This man Sonko… a new kind of leader?
This man Sonko. That he has had three blog posts on this blog, (this being the third after this one and this one), must say that he is making an impact – especially if you examine the changing tone of the posts. I mentioned in my last blogpost that I have become somewhat confused about Gideon “Sonko” Mbuvi, former MP for Makadara and senatorial candidate for Nairobi in this year’s election. My issue is that I am no longer able to dismiss him out of hand as an idiot.
Now, to be clear, I don’t believe that he is the kind of leader that I would choose – and I have several reasons for this. My current confusion with the guy is that maybe my reasons (or some of them) are the points that make him a valid change that I am not ready for.
I don’t like:
1. How he looks. I have never trusted people who take on the gangster look – they have tended in my eyes to be crooks and dodgy under world characters. They also tended not to be too smart and generally not altogether… BUT then again, I am reminded that this was the view of dreadlock sporting, ear-stud wearing Africans very recently (within in the past 15 years). One could not be a serious executive if one had dreadlocks on or if a man had a stud. And we now have a Chief Justice in Mutunga. Sonko goes further to quote the bill of rights in the constitution “thou shalt not discriminate based on dress, sexuality etc…” He would have to follow the law and dress decorously in parliament, but his dress helps him blend in with his contituents.
And this is the big point. For the past 50 years, we have elected politicians who had little to nothing in common with Wanjiku – they dressed out of reach of Wanjiku, they spoke above her and they solved problems that she couldn’t begin to understand. Perhaps the time has come for a new style of leadership, that is more accessible and that people can identify with. (I am happy to generalise “people” because young people are the main demographic for Kenya.)
2. He is Dodgy. It is difficult to ignore the allegations of drug dealing and so on. For him to have the kind of money that he has, one needs convincing that is was lawfully acquired. And yes, they are allegations, but it is hard to ignore as one passes jusgement of the man. That saying about smoke and fire comes to mind.
3. His theory of development (or lack of it). I have associated Sonko with the legendary handout gimmicks that he has been doing in Makadara. When the nurses were on strike he went to the dispensaries, picked people and took them to fancy private hospitals. Isn’t he better served using his own money to improve the facilities in his cinstituency? During last years KCPE he fed the kids with Tea at 10 and lunch. Nice touch, but lasting solution was blank.
BUT. Listening to him in the above interview, I heard a rather refreshing (though chaotic) theory of development. He generally noted that we have for the past been developing Nairobi for the investors who might invest in Kenya. So we clean the main highways, remove the chokoras from the central business district and send them to “prison” (which is what those centres were) so they escape to Doonhom. Meanwhile garbage is not collected, young people hang in jobless corners and dream about Jobs. And yet we pay parking fees. And land rates.
So, he suggests that the development plan for Nairobi be focused on providing services for the local mwananchi – clean the neighbourhoods, and repair the roads, beautify everywhere and build the kiosks for young people to earn a living. He noted that police action cannot solve the land issues in the slums, which tends to be long standing issues. So sort out the land issue. Get them to own the land they have lived in for decades. Very sound argument.
On the question of the hand outs, I was impressed by the way he showed evidence of “showing people how to fish – the investments that he has has personally made in education. The court cases on behalf of the public. Fine. But I am also reminded that a legislator’s job is to develop legislation. I don’t remember a Sonko bill on anything.
The question is this: is it time for the “non-pundit” opposite convention (not just non-conventional) leader?
As a card carrying member of the tech-savvy-smartphone-and-macbook-totting-armchair-analyzing-and pontificating middle class, I am left wondering whether we are in for a new kind of leader. And I wonder if we are ready.