On Sunday, August 25, Kenya nearly came to a standstill as the K24 TV broadcast of #SonkoOnPunchline dominated television airwaves for close to two hours and continued to trend on social media for more than twenty-four hours.
It is almost safe to bet that no politician in Kenya attracts public attention like the flamboyant Nairobi Governor does.
Unlike his possible peers, who can only be Kenya’s former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and current Deputy President William Ruto in terms of popularity and national clout, Governor Sonko attracts the following three types of audiences at any one given time that his peers cannot match.
Middle class disdain
First, there is always a small group of Kenyans who follow and listen to Sonko with deep seated trepidation and disdain.
This category mostly comprises of an entitled Kenyan middle-class, who never miss an opportunity to disparage the Governor.
To this day, they have never been able to understand how Sonko has been able to achieve and accomplish so much, a fete that they can only dream of, despite their considered high academic achievements, mastery of the Queen’s language and other utopic qualifications for leadership that they have acquired from textbooks.
The second category attracts those purely driven by curiosity.
They neither like him nor have anything specific against him.
However, they’ll never be caught dead openly supporting him.
They are the cautious lot, they always walk in the middle of the road on all national topical issues, and they have no qualms at all voting for him.
The third, and last group, are his millions fanatical followers.
Their love and adoration for Sonko is almost cult-like, and runs deep across every corner of Kenya.
They draw their inspiration and see their salvation in Sonko. They deeply identify with him as one of their own, inspired by his leadership style and philanthropy. To them, Sonko is living proof of possibility.
‘Quick rise to the top’
In a short span of time, he has risen from nothing to become one of the most popular politicians in Kenya, upsetting and shattering long-held stereotypes.
If anything, he can confidently pride himself as the only politician in Kenya with an almost entirely organic following, that is not anchored on tribe as is the norm in Kenyan politics.
It is for these reasons that, when K24 TV’s woman of steel and host of the now must-watch Punchline political show announced that her guest for the night was none other than the Nairobi City boss, an estimated five million Kenyans tuned into the broadcast on TV and other online channels.
Thanks to Interior CS Fred Matiang’I for giving Kenyans a complete sober Sunday due to the ongoing national population and housing census.
Given that the last TV debate the governor had ended prematurely, with him complaining that the host never gave him sufficient time to submit and substantiate his responses, the expectations were high, and, true to his nature, he did not disappoint his audience.
Remained calm and composed
Despite several attempts to push him to the edge to tick him off on Punchline, Sonko remained extraordinarily calm and composed throughout the show, maintaining an amiable demeanour, while providing apt and concise responses backed by facts.
His in-depth grasp of the goings-on at City Hall, and the achievements of his administration in just twenty-four months, shocked and awed many Kenyans in equal measure, given that he did not show up with large volumes of paperwork as has been his characteristic before.
Slowly but surely, Governor Sonko continues to confound his friends and foes, as he asserts himself as a hands-on administrator, who is not only thorough in whatever he does but also allergic to lethargy and corruption, and never afraid to confront and dismantle the cartels that have held the city hostage in the last few decades.
Given the trajectory of his illustrious political career, compounded with unprecedented performance under difficult circumstances and a fanatical national following, could the Nairobi Governor be eyeing something bigger in 2022? Only time will tell what Sonko will be or become after the next three years.
Mr Ben Mulwa is a governance consultant.