ONSANDO: Where the rain started beating Sonko

By Joash Onsando On Wed, 11 Dec, 2019 18:04 | 3 mins read
Mike Sonko
Nairobi Governor (in red shirt) at the Milimani Law Courts for his bail ruling on December 11, 2019. PHOTO | DAVID NDOLO | PD

When Governor Mike Sonko trounced Reuben Ndolo and incumbent the late Dick Wathika to win the 2010 Makadara Constituency by-election, little was known about the man.

Upon the announcement of the results, media houses scrambled to develop his profile for the next day’s new cycle. Even then the best many of them could come up with was that he was a Buru Buru-based businessman and philanthropist with interests in the night clubs and matatu industries.

So unexpected was his victory that little attention, if any, had been paid by mainstream media to learn who he was, besides being Narc-Kenya candidate.

‘Non-conformist

However, Sonko’s formal introduction into politics would come soon after, when Narc-Kenya attempted to get rid of him because of what the party termed as “ideological differences.”

This culminated in the October 18, 2011 incident when Narc-Kenya party leader found herself in the middle of an irate, heckling and expletive hurling crowd of Sonko supporters whilst trying to access the Lenana Road party headquarters.

The stark contrast between Sonko’s handling of the party conflict and that of then Juja MP William Kabogo, who was undergoing a similar fate, defined him; a maverick, non-conformist with little regard for systems, processes, hierarchies and political decorum. This was the first thing the system, deep state took note of.

That notwithstanding, Sonko’s political star shone brighter still. In 2013, he romped to victory in the Nairobi senate race, on a TNA ticket, with over 800,000 votes against Bishop Wanjiru’s (ODM) 500,000.

His untamed, theatrics-laden and philanthropy-driven brand of politics had clearly struck a cord with the voter. That is another significant reality the system noted.

No sooner had he settled into office, than his wild side reared its ugly yet effectively populist head.

In May 2014, Sonko stormed an exercise to demolish houses that stood on public land in South B. The exercise was led by then Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Felix Koskei.

To stop the exercise, Sonko called President Uhuru Kenyatta and put him on loudspeaker for the crowd and media microphones to listen in. The President ordered the exercise to stop much to the chagrin and embarrassment of the CS.

Whilst he accomplished his mission of stopping the exercise and the political mileage that proximity to power brings, this was but a pyrrhic victory.

The cost was increasing the system’s aversion to his unfettered and unpredictable nature by putting the President on the spot in such a callous manner.

Nonetheless, Sonko remained more popular than ever. Begrudgingly, in 2017, the system allowed him to run for Nairobi governor with Polycarp Igathe as his running mate, ostensibly to check his excesses and ensure a semblance of sanity in a Sonko administration.

Again Sonko won resoundingly. However, it wasn’t long before his deputy had enough of a management style more chaotic than he was accustomed to or had even imagined possible.

His subsequent refusal to appoint a deputy demonstrated an unfamiliar reality to the deep state, here was a man whom they couldn’t manage with soft power.

Igathe’s exit was followed by a new battle front for Sonko, a mostly one sided war of words with Interior Principal Secretary, Karanja Kibicho.

Dr Kibicho largely stayed calm against a barrage of verbal attacks from the governor. His silence, however, didn’t denote weakness, he orchestrated the formation of the Nairobi Regeneration Committee, an inter-governmental body designed to clip Sonko’s wing at City Hall.

The fruits of the move were evident from the frustration exhibited by Sonko during a public exchange of words with Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko.

Before this, Sonko had on many occasions had his security detail withdrawn, a subtle attempt to intimidate him.

Having fired their first salvo, the system retreated to develop a more concrete and definitive way to deal with the thorn in their flesh that Sonko had become.

First, they created and emboldened an alternative center of power at City Hall in the person of Majority Leader, Abdi Guyo.

Guyo would then take on Sonko on administration matters with gusto hitherto unseen by a Nairobi ward representative.

Faced with this political threat, Sonko unwittingly developed a soft spot for embattled County Assembly Speaker, Beatrice Elachi.

He ultimately took the bait and enthusiastically supported her reinstatement to office. Little did he realize that he had paved the way for his ousting without precipitating a constitutional crisis.

Sonko’s attempt to evade arrest, according to the authorities, was informed by the realisation that as soon as he would be arraigned, he would suffer the same date as his Kiambu counterpart, Ferdinand Waititu.

The dramatic manner of his arrest was designed to send him a not so subtle message; that whatever political cover he enjoyed within the system, is no more.

In his short yet illustrious political career, Sonko seemed to have lost sight of a simple yet far-reaching fact, the system, or the deep state, is a highly organised, powerful and conservative collective with unfettered access to state power.

Because of its conservative nature and with stability being its currency, the deep state abhors unpredictable, maverick and populist elements.

Time and again, Sonko went out of his way to remind us all that he was the very embodiment such an element.

Bearing this, it is easy to see why the good Governor’s troubles have only just began.

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