Mike Sonko was impeached as the Nairobi County Governor on December 18, 2020. Whereas reasons given for his impeachment was corruption and abuse of his powers as the Nairobi governor, one will be forgiven to think those are actually genuine reasons for Mr. Sonko’s impeachment.
If they were, then nearly 95% of the 47 county governors in Kenya would have already been removed from office by now because they also have engaged in corruption as well. One good example is the infamous Migori County Governor Okoth Obado.
Mr. Obado was arrested in Kisii County early in October this year and promptly transported to Nairobi to face the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC). In tow, were his two grown daughters who also faced similar charges.
Sound familiar? Of course we know that one of the pressing issues in Mike Sonko’s impeachment is that he used Nairobi County funds to sponsor his own daughter, Saumu Sonko for a vacation trip to the United States. It was alleged that on the said trip, Mr. Sonko spent upwards of Ksh. 800 million or something similar to that.
On his defense, Mike Sonko said the figure was around Ksh. 400 million. Surprisingly, Sonko didn’t know that even if the figure was significantly smaller than that, let us say just Ksh 2 million, that will still get him impeached because it was a misuse of county funds.
But unlike the Migori Governor, Obado, Mike Sonko at least is not facing a murder charge on top of the corruption scandals he has engaged in. But then that begs the question: Why did Mike Sonko get removed from office while other governors facing more serious charges are still in office?
Well, there is more to that than meet the eye! One needs to consider various factors and ultimately the motives of the Members of County Assembly (MCA) and Senators. After all, these two groups of politicians are the ones that determine whether a governor’s political career is sunk or left to sail in peace.
Essentially speaking, for a governor’s impeachment to be successful, both the county MCAs and the Senators must agree that a given governor should be removed from office. Whereas the MCAs initiate the impeachment process, the Senators act as “checks and balances” for the MCAs, albeit in a way.
One needs to borrow a leaf from the twice unsuccessful attempt of the Kirinyaga County MCAs to oust Kirinyaga governor Anne Waiguru. Although MCAs unanimously voted for Ms. Waiguru’s removal, the Senators disagreed to confirm her impeachment as the motion to impeach Ms.Waiguru did not pass the majority vote at the senate.
Similarly, although an attempt by the Migori County MCAs to impeach governor Obado briefly gained steam, such efforts fizzled out as the speaker claimed that his security had been withdrawn at least twice during the planned tabling of the bill to impeach Mr. Okoth Obado. He used this excuse to adjournal the impeachment motion severally.
This begs the question: Security detail withdrawn by who? Obviously, by the national government, particularly President Uhuru Kenyatta‘s boys in the Ministry of Interior. Specifically, Mr. Fred Matiang’i or at least people that report to this cabinet minister.
Kenyan politics is well known to be based on “interests” and not necessarily about issues related to efforts to combat corruption, national development or competency or a lack thereof with regards to the sitting county governor.
By this I mean, it is plausible that some forces from above (refers to Raila Odinga and William Ruto) did not want governor Obado to be impeached and hence embarked on intimidation tactics in order to thwart the governor’s impeachment hearing.
It is also possible that the Migori County Speaker colluded with these invisible forces to hatch a plan to divert attention to the Speaker’s security so that the impeachment motion did not proceed.
Regardless of the circumstances, the bottomline is that the Migori County governor Okoth Obado was not impeached in spite of his involvement in serious corruption scandals, abuse of his powers as the county governor as well as him facing serious murder charges. Neither was Anne Waiguru who is well known to be corrupt, thanks to her involvement in the NYS Funds scandal when she was the Devolution and Planning Minister.
But Mike Sonko and former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu, were promptly impeached both at the MCA’s hearing followed by an overwhelming confirmation at the Senate. But because this article is about Mike Sonko, we will focus on the former Nairobi County governor.
Mike Sonko: Reasons for His Removal From Office
Before we embark on the reasons to as why Mike Sonko was removed from office, it is important to state that Mike Sonko’s political career was propped up by the big guys at the Jubilee Party, namely Uhuru Kenyatta. After all, Mr. Sonko used the Jubilee Party as a vehicle of choice to advance his political career, first as the Nairobi Senator in the 2013 general elections, and then as the Nairobi County Governor in the subsequent 2017 gubernatorial elections.
Ironically, the same Jubilee Party also fielded the now impeached former Kiambu County governor, Ferdinand Waititu as well as the embattled Kirinyaga County governor, Anne Waiguru.
