From the outset, Mike Mbuvi Sonko presented the image of a rebel; organising demos, prostrating himself on the ground, punching walls and, while serving as the MP for Makadara, ignoring parliament’s dress code. That is how he built the poor brand he now must shed to command respect in his new capacity as the Nairobi County Governor.
Sonko has taken a lot of flak lately, as Nairobi increasingly becomes the city in filth, potholes, crime and systems that generally do not deliver. And while borrowing a leaf from retired President Mwai Kibaki’s leadership style of ‘hear no evil, speak no evil’ would have disarmed his detractors, Sonko is not versed in the art of silence to silence critics. He is the type that feels inclined to raucously bandy words with critics, thus laying himself open to more vicious attacks. He might think he has the constitution to withstand the body blows that will surely come his way, but he could be wrong. When it suits those that call the shots, no law will protect Sonko.
However much Sonko exposes his inadequacies, it is becoming increasingly clear that the governor is being set up to spectacularly fail by the very people who propped him up for the city’s governorship. Perhaps they had banked on their imagined ability to manipulate Sonko, but found him quite a handful. To residents, what stagnates progress in Nairobi are the notorious cartels, the likes of the ‘Sky team’ that was once reputed to operate within the innermost sanctum of power a few years back.
One need not look past the paralysis in Government in regard to public transport to appreciate the muscle of the cartels. About a month ago, the Government introduced the National Youth Service bus transport on some routes to ease congestion, and they came a dime cheaper. Matatu owners vehemently objected, and the buses vamoosed.
How often has the Government contemplated the Bus Rapid Transport but backtracked soon after, yet the same works with ease in countries like Tanzania and Rwanda? Sonko’s tribulations could well have begun when he attempted to employ the Sonko rescue team to remove garbage from the city and after voicing desire to drive matatus out of the city centre. He soon discovered he was stepping on very tender toes. Sonko may genuinely have the desire to make a difference, but the backing crucial to such an undertaking has been denied him by individuals within the party that sponsored him to office. Recognising this and the attendant frustration could have compelled him to pick belligerent Miguma Miguna for his deputy; a man who could throw punches without flinching. Whether he believed it would work or not, there is symbolism in Sonko’s choice of Miguna as his deputy. And having specifically mentioned it was to assist him fight cartels - powerful enough to scare the brazen Sonko- we get a fairly accurate picture of who the cartels are, at what level they operate and why they continue to raid public coffers with impunity.
Further, having watched a televised debate featuring the Jubilee Party vice chairman David Murathe, it is easy to accord Sonko the benefit of doubt. As former Justice Minister Martha Karua once said of her predicament; Sonko is a man given a hoe to dig, yet his hands are securely tied behind him. While listening to Murathe’s pronouncements on Sonko, one got the impression that the latter is being fought by individuals high up in the Jubilee power hierarchy. Apparently, there is the probability that grounds are being laid to kick Sonko out of office for someone more compliant.
There is a thin line between forthrightness and insolence. With all the epithets and negativity Murathe heaped on Sonko, to have averred in the same breath that Sonko was his friend was to insult the intelligence of Kenyans. Murathe only refrained from prefacing his caustic sentiments using the standard line to rudeness; with all due respect.
Nonetheless, Murathe’s arguments encapsulated the reasons Sonko finds it difficult to get Nairobi running. Those arguments explained the doublespeak and selfishness inherent in our politicians. A principled person with a clear conscience would not vote for an incompetent individual he is vehemently opposed to, then proceed to shamelessly decry those inadequacies a few months down the line.
If Sonko is a failure, those who profess to have voted for him are guilty of deliberately and selfishly letting Nairobi down. They should not pretend righteousness. Given the chance, the ‘righteous’ now castigating Sonko could turn out worse. Philosopher Friedrich Engels summed it thus: “We find two great gangs of political speculators, who alternately take possession of the state power and exploit it by the most corrupt ends -- the nation is powerless against these two great cartels of politicians who are ostensibly its servants, but in reality dominate and plunder it”.
Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]