President Uhuru Kenyatta and Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka watch as Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa and Governor Mike Sonko sign agreement transferring key Nairobi county functions to the state on February 26, 2020.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka watch as Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa and Governor Mike Sonko sign agreement transferring key Nairobi county functions to the state on February 26, 2020.
Image: PSCU

Once upon a time, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko swore he would “take a bullet” for President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Presumably, today he wouldn’t.

Today Sonko, no stranger to online brawling, is spewing especially nasty vitriol at the President. He even has likened Nairobi’s new boss Mohammed Badi to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

His scathing attacks on the President have exposed the high-stakes battle to control the capital city.

Sonko has been relegated to the periphery in managing the county following his prosecution on garbage-collection graft charges, which he denies.

The governor’s surrender of four key county functions — health services, urban planning, transport and public works — to the national government under the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) has made him a lame duck.

With diminished power and influence, the unhappy governor sees Uhuru’s administration — and Uhuru himself — as the architect of his loss of power and budget.

In a string of social media posts, Sonko has poured out his anger. He termed the President a “Super Nairobi Governor and a dictator who does not believe in the Constitution”.

On Sunday, Sonko ridiculed Uhuru and NMS boss Badi for the filth in the capital, which was there when Sonko took over. What happened to the vaunted clean-up?

“Nairobi Super Governor, who is also the President of the Republic of Kenya and Commander in Chief of Defence Forces, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and Saddam Hussein [are] really overworking in Pipeline, Embakasi South constituency. Keep it up for the good job,” he posted on Facebook.

This was the first time Sonko hit out directly at Uhuru himself after months of denouncing the President’s handlers.

The brazen fusillade has exposed the boardroom battles marring the management of the city since Sonko was cornered to surrender key functions, and their revenue, to the NMS. Otherwise, he would have been impeached.

Sonko’s warpath has exposed some of the highly guarded secrets of the political intrigues that could have shaped the 2017 election.

For instance, Sonko has detailed how the state machinery could have orchestrated a plot to assassinate ODM leader Raila Odinga on his return from the US in 2017.

“Now the system wants to shift the blame to me while they know well they tried to assassinate Raila when they instructed the police officers to shoot him in his car at close range aiming at his head at the junction of Ngong Road and Uhuru Park…” Sonko posted.

The governor has provided no evidence, nor has the Executive deemed the accusations worthy of reply.

Uhuru has been speaking glowingly of NMS boss Badi and even asked Nairobians to support the general’s “amazing work” in the city.

For the first time, Sonko has distanced himself from an incident in which crooks poured raw sewage in Jacaranda Grounds to block Raila’s Nasa from holding a rally on November 28, 2017.

Sonko alleged that top state officials gave the orders.

“We want a government that respects the people of Kenya. But we are tired of your government. As things stand, we have to tell you the truth without fearing you (Uhuru),” he said on October 10 following demolition in Woodley ward, Kibera.

Sonko has taken on the President for orchestrating his virtual removal and takeover of county functions, directing MCAs to deny him a budget. He has blamed him for what he calls inhumane slum demolitions.

He accused Uhuru’s administration of being insensitive to the plight of the poor.

On October 25, he threatened to write to ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to demand investigations into forced and arbitrary displacement of Nairobi residents “without grounds”.

The governor alleged that Badi, whom he described as Kenya’s Saddam  Hussein, committed crimes against humanity. 

Sonko’s handlers say he is bitter after learning that the President was fully behind his troubles and the takeover of functions intended to push him out.

“The governor is bitter because of what he has learnt about the President’s intention — he feels the transfer of functions was all about removing him but they didn’t want to tell him. He has been denied a budget, he no longer controls projects. He basically has nothing,” an aide confided to the Star.

The aide said the President was clearly behind the recent summoning of city MCAs to Jubilee headquarters. There they voted electronically to overturn his (Sonko’s) memo on the county budget and what he called the flagrant violation of the law by the NMS in executing the deed of transfer of functions.

“There is nothing Sonko can do now. If he has been denied a budget he rejects, his decision is still overturned. 

“If this budget goes this way, it means the entire budget will go to NMS. So, why is he still being called a governor? By name? If you cannot control money, you cannot control projects, then it means you have no work,” he said.

The aide added, “Sonko’s work nowadays is to go to court every day. He goes for the hearing of his case the whole day, then goes back home in the evening. Anything about Nairobi, he doesn’t know. That is why he is a bitter man.”

Sonko’s spokesman Ben Mulwa said the county boss was furious after the President turned his back on him and started implementing the deed of transfer in a haphazard manner.

“The governor is furious that for the last eight months, they have continued to witness demolitions spearheaded by NMS where even a Kenyan lost his life in Mukuru Kwa Njenga,” he said.

Mulwa said Sonko believed he was entering into a partnership to improve service delivery, only to learn the aim was to get rid of him.

“He did not know it would turn the way it has.”

Mulwa also cited Sonko’s anger over “wanton demolitions” and the “high-handedness” of State House and NMS officers.

While Uhuru and Raila were launching the Building Bridges Initiative report on October 25, Sonko tore into the report, saying it revealed Uhuru’s “dislike for the Constitution”.

“The people are tired of shenanigans. They want development so they can provide for their families. We, the political class, need to stop being selfish, the BBI only aids the ones in power,” the governor said.

Sonko told Uhuru to go home once his second term ends and not connive to stay on and cling to power.

“If your term as a governor or any other position is coming to an END, just GO home…just like former retired Presidents Mwai Kibaki and the late Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi ( May his soul continue to rest in peace),” Sonko posted.