Friday, 26 May 2017

Sonkorism versus Elitism Underpin the Capital’s Gubernatorial Race

Left to right Peter Kenneth, Mike Mbuvi and Evans Kidero.
Image: Courtesy
Touted to be one of the epic duels in the forthcoming general elections, Nairobi’s gubernatorial race presents an opportunity for key lessons to be learnt in view of the morals and perceptions of a society; the perceived ills, dissension and reality of the economy; and the cherished ideals, values and doctrines in a polity. The society, economy and polity in reference are basically a representation of Nairobi and extensively the Republic of Kenya.

The frontrunners in the capital’s gubernatorial race are the incumbent Dr. Evans Kidero and the current Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko whose triumph will largely depend on the level of significance and sophistication that Peter Kenneth will bring into the race. Viewed from a superficial standpoint, Nairobi’s gubernatorial race appears to be a battle that will feature the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party and the Jubilee Party. With pristine insight, however, the gubernatorial race in Nairobi County is a duel that centres on the failed promises of the political elite as well as the elite individuals and the hope that the populist mantra of political leadership gives to the majority of the electorate and/or citizens.

Dr. Evans Kidero, Peter Kenneth and Miguna Miguna are quintessentially members of the elite and hence their policies and even ideologies tend to largely subscribe to the ideals and the values of elitism. Mike Sonko, the flamboyant Senator who had embraced the ruffian brand of politics until his recent nomination as Jubilee Party’s gubernatorial candidate, is a master of the populist politics and his values and ideals perfectly resonate with the thoughts and wishes of the common folk and more specifically the average Nairobian.

The elitist gubernatorial candidates have often-times chided Senator Sonko as a political leader who is incapable of steering the affairs of Nairobi County particularly in the management of the economy a notion that is widely shared among Nairobi’s elites who most of the times are out of touch with the reality. The Senator as usual continues to fire back at the so-called learned political class terming it a bunch of PhD holders who have failed to turn-around the fortunes of the capital’s residents. This jibe by the Senator of course demeans the value of academia and extensively the values of intellectualism but I have to admit that it is the bitter truth and the harsh reality.

Criticism directed to the Senator’s populist politics and the activities of the Sonko Rescue Team appear to be more than correct from an outsider’s perspective. The outsider’s standpoint in this case represents the thoughts of the elites who as I noted earlier on tend to fashion formality which has made them to be out of touch with the reality. The activities and operations of the Sonko Rescue Team can be classified as a “collection of informal policies in action" which in fact forms a basis for further research on the viability, validity and vibrancy of such kind of policies within Kenya’s economy and polity.

An insider’s perspective that is shared among the average Nairobians reveals that indeed the Sonko Rescue Team has been beneficial and one needs to take a walk to the informal and low-income settlements or get to hear from the common folk in order to come to terms with the reality. I cannot dispute the fact that the Senator has also used this opportunity to gain political currency but the factual information on the ground and the fallacious imaginations fabricated by majority of the elite are clearly distinct as day and night.

The Sonko Rescue Team is an outcome of a failed and flawed policy implementation process especially by the county government of Nairobi. If the economic heaven that Nairobians were promised by the incumbent was to happen, then I strongly believe that the Sonko Rescue Team would have been emasculated and perhaps casted to the oblivion. It is therefore the failure by the current government of Nairobi County to honor the social contract it signed with the Nairobians 4 years ago that has made the Sonko Rescue Team to be a vibrant outfit and hence presenting the Team Sonko as a juggernaut in the capital’s gubernatorial race.

Senator Mike Sonko has positioned himself as the voice of the voiceless and an advocate of the ordinary Nairobian. This is the cohort of the capital’s electorate that turns out in large numbers to vote and it is Nairobi’s populace that literally runs the city’s informal economy. The informal economy is larger than the formal economy in Nairobi and Kenya as a whole. A larger informal economy and a smaller formal economy is one of the distinctive features of a dual economy. Nairobi region contributes more than 60% of Kenya’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and these estimates are majorly from the recorded formal economic activities. The informal economy creates approximately 85% of the total employment opportunities generated by the Kenyan economy of which Nairobi is largely responsible for.

The consideration and inclusion of the informal economy activities implies that indeed Nairobi contributes more than 75% of the total income generated in Kenya through formal and informal means. In short, it is the Senator who comes across as having a “realistic” plan for the Nairobians who eke out their living in the informal economy. The elitist political club of his opponents in the gubernatorial race cuts an image of an enemy of the informal economy with their economic ideologies and aspirations largely coming out as illusions of grandeur.

Party affiliation and tribal arithmetic are key factors that will determine the outcome of who will win Nairobi’s gubernatorial race but my bet is on Sonko to carry the day due to the failure of the political leadership of the incumbent. Nairobi is a cosmopolitan region and just like last time when the majority decided that Dr. Kidero was best suited to be the Governor than the battle-hardened Ferdinand Waititu, this time round the metrics will be based on the mega promises of the elite and the aspirations of the Sonkorism school of thought.

And by the way, some elites hold the opinion that the Senator’s lackluster performance in the Senate in terms of intellectually contributing to debates and drafting bills dwarf his ambition to be the next Governor of Nairobi County. But the reality is how many voters think of the debates and bills fronted by their representatives in Parliament when voting? Or rather, how many voters religiously follow the Parliamentary proceedings so as to know how intelligent their representatives are? In fact, majority of Nairobians voted for Mike Sonko as the Senator in the last general elections without considering how well or poor he was going to contribute to the Senate proceedings. The triumph of Sonko in the gubernatorial race will be an epochal moment and perhaps it’s time to taste new waters. The ultimate decision rests with the voters.

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