It is also safe to say that the Jubilee Party leadership (that is, president Uhuru Kenyatta) influenced the successful impeachment of Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu together with his Nairobi County counterpart, Mike Sonko. The very same Jubilee Party leadership also shielded the fall of Kirinyaga County boss, Anne Waiguru after the county MCAs overwhelmingly voted for her ouster not only once, but twice.
The funny irony is that these County bosses are made and destroyed by the very same powers that brought them into office in the first place. Look at Ferdinand Waititu for example. The Jubilee Party gave him the nominations against the then Kiambu County governor incumbent William Kabogo.
One can be assured that should have the Jubilee Party given Mr. Kabogo the green light to contest for the Kiambu County gubernatorial elections in 2017, Mike Sonko could have been the only governor to be successfully impeached in the country’s history so far.
William Kabogo would have won his second term as the Kiambu governor and successfully served his two terms in office without much drama and antics that Mr. Waititu engaged in.
But it looks like the Jubilee Party leadership machinery was spooked by these governors’ failure to show some “appreciation” for being brought into office and hence leading to their untimely political demise.
For Mike Sonko, the Jubilee Party leader, Uhuru Kenyatta was unhappy that the then Nairobi County governor did not appreciate the head of state’s desire to influence the affairs of the most economically prolific county in the country, the Nairobi City County.
The bulk of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) comes from the Capital City hence what happens in this significantly populous county affects the country’s standing in the global stage. Hence, president Uhuru Kenyatta was impatient and unwilling to sit aside and let Mike Sonko impoverize the country’s important jurisdiction as far as Kenya’s development is concerned.
There is no question that Mike Sonko was unqualified to be a governor in any county in the country to start with. But his pro-Uhuruto demeanor and close personal friendship with the son of Jomo let the Jubilee Party leadership look the other way and never question Mr. Sonko’s fitness to lead the country’s most important and most populous county, Nairobi.
This is why Mike Sonko received the nod to contest for the gubernatorial elections for Nairobi County in the 2017 elections.
Mike Sonko failed as a leader almost immediately after being sworn in as the second Nairobi governor in late 2017 when Polycarp Igathe resigned as the County Deputy governor less than a year later.In fact, Mr. Igathe resigned abruptly on January 12, 2018, citing lack of trust from his boss.
This was barely six months after both were sworn in as Nairobi County governor and Deputy governor respectively. To most political pundits, this could have been a red flag concerning the Mike Sonko administration.
Top Honchos at Jubilee Party Tried to Work Around The Problem.
President Uhuru Kenyatta actually likes Mike Sonko. This is why when the MCAs tried to impeach the governor back in February, the president did his magic and successfully thwarted the irate Nairobi County MCAs’ attempts to send Mr. Sonko packing.
The former Nairobi governor is also well known to be an ardent supporter of both the president and his deputy president, William Ruto. This was more evident when the two top politicians in the country were facing prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague, the Netherlands. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were facing trials for their roles in the deadly 2007/08 Post Election inter-tribal violence which resulted in the massacre of more than 1,000 Kenyans.
Mike Sonko even had an haircut with the “Uhuruto Not Guilty” words emblazoned on his head during the president and deputy president’s ICC case hearing at the Hague.
It is this loyalty to president Uhuru Kenyatta that saw the head of state try to avoid the former governor’s impeachment by trying to work around Sonko’s incompetence in managing the Nairobi City County affairs.
President Uhuru Kenyatta did this by circumventing Mike Sonko’s powers by creating the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) headed by Mr. Mohammed Badi. Mr. Badi was a general at the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). The NMS is tasked with managing the Nairobi City County’s most important areas so that Governor Sonko’s incompetence do not gravely affect the economic capital of the country.
Whereas Mike Sonko grudgingly accepted to surrender key powers of running the Nairobi County to Uhuru Kenyatta’s NMS, he constantly fought with general Badi. This did not sit well with the president. Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta tried to warn his political prodigy (Mike Sonko) to steer clear of interfering with the NMS’ activities.
Mike Sonko backed off briefly but felt alienated by the ever bold NMS boss’ confidence in executing major projects in Nairobi. The most prominent project involved NMS repairing more than 74 heavy equipment vehicles that Mr. Sonko had slated to be destroyed.
Mr. Badi was able to fix these key assets for a mere Ksh. 22 million in a span of only two months. It is worth noting that these vehicles cost more than Ksh 22 million each when new. Mr. Badi’s success at the helm of NMS impressed Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta greatly that he even decided to transfer the struggling Kenya Meat Commission from being a parastatal to the loyal umbrella of the KDF.
