What Sets Mike Sonko Aparts

That Mr Sonko is audacious in his words, actions and sense of style is not a secret — from punching walls during demonstrations, making a call to the President on speaker phone for all to hear and dressing in the manner of a hip-hop artiste to confronting land grabbers and admitting in a television interview that he was once the “biggest thief”.

Perhaps it is such candour, controversy, unpredictability and perceived common touch, especially among the city’s low income earners, that make him a tricky politician.

Gidion Kioko Mike Sonko is probably the only Kenyan politician to ever admit publicly that he has been a “thief”, rare candour that came out in a prime-time television interview.

He incredibly declared himself to be the acting Head of State –since President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto were out of the country and he was representing them at a funeral in Machakos County.

Mr Sonko captured the nation’s imagination as an unlikely winner of the Makadara Constituency by-election in 2010 with stories swirling about the source of his wealth and his background. Since then his star has been rising, and the nickname “Sonko” has become his official name.

A few weeks after his lawyers announced on the Kenya Gazette that he had switched names from “Mbuvi Gidion Kioko” to “Mbuvi Gidion Kioko Mike Sonko”, he gave a promise to Parliament.

“Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. I am also in the process of adding the initials MBT to my names,” the Hansard of March 1, 2012 quotes him saying.

“Thereafter my names shall read: Mbuvi Gidion Kioko Kivangulya Kivyatu Nangelesi, MBT – meaning ‘Mkamba Born Town’. Thank you.” To Mr Sonko’s admirers, his style of doing things is the solution Nairobi needs, as he has previously intervened when people are being evicted from their houses, offered “rescue” services to those in need, rewarded achieving sportspeople and adopted needy children, among others.

To his critics, however, his seemingly unrefined methods leave him as exposed as his legs were when he attended a presidential event wearing “torn” trousers in 2014; or leave him as unwanted as when he was ejected from Parliament in 2011 for wearing earrings.

This is a man who had the audacity to throw insults at Governor Kidero during a grilling session before a Senate Committee in June 2016, which led to a physical confrontation that saw the day’s programme abandoned.

This is the same man whose supporters in August 2016 crashed into a gathering organised by Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, who had then announced his desire to vie for governorship, and left everyone scampering for safety.

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He is now the governor of Nairobi. One would only expect a man like him to rise higher from where he is now.

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