Inside Politics

Sonko entry into Mombasa race ruffles feathers

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022 05:17 | By
Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko addresses the press in the past. PD/file

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has joined the race to succeed Hassan Ali Joho in Mombasa. He intends to run on a Wiper Party ticket.

Sonko was in December 2020 impeached as the governor of Nairobi for gross misconduct and violation of the Constitution, ending his term after only three years in office.

Wiper Secretary General Shakila Abdalla said Sonko has the right to vie for a political position of his choice in any part of the country.

The development is likely to turn the already hotly contested Mombasa governorship into a three-horse race pitting Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, businessman Suleiman Shahbal and Sonko, the new entrant.

On whether the move will disrupt Wiper’s equation in Mombasa where Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo of Wiper is also in the race, Abdalla said the party had embarked on the process of engaging members, with the view of having either Sonko or Mbogo withdraw in favour of the other.

“As a party, we have our ways of sitting our members down. Right now we are in the negotiated democracy drive… If there is a way we can convince one of them to step down in favour of the other it will be better. But if negotiated democracy fails to succeed, then our next option will be nominations,” she said.

Last week Mbogo said the Wiper party was not ready to drop its ambition to field candidates in Mombasa even after the party signed a political pact with the Azimio la Umoja coalition.

“There is no agreement so far as Azimio to field one candidate, for us, we have paid all the fees required to participate in the race and we are ready for the task,” Mbogo stated.

Born Gideon Mike in Mombasa to the family of Gideon Kioko Kivanguli on February 27, 1975, Mbuvi, formally adopted the nickname “Sonko”, a Kiswahili slang for a rich and flamboyant person, in 2012.

The 47-year-old politician has a wide range of private investments in the Port County including Club Volume, his latest multi-million investment which sits on an acre of land in the Shanzu area where he has lately been spending most of his time.

Sonko is not a new figure in Mombasa and the neighbouring Counties of Kilifi and Kwale where he owns homes and properties.

This, coupled with his populist politics, the candidature of the former Nairobi governor is likely to send jitters and ruffle the feathers of the front runners.

Prison break

His early life revolved around Coast before he shifted to Nairobi. He schooled in Kwale Seminary and on March 12, 1998, he was convicted and sentenced to a six-month jail term or an Sh200,000 fine.

In another case, he was ordered to pay an Sh500,000 fine or serve six months in prison for failing to appear in court.

Mbuvi could not raise the fines and be committed to Shimo la Tewa Prison to serve both sentences, which totalled 12 months. But he served for only one month before he escaped on April 16, 1998.

According to past reports, Sonko feigned sickness while in prison upon which he was admitted to hospital. Sonko has in the past admitted to fleeing prison to bury his mother.

But the flashy governor’s leadership record in his previous capacity as Nairobi senator, and as Makadara MP before that, was torn to shreds on December 17, 2020, following his impeachment by the Senate over gross violation of the Constitution, abuse of office, misconduct and crimes against the national law.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly in favour of the four charges where the Ayes outnumbered the nays with 27 Senators supporting the charges against 16 who voted No.

Power transfer

But before the impeachment, his reign had seen the Capital plunge into a leadership crisis, after the Governor, who is facing graft charges, was barred by a court from accessing his office. At the time, he didn’t have a deputy following the resignation of Polycarp Igathe in early 2018.

Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti had ordered Sonko, who is facing an Sh380-million graft case, to stay away from the office, effectively triggering a leadership crisis at City Hall, considering that without a deputy, there would be no one to act as governor for the time he would be on trial.

It was at this point that high-level talks were convened to resolve the leadership crisis and it was decided that Article 187 of the Constitution, which provides that a function or power of government at one level may be transferred to a higher level of government, was evoked.

Sonko then signed away the City’s devolved functions to the national government, heralding his loss of grip on his chaotic reign at City Hall.

President Uhuru Kenyatta had earlier formed the Nairobi Metropolitan Services headed by the army general Mohammed Badi to oversee various development agendas of the city, a move that saw the former governor fall out with the President.

But while the former City governor’s quest to make a return to governorship, this time in the Port City of Mombasa could be derailed by his active graft charges, Abdalla said a court case should not be a reason to bar his candidature.

“In this country, there are many people with court cases and they are still innocent until proven guilty. Even the President and his Deputy we elected in 2013 and 2017, had cases in ICC but we elected them and they ruled for 10 years. It is true Sonko has court cases but he is still innocent until proven guilty,” explained Abdalla in a telephone interview with People Daily.

While Mombasa is a perceived ODM stronghold and going by the Azimio la Umoja –One Kenya coalition’s plan to zone some areas, the emergence of Sonko in the equation is likely to pose a fresh headache for the coalition in the Mombasa governor race.

But according to the Wiper SG, democracy requires the participation of all and it would be unfair to lock out anyone interested to participate in a political contest on grounds of zoning.

Azimio zoning

“If Mombasa is an ODM zone yet they are going for nominations then who are we not to? In politics, you cannot lock leaders out. It will be unfair to democracy and anyone has a right to participate. What is important is the agreement. It is true our party leader Kalonzo Musyoka said there will be zoning. But as you saw, some people said they were against the idea of zoning,” she said.

 This is not the first time Sonko has been linked to the Mombasa governorship.

Reports linking the flamboyant politician with Mombasa politics first surfaced in the run-up to the 2017 General Election when Joho was in frosty relations with President Kenyatta.

Pundits argued that the presence of Sonko in the Mombasa governor race would be seen as a punishment to Joho.

It remains to be seen how Sonko’s effort to reincarnate his political career will progress as he seeks to capitalise on the Kamba vote in Mombasa County. There is a significant number of Kamba voters in Changamwe, Likoni, Kisauni and Nyali.

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