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Kenya: Nairobi Governor Sonko Falls Out of Favour With Kenyatta

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Once a darling of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko now seems to have been relegated to the periphery by the Head of State.

From being given a wide berth during important occasions in the county as well as those involving his fellow governors, the once “first among equals” governor – who was always just an ear-shot away from the President – has lately been stripped off the privileges.

The City Hall boss has been missing from a number of State functions attended by President Kenyatta since August, a clear indication that he has fallen out of favour with the powers-that-be.

He was missing at a meeting between President Kenyatta and boda-boda riders in Pumwani. The meeting was attended by Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) Director-General, Maj-Genl Mohammed Badi.

Mr Sonko was also not among governors who met with the President on November 4, 2020, during a summit on the Covid-19 pandemic.

His presence in Parliament last week during the State of the Nation address by the President did not go unnoticed, and it did not go down well for the Speaker who had invited him, with the President clearly not amused by the turn of events.

The Speaker had to apologise after the President took issue with Sonko’s invitation to the event.

Commuter rail launch

The city governor was again missing from last week’s launch of the commuter rail service attended by the President and Mr Badi.

This was a man who the President kept close even after he was arrested in December last year over corruption charges and subsequently being barred from accessing his City Hall office over Sh357 million graft charges.

Even though he had corruption charges hanging over his head, Governor Sonko still attended a number of State House events much to the ire of many Kenyans who felt he was being treated differently from other governors who were facing similar charges.

Sonko’s closeness to the Head of State even earned him a nickname — “the most feared man in Nairobi”.

However, things seem to have taken a turn for the worse for the flamboyant governor after a failed attempt by the Head of State to midwife a truce between Sonko and Maj-Gen Badi in August this year during the issuance of title deeds to Eastlands landowners at the KICC.

He would address the same press briefing on August 21 with the NMS boss, urging health workers in Nairobi to return to work and avert a go-slow, saying he was working closely with NMS to address their grievances.

Attacking Badi, Uhuru

Despite the pledge by Sonko to henceforth work with the NMS boss, he soon started attacking Mr Badi.

He would then turn his guns on the President, accusing him of abandoning him after signing off key county functions to the State in February, regretting why he joined politics.

The attacks would grow through September and October from criticising the Head of State over the eviction of residents in the capital city to hitting out at the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.

The outbursts have been sustained into the current month with the governor on November 8 aiming another dig at the President, calling him “Nairobi Super Governor” and chiding him, together with his appointee Mr Badi, “for failing to tackle the garbage menace in the capital city”.

“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 (Badi) really overworking in Pipeline, Embakasi South Constituency. Keep it up for the good job,” he wrote on Twitter and attached pictures of mounds of garbage to the post.

On the same day, he also revisited his claims that “the system” allegedly planned to assassinate ODM party leader Raila Odinga on his return from abroad in 2017.

“The next victim could be me or any other leader from your area opposed to the system’s agenda,” he posted on Facebook, adding that he hopes US President-elect Joe Biden will deal ruthlessly with dictatorial leadership cases in Africa.

Two days earlier, he accused “brokers” from State House of sneaking in a “fake budget” at the county assembly to “steal money belonging to his administration”. He vowed to go to court to contest the budget that allocated his administration a paltry Sh8.4 billion.

During a virtual meeting with the Senate committee on devolution, Governor Sonko seemed to declare a total war on the national government, saying he is ready to be jailed.

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