Nairobi News

HashtagWhat's Hot

Sonko: His background, rise in politics and fall from grace

By Mary Wangari December 13th, 2019 5 min read

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has for the last one week been on the news for all the wrong reasons.

It all started when he was dramatically arrested last Friday in Voi, held in custody, charged in court for corruption before being released on bond on Wednesday.

But his release came with a caveat that he shouldn’t set foot in his office at City Hall.

Stripped of his office functions, Sonko made a now show at the Nyayo National Stadium on Thursday as the country celebrated Jamhuri Day.

But who exactly is this man Sonko?

Nairobi News breaks it down for you.

1. Family background

Sonko was born as Mbuvi Gideon Kioko on February 27, 1975 in Mombasa. His mother passed on in 1997. His late father, Mzee Kivanguli hailed from Mua Hills, in Machakos County.

Mzee Kivanguli was an astute businessman dealing with property, real estate and property development selling beach plots at the Coast to European investors.

He operated a real estate agency called Pelly Properties, which he co-owned.

The younger Mbuvi had several brushes with law from way back in 1995, when he was arrested and charged with assault.

He was released on bond which was revoked in 1997 which saw him incarcerated at Shimo la Tewa Prison.

Sonko would later escape prison in 1998 to pay his last respects to his late mother.

He was then rearrested but eventually freed after the court pardoned him.

2. Educational background

The young Mbuvi started his education at Kikowani Primary School in Mombasa. He proceeded to join Kwale High School for his secondary education.

He later started helping out his father and became more engaged in his various businesses.

He perfected and mastered his business skills which saw him forfeit a chance to pursue his university education, despite having qualified, as the business was so lucrative.

He decided instead, to follow his passion for business where he joined Pwani Business College and Excel International School in Mwanza, and studied Business Administration

3. Sonko’s wealth

As his name suggests Sonko is a rich man, though the source of his wealth remains a subject of debate.

In a local publication, the flamboyant governor narrated how in 1994, at just Form Four, he managed to rake at least Sh5 million while working for his father.

His wealth, ostensibly, can be traced to his father who was an established businessman and investor. He would later follow into his father footsteps and venture fully in business after completing his studies.

He took charge as the manager in the sales and marketing department in his father’s company, Gidson Properties, after the dissolution of Pelly Properties which saw Sonko’s father and his business partner go separate ways.

The enterprising Sonko would then relocate to Nairobi in 1994, where he ventured into the matatu business. He started out with eight matatus on the Kibra route.

His business flourished and he added more matatus on the Umoja and Dandora route within three years.

“I was also buying and selling plots and residential houses on the side,” Sonko told a local publication.

A year later in 1998, he added minibuses to his fleet of vehicles which plied the Buru Buru route. His first minibus was christened ‘Ruffcuts’.

From the matatu proceeds, he ventured into tours and travel business where he bought a double decker for ferrying tourists and two buses.

His dominance in the matatu industry saw him elected to head Eastlands Matatu Association as the chairperson.

He championed for the rights of the youths being harassed unnecessarily and helped to put behind bars rough officers who extorted bribes from motorists.

Sonko shot into limelight in 2007 when he won a court battle in a case which restricted Eastlands matatus from entering the Central Business District (CBD).

The government issued a directive where the matatus were allowed to stop at the Muthurwa Market much to the relief of the operators.

The enterprising politician would later diversify his investment where he now owns Buru Buru’s Club Casurina, and several business ventures in Buru Buru as well as cyber cafes, salons, boutiques, and phone and accessories shops in Nairobi.

4. Sonko the family man

Mike Sonko is a family man, husband and a doting father.

He is married to Primrose Mbuvi and is a proud father to his three lovely daughters – Saumu, Salma and Sandra.

All his daughters are from different mothers. Saumu his firstborn daughter is from Sonko’s late wife Njeri. Salma’s mother is a woman who hails from Juja while Sandra is the daughter to his current wife Primrose.

5. Mike Sonko Foundation

During his tenure as Makadara MP, Sonko lived up to his promises to his constituents.

His track record is remarkable and is evident in the way he improved the residents living conditions.

From charitable organisations to help bright needy children, youth projects aimed at “empowering the youths, to adding stock to mama mbogas and building them trading sheds, the politician is indeed a man of the people.

“I have given people projects instead of money. I have been doing this even before the campaigns for Makadara,” Sonko said as quoted in a local publication.

What’s more, at one time the radical politician campaigned for the abolishment of parking fees in his constituency.

During his tenure as Nairobi’s senator, a daring Sonko went on to form Sonko Rescue Team, a non governmental organization through which he would offer free services to Nairobi’s slum dwellers.

In 2013, he was elected as the patron of People with Dwarfism Association.

In August, 2019, the governor was awarded Honorary Doctorate of excellence from European Digital University (EDU).

The award was to recognize him for his contribution and goodwill to the community.

6. Political life

Sonko ventured into politics in 2010 in what you could say ‘from nowhere’ and just within 9 years, he had managed to warm his way into Kenyan hearts to become a political enigma and a household name.

The fact that he is currently the Governor of Nairobi, the most competitive political arena in the country tells it all.

At just 35 years old, Sonko floored political heavyweight Reuben Ndolo in a by-election to clinch the Makadara Parliamentary seat in September, 2010. The resounding victory was after a successful petition by Ndolo.

From then onwards, he has been soaring higher and city politics has been synonymous to Sonko.

The ambitious politician announced his intention to run for the senatorial seat in Nairobi soon after the promulgation of the New Constitution Kenya 2010, which saw the formation of devolved units.

He scooped 808,705 votes to become the first senator in Nairobi in 2013 General Election, beating his opponent from the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Margaret Wanjiru who garnered 525,822 votes.

His senatorial stint was mired with bad blood with the then governor Evans Kidero which saw a defiant Sonko form Sonko Rescue Team, much to the chagrin of the county boss.

He would later relinquish and donate the vehicles to the county government after a long tussle.

Not one to settle for less, in 2016, a year before elections, Sonko declared his intention to run for the gubernatorial position in Nairobi which was being eyed by many politicians.

Sonko won the seat to become the second Nairobi Governor, in a hotly contested 2017 General Election.

The landmark victory saw him oust incumbent governor Kidero and humble political bigwigs and elites the likes of Peter Kenneth.