THE FALL OF MIKE SONKO

Sonkonization of Kenyan politics: The rise and fall of Mike Sonko

Sonko is leaving the scene in the same manner and drama that he came in with.

In Summary

• In 10 years, Sonko managed to ‘sonkonize’ Kenyan politics, rising from obscurity as a 35-year-old first-term MP to occupy the most powerful gubernatorial position in Kenya

• Sonko was rather streetwise but not book-smart.

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko in Riverside on December 1, 2020.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko in Riverside on December 1, 2020.
Image: FILE

The Senate on Tuesday officially kicked off impeachment proceedings against Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.

This is after Nairobi MCAs voted to impeach him as governor. A whopping 88 of them out of the 122 voted physically or remotely to send the flamboyant governor packing to Mua Hills, where he himself at some point had disappeared to, leaving the city without a governor.

The charges levelled against him include gross violation of the Constitution, abuse of office, and crimes under the national law. It’s instructive to note that Sonko was voted into office in a rather popular manner, garnering close to a million votes in the 2017 General Election.

 

But how did he end up here in the first place?

Gideon Mike Mbuvi, whose political name "Sonko" means ‘rich’ in Sheng, is a man of many shades.

Born in 1975 in Kwale to Mzee Kivanguli, Sonko rose to fame when he won the Makadara parliamentary seat in a by-election on the Narc Kenya ticket, after a successful petition by former MP Reuben Ndolo, against then-incumbent Dickson Wathika.

It’s noteworthy that Sonko ran on the background of being a ‘makanga’/matatu owner in Buruburu estate within the constituency. The new sensation in town arrived wearing ‘blings’, and other unorthodox dressing styles. In fact, he had to be chased out of Parliament several times for this.

He fully exploited the vulnerability of the urban poor, especially those in the slums to make himself a rather populist politician.

He led demonstrations ostensibly to fight for the downtrodden, over and above giving cash donations, foodstuff, funeral and wedding vehicles for free.

At some point, he was even seen punching metal doors in town to demonstrate his prowess in fighting for ‘Wanjiku'!

As a result, Sonko only served for two years as Makadara MP before being elected as the first Senator for Nairobi in the 2013 General Election.

During his tenure, he created an outfit known as the Sonko Rescue Team that thrived on providing services similar to those of the county government for free.

They included garbage collection, borehole services, hearse and funeral services, ambulances amongst others, with all of his vehicles painted in gold, complete with chase cars.

This public display of ‘capacity’ endeared him even more to the masses in informal settlements of Kibra, Korogocho, and Mukuru slums.

Come the 2017 General Election, he was voted overwhelmingly to become the second governor of Nairobi, the biggest commercial hub in East and Central Africa.

A jailbird who had broken from the Shimo La Tewa prison — which he has gone public about — was accused of amongst others, drug trafficking, corruption and embezzlement of public funds to the tune of Sh357 million, incompetence and intoxication while in office.

 

He had a serious ran in with then Nairobi speaker Beatrice Elachi to the extent that the latter was impeached under his patronage.

His own deputy, Polycarp Igathe, a seasoned banker and technocrat, and who was supposed to help him ran government couldn’t take all the insults and humiliation he underwent. He resigned in a huff.

From then henceforth, the city was left in a deep mess, until Sonko was arrested in Voi as he escaped from imminent arrest by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

Sonko had allegedly formed a militia out of supposed casual workers, which he used as goons to harass anybody who stood in his way.

An incident whereby the Nairobi Community Business Association’s  chairman was accosted and assaulted during a press statement at a Nairobi hotel on the state of the CBD, remains edged in the mind of many Kenyans.

It is alleged that Sonko was forced to sign a deed of transfer of functions under Article 189 of the Constitution, to the Nairobi Metropolitan Service as a middle-ground for his remaining in office.

He has, however, refused to transfer staff and budget to the Major General Mohamed Badi-led NMS, despite his signing the agreement at a public function attended by non-other than the President at State House.

In 10 years, Sonko managed to ‘sonkonize’ Kenyan politics, rising from obscurity as a 35-year-old first-term MP to occupy the most powerful gubernatorial position in Kenya, and he exits at the young age of 45.

This sounds like the mythical story of Simon Makonde, who was born on Monday, got married, had children, got ill, died and was buried on Saturday.

Sonko was rather streetwise but not book-smart. He didn’t know how to manage the formal structures of government, and he is leaving the scene in the same manner and drama that he came in with.

This is a great lesson that no matter how momentous, transient populism doesn’t often last and that moderate, measured and well calculating politicians tend to have longer staying power hence greater impact too!!!

Go well Mike Mbuvi Sonko, Nairobi loved you, but the MCAs loved you all the more!!