor has been barred from accessing his office just like two other governors who have tried fairly funny machinations to circumvent their bail terms.

My good friend Hassan Ibrahim writing from Boston Massachusetts where he is on a journalism fellowship at Emerson was apt in his assessment of our proclivity to cover problems and perpetuate misleading or even confusing beliefs about reality. I mean, the crisis that is eminent is both legal and constitutional and you would expect our public conversations platforms including the legacy media to situate the legal and constitutional conundrum in insightful fashions and clearly layout what this means in solid reporting buttressed by legal and constitutional interpretations from constitutional lawyers and scholars and not loud politicians and lawyers craving media platforms. Well, even though we have seen stellar journalism by our very own, the recent developments in the Sonko saga has come with very confusing conversations and news stories and talk show discussions that have been fairly wanting.

A story that cites MPs and Senators who chime in with their opinions as authoritative views on what is likely to happen in this situation is not only baffling, but also shocking. This situation is further exacerbated by lazy purveyors of public information in some of these credible and reputable spaces who just populate their stories with dubious soundbites and quotes from every other rag tag and bobtail to strung together a collection of paragraphs without even making sense of what these sources are saying. 

There is a reason why in parliament MPs are in committees where their expertise can better be utilized and therefore we must ask of ourselves why a story on a constitutional and legal theme has the views of an MP whose background is in student activism or grassroots mobilization. Is the problem the political leader or the person interviewing him in an area where at best we can only get degenerate views?

Journalist have this qualified privilege that affords them access to sources and spaces like courtrooms and people with the legal mind and their stories should NOT be packaged and populated with wild quotes the same way big name bloggers package their stories.

Brand is very important and you have a serious issue when you put up a story that is quoting Dr. Ekuru Aukot or Hon Otiende Amollo on the constitutional conundrum, occasioned by the Governor Sonko drama alongside views by some TangaTanga of Kieleweke loose cannon.

Logic demands that the expert opinion by the experts is buttressed by constitutional citations to make meaning and provide a rational picture of the situation as it is; and you cannot substitute rationale meaning making by over quoting every other politician who holds an opinion. And this reminds me of a conversation I had with my professor– legacy, digital or even social media may account for very little if your brand reputation and credibility in the surveillance function of the news media is battered.