Sonko: The good, bad and ugly

By Killiad Msafiri | Thursday, Feb 27th 2020 at 12:07
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Gideon Mbuvi is a man of mixed fortunes who has managed to attract love and hate to himself in almost equal proportions.

The Nairobi Governor who today turns 45 leads a flashy lifestyle, has never been short of controversy and is often ruthless to critics on social media platforms. His show of opulence is bare for all to see, his was a story of grass to grace.

His boat now seems to have been hit by heavy political tides, it tosses and turns, wandering far away from the City Hall shores. Its return is unknown.

The good

Yet Mike Sonko, as he is commonly known, has always found a way to endear himself to the hoi polloi through his actions of compassion and philanthropy. What would have otherwise been a normal Monday for top managers of Pumwani Hospital turned out to be an actual blue Monday.

One September 2018, the governor made an impromptu visit to the facility, arriving on a boda boda ride. What does Sonko do when he discovers 12 infant corpses stacked in a plastic bag? He suspends the top managers and entire board.

“Conducting impromptu visit at Pumwani Hospital, where it’s alleged by members of the public that the management shut down the machines at the Maternity Wing leading to loss of lives of young ones,” he said in a Facebook post. Earning plaudits from social media, mission accomplished!

Earlier in April, Governor Sonko had initiated the Nairobi River regeneration program to “enable the Nairobi City County Government perform its mandate of ensuring clean waterways as well as conserving the riparian environment,” part of his statement read.

Among the activities involved included removal of waste from the river, collecting litter and clearing overgrown vegetation on riparian area. Though not the initial intention of the program, four bodies were retrieved from different locations of the river barely a month after it begun.

More of his compassionate side was seen when the Sonko rescue team led the search and rescue of veteran boxer Conjestina Achieng. After a video showing the sorry state of the boxing champion went viral, the governor dispatched his team to Siaya and airlifted her to Nairobi where she was welcomed by NACADA officials.

“We shall buy her new clothes and take her to rehabilitation centre for care because she needs urgent medical attention,” said Sonko. 

The bad

As the most powerful man at the county headquarters, Sonko’s struggles at City Hall have done little to inspire confidence in his leadership. First came the divorce with his deputy Polycarp Igathe.

“I regret having failed to earn the trust of the governor to enable me drive administration and management of the county,” Igathe said in a short statement sent to newsrooms. The governor’s tenure has been marked with numerous cabinet reshuffles, sackings and sometimes resignations.

In January 7 last year, Janet Ouko submitted her resignation as the county’s Education CEC but the governor was not to take it kindly. He accused her of embezzling funds accumulating to the sum of Sh357 million.

"Mike Sonko should be mature enough to let employees who wish to resign leave in peace instead of concocting fake corruption claims. The problem is we are dealing with a person who has low self-esteem and will try everything to bring you down," she said in an interview on KTN News.

The county executive went on to file a defamation suit against the governor.

Fast forward to his dramatic arrest near Voi town where he was allegedly trying to escape the long arm of the law. In an amateur video, the governor appears to be in a scuffle with police officers and at one point let out a squeal.

A month earlier in November, Sonko was caught on camera slapping Standard Group photographer Collins Kweyu at the entrance of the Integrity Centre where he was expected for grilling on graft charges.

The ugly

During Madaraka Day celebrations in Nairobi, Mike Sonko again hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, this time attracting public criticism following his spat with Nairobi MP Esther Passaris.

The legislator said that she had been trying to reach the governor but to no avail. She claimed he was dodging her calls. But Sonko bashed Passaris for making ‘numerous calls’ to him.

"I will pick your calls when I am free,” he said. “I am not your husband that I should answer to your calls anytime you want. Let us respect one another." But Sonko did not end there, he went on to reveal details of their private conversations on live television much to the embarrassment of the Woman Representative.

Which suggests he is man not to be trusted with secrets. One time he dressed down his friend, and former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu. He accused ‘Baba Yao’ of using marijuana when they were legislators in the 11th Parliament.

“We used to go to a certain toilet there, we used to smoke a lot of bhang with that guy. In fact, he used to hide bhang in the socks," he said in an interview on Citizen TV.

But the public was not ready when he stood to speak at the funeral of former Kibra MP Ken Okoth. Shocking mourners, he spilled the beans on a relationship the MP had with one of his rescue team staff.

“Ken fell in love with a nurse called Anne from the Sonko rescue team.” He said. “In 2017, he asked me to help him nominate his second wife to the County Assembly and out of respect for him, I nominated Anne Thumbi,” said Mr Sonko.

He asked the Okoth family to embrace Anne and her child who was sired by the late politician adding that Ken was in constant communication with his ‘second family.’

Love him or hate him, Mike Sonko is a man hard to ignore.

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