By Magesha Ngwiri- Consultant Editor
As widely expected, at around 11.25 pm on Thursday night, Mike Mbuvi Sonko ceased being the governor of Nairobi County. To a significant majority in the National Government, and many citizens who dwell in Nairobi, this came as a welcome relief.
His eccentricities have for long been an embarrassment, and even his erstwhile admirers couldn’t wait to get rid of him, for he never comported himself with the gravitas necessary for such an important office. Nor did he ever grow into the job despite the goodwill that saw him win the highest number of votes for any governor in the country during the 2017 elections.
Still, Mr Sonko retains a huge core of ardent supporters among the denizenry, for the man has certain attributes that have for long made him extremely popular among them, the biggest ones being his generosity to the very poor, especially at individual and communal levels.
However, he was done in by two major flaws –his narcissism and unaccountable hubris, as well as his misunderstanding of the consequences of heedlessly stepping on live wire.
It is, thus, obvious that as a politician Mr Sonko fell far short of expectations in terms of self-preservation. Most certainly, as an administrator, he was a total disaster. He never did comprehend his limitations as a governor and kept on taking one misstep after another, in the process treading on too many toes.
In many ways, Mr Sonko was always his own worst enemy throughout his tenure. Indeed, nobody else of his status has ever been given as many chances to redeem himself. A year ago this month, Mr Sonko was arrested dramatically while allegedly trying to flee the city, and remanded at Kamiti for, among other things, money laundering and unlawful acquisition of public assets.
In February this year, he was on the brink of impeachment on the same charges as this week’s: gross violation of the Constitution, abuse of office, and commission of crimes under the national laws.
But he was saved by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who prevailed upon the county assembly to spare him, which, in retrospect, was an honest mistake made to forestall an early election.
This is the same President that Mr Sonko would later derisively describe as “Nairobi County’s super governor”. He had also taken to describing Maj-Gen Mohammed Badi — the mild-mannered man who is actually running the city — as Saddam Hussein, on account of the military officer’s generous moustache.
A wiser man would have known when to stop, contented himself with enjoying the trappings of office without any of the headaches of responsibility associated with the job, and waited for another run in 2022.
But not Mr Sonko. He could not stand a situation where he did not control all the revenues generated in the city and the allocations by the Treasury to the county. Looking at the matter dispassionately, the refusal to allow the Nairobi Metropolitan Services funds to do its job was most likely the final straw.
He dramatically rejected the 2020-21 budget approved by the county assembly (Sh37.5 billion) because it allocated the NMS the lion’s share. Is it any wonder that someone decided Mr Sonko had to go, come what may?
When he signed away four important responsibilities to the national government, he was already in a tight corner due to the court indictment and the looming impeachment — he didn’t do it because someone at State House made him drunk. This is the moment he should have insisted on a quid pro quo – that he appends his signature in return for total amnesty on the corruption charges still dangling over his head. That he didn’t do so says a lot about his mental acumen.
If you cannot do the job for which you were elected and instead confuse bling-clad juvenile stunts and vulgar language with sagacious leadership, you are not likely to go very far.
Second, if you speak from both sides of the mouth, professing to be waging war on corrupt cartels while at the same time carrying on in the same vein yourself, then karma is bound to get involved.
Flying your daughter halfway across the world on a junket at the rate-payers’ expense and fighting corruption are hardly compatible.
Mr Sonko may or may not be guilty of all the charges levelled against him, but he is certainly guilty of tunnel vision that made it difficult for him to see that the kind of baggage he brought into the office of governor was bound to weigh him down sooner or later. It would be interesting to know just how many votes he would get were elections to be held today.
When they elected him senator and then governor, Nairobi voters had high hopes that the “man of the people” would deliver. Three years down the line, he hasn’t.