According to official statistics the youth constitute 70 per cent of the Kenyan population and the overwhelming majority of them live in urban areas throughout the country. The Kenyan urban youth, just like their contemporaries around the world, are also a disenfranchised lot. They are disaffected by the debilitating lack of opportunities and they are disenchanted with the Establishment which they figure somehow is the greatest impediment to their upward mobility. This is why change and reforms have remained the foremost election issues in every election cycle since 1992 after the successful struggle for multiparty democracy in Kenya. Uncannily though, change and reforms have remained frustratingly elusive and it feels as though the democratic process simply isn’t working or if it is, it is rigged and this, my friends, is the source of Mike Sonko’s popularity.Believe it or not, when Kenyans are asked which qualities they have highest regard for when selecting political leaders, the two qualities that spring to mind are God-fearing and development-minded. Somehow, Kenyans recognize that the ultimate goal of leadership is social progress and they also appreciate that high moral standards are an essential requirement for leadership that will deliver on development. I do not mean to defame a man whose questionable past is public knowledge and whose dealings has been the subject of a debate on the floor of the House, but despite being immensely popular especially among the urban youth in Nairobi, Sonko is a rascal and a rather dubious politician whose ironic popularity is an exception rather than the rule.
The thing however that has endeared him to the masses is his flagrant defiance of the Establishment which people feel is totally out of touch with the masses. Sonko’s tenure as Makadara MP has done nothing but make an out-and-out mockery of the political establishment both on the floor of the House and outside Parliament. Depending on whom you ask, Sonko is a rebel without a cause but among the disaffected urban youth, Sonko is a hero.
So what are his odds of making history and becoming Nairobi’s first Senator you ask? Well, actually, the odds are pretty much in his favour. For starters, the people of Nairobi like most all Kenyans are disenchanted with the Establishment and Sonko’s candidature represents a protest vote against the Establishment. The demographics of city dwellers are favourable to him in this case. Urban youth who form the bulk of those disaffected by the system make up 70 per cent of the population and they seem very eager to make a statement against the Establishment.
Sonko is a charismatic young man who is so full of energy and his youthful appeal is simply unmatched. The youth can fully identify with him and given that the majority of voters anywhere in Nairobi and indeed across the country are the youth, Sonko can be rest assured of a win if he remains true to himself. He simply cannot become the Establishment in his campaign; that would be disastrous. I don’t however think that the fellow can reinvent himself, so I am not in the least worried about that.
Finally, it is now obvious that the general election which is just round the corner is a two horse race pitting the Cord coalition against the Jubilee coalition. The Cord coalition on its part witnessed the lackadaisical Elizabeth Ongoro win its nomination for the Nairobi senatorial seat but an eleventh hour ODM back room deal has seen Elizabeth Ongoro substituted with Bishop Margret Wanjiru. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Sonko would have roundly trounced Elizabeth Ongoro. I however think that the good bishop is a formidable opponent to Mike Sonko and an excellent tactical move by the Cord coalition.
Personally, I am of the opinion that in Nairobi County, the Cord coalition is considerably stronger than the Jubilee coalition and that gives the Cord nominee a head start over her competition. Be that as it may, Sonko’s appeal cuts across the coalition divide effectively undermining the Cord coalition’s upper hand in Nairobi County but given that it now has a strong candidate, the senate race has become a very tight race with gender and party loyalty issues fully at play. At another level, the Nairobi senatorial race is a contest between the need to get proper representation that is characterized with careful deliberation and wise leadership on the one hand and the disaffected people’s compulsion to spite the Establishment. Voters in the Nairobi senatorial race will discover what it means to vote with one’s conscience.