Mike Sonko’s arrival in national politics was unlike anything the country had ever seen before.
When he won the Makadara parliamentary seat in a by-election in 2010 on a Narc-Kenya ticket, he beat out experienced politicians such as Orange Democratic Movement’s Reuben Ndolo and former Mayor Dick Wathika who ran on a Party of National Unity (PNU) ticket.
At the time, Sonko was a flashy 35-year old businessman and matatu operator. His bling-heavy personal style, use of Sheng’ and, most importantly, generosity in splashing cash endeared him to the youth.
Sonko, they called him, Sheng’ for a rich person. Within seven years, he went from MP to Senator to Governor of East and Central Africa’s economic hub.
While politicians in the country had long built followings based on tribal arithmetic, Sonko did it differently. He cultivated a following that cut across ethnic differences, with his followers perceiving him as a welcome saviour of the down-trodden.
After being elected to the Senate in 2013, the former Eastlands Matatu Association chairman formed an NGO – the Sonko Rescue Team (SRT).
As Sonko waged war with then Governor Evans Kidero on the political front, SRT offered free public services in low income areas.
SRT collected garbage, distributed clean water, undertook clean up exercises, met the costs of burials and created casual jobs for numerous youth.
Come the 2017 General Election, Sonko was the biggest threat to Kidero’s incumbency in Nairobi.
Indeed, when the results came in, Sonko had received a total number of votes only lower than presidential candidates Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga’s tallies. He took over as the county’s second governor.
His gubernatorial win, however, marked the beginning of the end of his rise as things began unravelling.
Barely four months after the election, Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe resigned citing an untenable working relationship between him and Sonko.
The Governor’s abrasive style saw him attract enemies from inside and outside his administration. To this day, Sonko maintains that his actions were meant to fight entrenched cartels that have perpetuated graft and mismanagement in the county for decades.
He clashed with everyone from businessmen to politicians, fights that often spilled over into the public domain.
In addition, he fired, hired and shuffled County Executive Committee (CEC) members and Chief Officers at will, creating confusion on service delivery and triggering legal battles launched by disgruntled ex-employees.
Since 2017, the general public has been treated to numerous secret recordings of phone calls involving Sonko as part of the drama at City Hall.
In December 2019, he was arrested and charged with corruption. According to prosecutors, he embezzled over Ksh300 million in county funds.
With pressure mounting on Sonko over the state of affairs in the city, he signed a deed of transfer handing over several key county functions to the national government in February 2020.
President Uhuru Kenyatta put Major General Mohammed Badi in charge of the transferred functions under the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS).
Soon after signing the deal, however, Sonko opened a new battlefront with Badi. He claimed that he was coerced into signing the agreement and was under the influence when he did.
He blocked budgetary allocations, and accused NMS of taking over mandates that were not transferred.
His fight with Badi rubbed key political figures including President Uhuru Kenyatta the wrong way.
Eventually, it became a matter of when, not if, Sonko would exit the scene as several MCAs vowed to bring motions of impeachment against him.
When the Senate voted to impeach Sonko on Thursday, December 17, it was the biggest blow yet in his political career. Reports indicate that Sonko is likely to put up a legal challenge.
Should he exhaust legal avenues, however, Nairobi will have to go to a by-election after sixty days of the Speaker of the County Assembly takes over in an acting capacity.