Sonko’s love-hate relationship with county assembly led to impeachment

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s impeachment trial at the Senate has exposed his love-hate relationship with the County Assembly.

Sonko took over the governorship in 2017, but even before his new administration could take root, he was already at war with the assembly.

Trouble began in 2018 following the premature resignation of former Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe barely four months into office.

Igathe claimed that he had failed to earn the trust of the governor to enable him to discharge his duties.

“I regret I have failed to earn the trust of the governor to enable me to drive the admin and management of the county. Without fear, favour or ill will, I step down to avoid abusing or betraying my oath of office to Kenyans, Nairobians and my family,” he tweeted. 

Sonko has served without a deputy governor for more than two years in a tenure punctuated by the unilateral sacking of staff, consequently opening a battlefront with the assembly.

He, however, fell out of favour with the MCAs after he failed to heed to pleas to appoint a deputy to assist him in running the county.

Following a Supreme Court advisory opinion of 2018, Sonko nominated lawyer Miguna Miguna as his deputy and forwarded the name to the assembly for vetting.

But former Speaker Beatrice Elachi vetoed the name, arguing that the nominee was not a Jubilee Party member.

The governor would later dangle a list featuring an all-female cast of Karen Nyamu, Margaret Wanjiru, Jane Weru and Agnes Kagure.

Barred from office

Although he never appointed any of the candidates, his actions were well received by the MCAs, with some even calling for inclusion into the nomination list.

He would later nominate chief officer Anne Kananu Mwenda to deputise him, but this was stopped by the courts following orders barring him from conducting official county business while under trial for corruption-related charges.

Sonko’s woes were compounded in December 2019 after ODM allied MCAs launched his first ouster bid. 

The impeachment motion was tabled in the assembly in February by Minority Chief Whip Peter Imwatok, who listed 16 grounds for removal of the governor.

These included abuse of office, inability to constitute a working cabinet with almost all executives working in an acting capacity, the skewed award of contracts to road developers in estates and irregular procurement of services.

The Minority Chief Whip also cited irregular award of a Sh1.5 billion tender for construction of stadia, including Dandora Stadium.

The governor would between December 2019 and February this year employ tactics in a bid to scuttle his impeachment, among them a planned trip to Dubai for 18 MCAs. This, The Standard has since learnt, was aimed at denying the assembly quorum to debate the ouster motion. The trip, however, did not take place.

A day prior to the tabling of his ouster motion in February, Sonko hosted 53 MCAs for “lunch” at his Upper Hill office in Nairobi.

This was part of efforts to frustrate his planned impeachment following reports that some 89 MCAs had signed a petition to oust him. The tabling of the motion was pushed to the next day.

Sonko’s saving grace was President Uhuru Kenyatta’s intervention. The president implored the MCAs to drop the ouster bid and focus on service delivery. All the 122 MCAs were later summoned to State House where they were talked out of proceeding with the ouster.

The governor also rushed to court and obtained orders barring debate of the ouster motion until the case was heard and determined.

The truce between Sonko and the MCAs however paved way for the formation of the Mohamed Badi-led Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), which took over running of four county operations - health, transport, public works and planning.

In July, Sonko was yet again embroiled in a supremacy battle over the running of the county, this time with Elachi.

The former Speaker, who was facing an impeachment motion, blamed the governor for her woes after MCAs from across the political divide announced that they had already collected 51 signatures in support of her ouster.

The MCAs accused Elachi of abuse of office, illegal appointment of new assembly clerk, corruption, poor leadership, victimisation of MCAs and assembly staff, disregard for the law and county orders, and militarisation of the assembly. Elachi linked the impeachment bid to her support for the NMS, which the governor had opposed. Prior to their wrangles, Sonko had called for the termination of the deed of transfer that saw the county cede the four functions to NMS.

The wrangles escalated with pro-Sonko and pro-Elachi MCAs clashing in the assembly precincts on numerous occasions.

Nairobi County Assembly MCAs in jovial moods inside Assembly after impeaching the Nairobi Governor MiKe Sonko by over 88 votes. [Samson Wire, Standard].

Sonko later refuted claims by Elachi that he had a hand in her ouster motion, saying he had no control over what goes on in the assembly.

But in yet another move, the governor and his allies in the assembly would in July hold a meeting with top Jubilee leaders that ultimately sealed Elachi’s fate. They converged for a two-hour meeting to address the leadership crisis at City Hall and help forge a good working relationship with the NMS to ensure better service delivery.

The fighting between Sonko and Elachi, which had divided the House, and a way forward to ensure that the NMS carries out its mandate with the help of the MCAs featured at the talks.

This led to the surprise resignation of the former Speaker on August 11. Elachi announced her exit citing a charged, poor working environment characterised by chaos, threats and constant fighting. She blamed Sonko for the woes bedevilling the county.

The governor would yet again emerge victoriously, but this, too, was short-lived.

On November 26, Minority Leader Michael Ogada tabled a notice of motion for Sonko’s ouster.

Ogada listed four grounds for the governor’s removal. These were gross violation of the law; committing a crime under national and international laws, and lacking the capability to run the county. He also faulted Sonko for crippling operations of NMS and the county executive by failure to assent to a Sh37.4 billion budget and the subsequent refusal to release funds for county operations.

The motion was approved by 86 out of 122 MCAs. This surpassed the required one third (42 members) threshold by law.

The assembly’s resolve to impeach the governor was further seen after a total 88 out of the 110 eligible MCAs voted to oust Sonko. Only two voted against the Motion during debate on December 3.

This was despite Sonko ferrying MCAs to the Coast to deny the assembly quorum.

Sonko’s fate now lies with the Senate where he is undergoing impeachment trial.