If there is anything that president Uhuru Kenyatta values more is hard-work and loyalty to him as the leader. That is why he speaks nice things about the ever loyal and intellectually competent aides such as the Interior Ministry Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and general Badi. The president finds disloyal people like Deputy President William Ruto and the now deposed Nairobi County governor Mike Sonko to be untolerable.
Whereas president Uhuru Kenyatta out of sympathy for then governor Mike Sonko tried to avoid getting him impeached by creating NMS as a compromise for Sonko’s incompetence as the Nairobi County boss, Mr. Sonko failed to read the writings on the wall. He basically did not get the hint to work collaboratively with general Badi for the benefit of the Nairobi inhabitants.
Initially, president Uhuru Kenyatta tried to shrug-off the tumultuous relationship between Sonko and Badi. This is even when Sonko went on the offensive by verbally abusing general Badi by likening him to the former Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein.
But the last straw that broke the camel’s back came when then governor Mike Sonko refused to sign-off tons of money from the Nairobi County funds to the NMS. Essentially, Mr. Sonko tried to deprive the NMS the much needed finances to carry out key projects around the capital city.
Mr Sonko had declined to sign the Sh37.5 billion county government’s budget contesting allocation of Sh27.1 billion to NMS.
And even when the Nairobi City County Appropriations Bill, 2020 was gazetted, he refused to sign warrants to authorise release of the budgeted funds. This deeply infuriated President Uhuru Kenyatta to the core. This was late in October 2020.
Enough is Enough! Your are Out…
President Uhuru Kenyatta got frustrated by governor Sonko’s refusal to append signatures to release the much needed cash for the NMS. A phone call from State House and a meeting at ODM party leader Raila Odinga’s Capitol Hill office sealed the fate of beleaguered Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, setting in motion a fresh plan to remove him from office.
“The process began on a Sunday evening following a call from State House the day before. The reason given was Sonko’s refusal to work with NMS Director-General Mohammed Badi and his constant abuse of the President,” said a Jubilee MCA who sought anonymity.
Majority Whip Paul Kados and Deputy Majority Leader Peter Wanyoike were tasked to lead signature collection on the Jubilee side while Minority Whip Peter Imwatok and his deputy Moses Ogeto were to lead the ODM wing.
The Capitol Hill meeting led to the return of Assembly Clerk Edward Gichana, who has been missing from the assembly since July, in what is billed as an all-out plan to rally support across the political divide for Mr Sonko’s ouster.
Mr. Gichana enjoys tremendous support in the ODM Wing and it is worth to note that a substantive clerk needs to be present in order for the impeachment process to be legal.
During the vote at the County Assembly, 88 MCAs voted in favor of the impeachment motion out of 122. Only 42 were needed to ratify the motion.
After being ratified, the MCAs did an actual vote and more than 88 voted for governor Sonko’s removal against a threshold of 82 needed in order to send Sonko packing.
Sonko’s impeachment was confirmed by the Senate three weeks later. In the first charge of gross violation of the constitution, 27 senators voted YES while 16 voted NO. In the second charge of abuse of office 27 voted YES while 16 voted NO. On the third charge of gross misconduct, 27 voted YES and 16 voted NO. And, in the fourth charge of crimes under national law, 27 voted YES and 16 NO.
Will Mike Sonko Make A Comeback in the February 2021 By-Election?
An overwhelming answer is NO! The top political leaders in the country President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM Party leader Raila Odinga will ensure that Sonko does not come back as the Nairobi governor. This is because both Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga would want NMS to run affairs of Nairobi City County and will not want a governor who is unable to work together with the NMS.
To prevent Sonko from launching a comeback, President Uhuru Kenyatta will inject politics in the nomination of the possible contestants for the Nairobi gubernatorial by-election. The president is the undisputed leader of the ruling Jubilee Party and therefore will most likely nominate someone else other than Sonko to vye for that particular by-election.
As the ODM Party Leader, Raila Odinga will follow Mr. Kenyatta’s desire and therefore bar Sonko from seeking refuge in the former Prime Minister’s party as well.
There are signs that Mr. Sonko is trying to warm up to deputy president William Ruto hoping that Mr. Ruto support Mr. Sonko’s comeback as the Nairobi governor. This is evident in the former governor’s change of tune with regards to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
Perhaps, Mike Sonko is encouraged by Mr. Ruto’s successful fielding of an independent candidate who contested and consequently won the recently concluded by-election at the Msambweni Constituency. Mr. Sonko knows that President Uhuru Kenyatta will thwart the former governor’s attempt to use ruling Jubilee Party as a vehicle to make a comeback as the Nairobi County boss in February 2021.
Whether deputy president William Ruto nods at Mike Sonko’s political comeback or not is yet to be seen. Time will tell.