Friday, May 04, 2018

Searching for our next Don Quixote

When Mike Sonko won the Makadara by election in 2010, he brought a style of politics to Eastlands that had never been seen before. Reuben Ndolo and Dick Wathika were cookie-cutter city politicians who had done what their predecessors had done going back to the 1960s. Mr Sonko upset their tidy little plans with his exotic motor vehicle fleet and a passionate following among the denizens of the various Mukurus that make up Makadara constituency. He had a fat campaign war chest - rumoured at around one hundred and fifty million shillings - and he wasn't afraid to deploy it in billboards, posters, flyers and a passionate - and sometimes violent - horde of unemployed youth, mostly men, who sang his praises until they were hoarse.

His tenure as the member for Makadara in the National Assembly wasn't marked with significant social developments but by his colourful personality. He thumbed his nose at political decorum in the way he spoke, behaved, and dressed. He developed an unhealthy habit of intervening in muscular ways in how Nairobi was managed by the City Council, suing it on several occasions over the management of the public transport sector or on-street parking charges. He almost always prevailed. Having established a name for himself, he took his show to the rest of the City and in 2013, he was elected as Nairobi's senator. Political seniority did not seem to temper his personality or his behaviour. In one notorious episode, he demonstrated just how far he had gotten by calling the President on the phone in the full glare of the media to ask him to intervene over a property dispute between a public institution - the Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute - and a private real estate developer. The real estate developer got a presidential stay of execution as a result of Mr Sonko's intervention.

Mr Sonko parlayed his notoriety into the governorship of Nairobi. As predicted, it has been a total disaster. It is now as plain as the nose on your face that Mr Sonko is utterly unsuited to the office of a governor of a somewhat thriving city. He has proven woefully incapable of managing the public transport sector - the very same one he had fought valiantly for merely a decade ago. He can't seem to manage a solid waste management system as shown by the ever-growing mountains of garbage in all of Nairobi's residential zones. The roads under his jurisdiction are potholed obstacle courses that remain dangerously unmarked with missing road signs or road furniture. That he he has found scapegoats for his ineptitude should surprise no one. First it was his deputy and now it is former Nairobi Central Business District Association nawabs who have become enemies of his regime.

What Mr Sonko's ardent defenders did to Mr Muriuki is unconscionable. Mr Sonko's silence over the violent abrogation of Mr Muriuki's rights speaks louder than words. The men who accosted and assaulted Mr Muriuki - over his desire to give a press conference in favour of Mr Sonko's regime - more or less received the endorsement of Mr Sonko when he failed to denounce their violent acts in his name. Mr Sonko is, for better or for worse, Nairobi City County's eternal shame. And just as we turfed out Evans Kidero from city leadership, Mr Sonko's Ides of March will soon enough be upon him and in typical Nairobi fashion, we shall heave a sigh of relief and find another Don Quixote to take on the nigh on impossible task of salvaging the reputation of the Green City in the Sun.

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