I have heard all sorts of insults hurled against the Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. Some of the most memorable ones include thug, drug-baron, jail-bird, buffoon, scoundrel, illiterate, juvenile etc. Yet his rise in Kenyan politics has proved unstoppable. Like Trump, he has beaten all odds to rise to the position of Nairobi Governor and he is rising, and may well become your President one day. The rise of Sonko exemplifies the problem with our Kenyan politics, and the problem is not the Sonko’s of this world. The problem is a snobbish, self-righteous, know-it-all, politically-aloof middle class that never stood for any public good let alone public office but are so keen to insult and demean the Sonko’s on twirra, and in cleverly constructed articles in Newspapers. This group of the educated types expect change to be delivered to their living rooms by clever and polished politicians, who is not them and who shouldn’t be Sonko! Themselves, they will stand for no political office, will support no-one who challenges the status quo, will not attend any public rally, will not participate in local neighborhood politics let alone county or national politics but will loudly sneer at the rise of the Sonko’s of this world, while at the same time asking for change!!
In the meantime, the Sonko’s of this world are in touch with the hoi polloi and with the methods and strategies that get people elected into political office everywhere in the world. They know that with all your degrees, English and brilliant bar-room, conference-tea-time and University-corridors ideas, the currency of political success is a voting constituency, grassroot networks and money, a lot of money. They have therefore invested money, a lot of money (whatever its source) in courting a constituency of people who have for so long been deprived and care little for twirra, your English and your disdain for those who cannot speak it. As someone said, “for a hungry man, a loaf of bread is God”. The Sonko’s of this world know this and offer practical solutions, however misguided. The posh-educated types don’t care, or rather only care that the “hungry men” be kept out of their neighborhoods. And that is the difference.
The rise of Sonko has actually been in spite of if actually not at the expense of the posh, educated, English-speaking types. As they say, another one bites the dust. His latest casualty has been the posh-corporatey-managerialist Polycarp Igathe. This, after Sonko unseated another corporatey-bookish (never mind women slapping) Dr. Evans Kidero! When Igathe joined Sonko, he should have known that he was going to deputize him and learn politics from him, not to manage him. He should have known that the political landscape is far removed from the corporate boardrooms he was accustomed to. For him to survive, Igathe needed a complete paradigm shift which he has proved incapable of. Had he asked advice from me, I would have told him that we needed his types in politics and he should stick it out, stay and learn politicking from the master of the game, H.E. Mike Sonko.
Despite the big fail, I honestly applaud Polycarp’s courage to step into the political arena and offer solutions. If we are going to change political leadership in Kenya, we need more Igathe’s but with a little bit more grit and political mettle to stick with it and accomplish something. I maintain that Igathe would have done much more for Nairobi and for Kenya had he stayed in with Sonko.
I repeat. The problem in our politics is not the Sonko’s of this world. It is the educated, vain, idle, know-it-all, aloof, mall-hopping, smart-phone-flipping middle class whose only contribution in the political space is to tweet, criticize and insult the likes of Sonko. Some of them do not even vote and if they do, they will vote along the same ethnic lines proffered to them by the same politicians they call buffoons! They will complain about everything and everyone and will not offer themselves for public office or work with those who have offered themselves to provide practical solutions. As you complain and insult Sonko, he is in the trenches building a constituency and a campaign war-chest that will make him unstoppable. Polycarp had an opportunity to learn from Sonko, build a profile and hopefully become a possibility for alternative leadership. Maybe, he was too posh and too rash for the job. It requires a different mind-set and a long-term strategy.
As Polycarp throws in the towel and you sit in your living room flipping channels, updating your twirra profile, calling Sonko a buffoon and a scoundrel while waiting for change to be delivered through your remote control, Sonko may as well become your President. Watch this space!