Sonko fights for political lifeline at heated session

Friday, December 18th, 2020 00:00 |
Embattled Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.

Embattled Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and his accusers put up a spirited fight during the impeachment motion that seemed to have divided senators down the middle.

Sonko was put to his defence to explain circumstances under which he diverted Sh297 million meant for student bursaries to pay lawyers as well as explain a trip his daughter made to the US using county funds.

The controversial governor was also put to task to explain why his government varied tenders for the construction of a stadium in Nairobi’s  Dandora estate and claims that he was high-handed.

 He was equally hard pressed to explain why he used and published language in media platforms that was unbefitting of his office and status.

But when he took to the stand to try and salvage his threatened political career, the governor used all manner of tactics— from intimidation, rudeness, occasional humour and  bullying — to fight his case. 

But one could tell from his defence line that he was fully aware of the ramifications of the outcome, with his political career left hanging on a thread.

And there were clear indications, at least by the questions posed by various senators, that divisions pitting the Kieleweke group of the ruling Jubilee Party that is allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and  the Tanga Tanga faction that is associated with Deputy President William Ruto, were playing out during the impeachment trial with the DP’s men speaking in favour of the governor.

 Sonko’s defence was mainly anchored on claims that  the County Assembly did not properly impeach the governor, the county did not lose any cash  in the bursary scheme and that the charges were orchestrated by cartels keen to frustrate his war against them.  

He dismissed all the charges against him and urged the Senate to dismiss the motion which, he said, was filed by people who were out to malign his name for their own selfish interests.

“My accusers are people driven by malice and political motives to tarnish my good name,” Sonko said.

But the assembly team maintained the motion had provided Nairobi residents with an opportunity to replace a “rogue and greedy governor” who had failed to provide leadership and instead resorted to a looting spree that had denied the electorate much-needed services.

“Governor Sonko has totally failed in his role as a governor, both in terms of integrity and safeguarding the taxpayers’ resources,” said the assembly’s lead counsel Ndegwa Njiru.

Njiru went on to tear into the character of the governor, describing him as failure by all means.

“We have a governor who is competing with extravagance of the monarch of King Louis the 16th of the 1679 Century.

Why was King Louis punished? He was punished and thrown out of the monarch because of the action of the extravagance of his wife. Has that time come for Governor Sonko to pay for his sins?

“Does this person require mercy before you? Is he the person whom this Senate can close its eyes to?

I urge you to rise up to the occasion and put it in black and white so as to save our future generations from such embarrassment,” the lawyer implored.

Sonko, on his part, accused the mover of the motion at the assembly, Minority Leader Michael Ogada, of playing politics in an “elaborate character assassination scheme”.

“The mover of my impeachment motion is dramatising the whole process. He’s playing politics. He’s doing character assassination,” stated Sonko.

Many scandals

The ouster bid, Sonko further claimed, was crafted by individuals involved in the many scandals that have befallen the county government.

“The same group of MCAs who have been stealing from the county especially money set aside for bursary are the authors of the motion before you,” Sonko told the senators.

He said the MCAs have over the years been drawing millions of shillings through a scheme run under the Obidho Education centre, a community-based organisation.

He said he had refused to release cheques for the same and instead presented the case to the police who used the evidence to take the culprits to court.

“It is true, Mr Speaker, there are cheques we refused to release because there are some MCAs who opened a fake educational institution at River Road.

This has been happening even during the period under my predecessor. I unearthed this scandal in 2018,” Sonko said.

“It is a very sad story. The directors of this fake school were wives and relatives of these MCAs and they were getting cheques from even CDF accounts of various constituencies.”

On claims that he used county funds to pay for his daughter’s trip to the US, Sonko dismissed the claims, saying he personally paid for the trip which was sanctioned by the Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua.

“This was an official trip which had been sanctioned by the highest office in the country as procedure demands.

My daughter accompanied my wife and I, and I paid for the upkeep and tickets; I have tickets to show,” Sonko said.

During the hearing, both sides presented video and audio tapes tearing into each other’s character.

While Governor Sonko presented evidence to confirm that the MCAs accusing him had indeed participated in a plot to have him sign into a deal where he would receive Sh5 million daily, the assembly played audios of him hurling abuses and unprintable epithets.

According to Sonko, Abdi Guyo, the seconder of the motion, had organised a meeting with Jambo Pay company directors to have him sign to an illegal deal with an offer of Sh5 million daily.

“Little did they know that I was recording them. Allow me to present the House with the audio to demonstrate to you the kind of persons you are dealing with,” Sonko said.

However, the Assembly lawyers said that Sonko’s accusations against the MCAs were hatched days before the impeachment, and calculated to injure the reputation of his main accusers, especially Ogada who moved the impeachment motion.

By the time of going to press, Sonko was awaiting the Senate decision on whether he is fit to remain governor or be the second governor to be impeached.

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