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Sonko: Kenya’s flamboyant politician



MAN OF THE PEOPLE. The youthful politician could be mistaken for a rapper because of his dress sense that is characterised by several gold chains and earrings. This has won him many youthful voters. He is also rich and has no qualms dishing out cash, writes Samwel Born Maina.

He is Kenya’s most comical and craziest politician. The flashy 38-year-old Nairobi County Senator Mike Mbuvi famously known as Sonko has endeared himself to the youth with the manner of his dressing, speech and lifestyle. When in public glare, he has mustered the art of synching himself with the masses and has occasionally won their hearts. Seldom does he get booed even when addressing an agitated crowd. He speaks ‘sheng’ a local dialect famous among the youth.

Rich boy
He is a wealthy politician who made KSh5m (about Shs148m) while in high school. He rose to fame in 2010 during the Makadara Constituency in the Nairobi by-election when he floored veteran politician Reuben Ndolo to become the constutiency’s Member of Parliament. Three years later, his gimmicks have made him Nairobi’s first Senator after he defeated another veteran politician Evangelist Margaret Wanjiru in the March general elections.
He ventured into his father’s businesses after joining secondary school at Kwale High School after completing his primary school at Kikowani in Mombasa.

Sonko’s father was a broker and developer who used to sell beach plots in Mombasa to rich European buyers. Back then, his father could buy plots cheaply before selling them at double the price to the buyers. So he made a fortune, while working for his father when he was in Form Four in Kwale High in 1991.

Despite qualifying to go to university, he decided business was his calling. Instead, he took a course in Business Administration and Management at Excel International School in Mwanza and Pwani Business College.
Sonko came to Nairobi in 1994 where he started a matatu business. He bought eight of them that plied the Kibera route.
His matatu business empire continued to expand. He bought more matatus for different Nairobi estates. He was also into real estate. He used to buy and sell plots and residential houses. In 1997, he bought more buses that plied the Buruburu estate. That was the beginning of his fame. He later bought two buses, including a rare double-decker, for a tours and travel business.

The politician
He became an advocate of the youth in Eastlands. He could regularly help the youth when in trouble with the police. He also led the campaign of arresting a senior traffic police officer due to harassment and alleged extortion. Because of his advocacy in the matatu industry, Ssonko became the chairman of the Eastlands Matatu Association.
He gained popularity in 2007 after going to court when Eastlands matatus were denied access to the central business district. The government then decreed that the matatus stop at the Muthurwa market and bus terminus.

After becoming an MP, he became the talk of town occasionally due to the stunts he pulled in the public limelight, in the full glare of cameras. While an MP, Sonko pricked his colleagues anger after he came to parliament wearing sunglasses and diamond ear studs. The outraged members decided he had offended the dignity of the house and kicked him out. The speaker angered by his code of dressing said, “Never in the history of this house have I seen a situation in which a member of Parliament, who is a male, come in with earrings or some stuff in the ears. The manner in which he is dressed today does not depict, in the eyes and the opinion and the conscience of the chair, the dignity of this house and that of an honourable member.”
Last year, Sonko allegedly slapped Kenya’s Attorney General Githu Muigai during the debate on gratuity for members of parliament.

Sonko is known to offer instant solution to problems that youth face. His public life is never short of drama. As the Makadara MP, Sonko led his supporters to demolish walls on grabbed property. The moneyed MP led a group of youth to demonstrate over demolition of stalls in South C, Nairobi. In what cartoonists and comedians had as a field day, Sonko threw punches at steel doors, throwing himself recklessly on moving vehicles and  scaling gates into Jogoo House as they tried to get access to Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi.

His actions were thought to be motivated by alcohol or bhang. His bodyguard had a hard time trying to save Sonko from hurting himself. His attempts were however futile.
Sonko is also on record abusing the previous government. He once shouted; “Serikali ni kichwa maji,” (loosely translated to mean, the government is stupid).

That was not all, Sonko has also been in the news, using steel-cutters to unclamp his vehicle after Nairobi City Council askaris had clamped it for illegal parking.
Sonko also caught the public eye last month during the Groove Awards that took place at the KICC when he awarded gospel artiste Christine Atieno with KSh100,000 (close to Shs3m). Her song, WaSonko, became the song of the year and impressed with her performance, Sonko walked to the stage and handed her a bundle of cash.
His philanthropy has also been felt in the football scenes. Sonko awarded the national football team with KSh1m (about Shs30m) after it held Nigeria to a 1-1 draw at in the latter’s home turf.

As usual, he did not award a cheque, he took the money to the players in cash.
Sonko also awarded Ksh100,000 (about Shs3m) for Francis Kahata’s sublime free kick that gave Kenya the draw.  In the return leg match that was played in Nairobi, Sonko purchased 1500 tickets for fans to come and cheer their national team.
He recently revealed that he had enrolled as a student at Kenya Methodist University where he is a first year undertaking Business Administration.

He told a local television show that his decision to return to school was inspired by Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto after he graduated with a science Masters degree in Plant Ecology from the University of Nairobi last year.
He said he expects to be equipped with more skills that will enable him to serve the people of Nairobi in an effective manner. He attends evening classes.


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