Sonko and the Mi­guna cir­cus: Stunt taken too far?

A meet­ing at Ser­ena Ho­tel, a let­ter de­liv­ered by hand, a cagey Speaker, a slip­pery gov­er­nor, and a dis­gusted elec­torate. Who’s fool­ing whom?

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - FRONT PAGE - BY IBRAHIM ORUKO ioruko@ke.na­tion­media.com AND AGEWA MAGUT awainaina@ke.na­tion­media.com

It started as a twisted joke on Wed­nes­day evening but, by yes­ter­day morn­ing, had snow­balled into a heavy and emo­tional na­tional mat­ter. It came in the form of a badly writ­ten let­ter, com­plete with a Nairobi County gov­ern­ment seal, but the story lay, not in the words, but the mo­tive. Nairobi Gov­er­nor Mike Sonko had nom­i­nated his po­lit­i­cal arch-en­emy and Kenyan-cana­dian de­por­tee Mi­guna Mi­guna as his deputy, the let­ter read, and wanted his assem­bly to vet him. Was this a sick joke on Kenyans, or a pub­lic­ity stunt gone too far?

It started as a crooked joke on Wed­nes­day evening but, by yes­ter­day morn­ing had snow­balled into a heavy and emo­tional na­tional mat­ter. It came in the form of a badly writ­ten let­ter, com­plete with a Nairobi County gov­ern­ment seal, but the story lay, not in the words, but the mo­tive.

Nairobi Gov­er­nor Mike Sonko had nom­i­nated his po­lit­i­cal arch-en­emy and Kenyan-cana­dian de­por­tee Mi­guna Mi­guna as his deputy, the let­ter read, and wanted his assem­bly to vet him. Was this a sick joke on Kenyans, or a pub­lic­ity stunt gone too far?

Sonko did not con­firm or deny the authen­tic­ity of the let­ter, even though a source within his com­mu­ni­ca­tion team said it was gen­uine. Also, lawyer Cliff Om­beta, for Mr Mi­guna, said he had been given the let­ter by Sonko to de­liver it to the County Speaker, Ms Beatrice Elachi.

Who is fool­ing whom? Kenyans started ask­ing yes­ter­day af­ter a morn­ing of swirling ru­mours and opin­ion mon­ger­ing. In the af­ter­noon, Ju­bilee Party laughed off the let­ter, and Ms Elachi said she had not re­ceived any for­mal com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the gov­er­nor on the nom­i­na­tion.

Ju­bilee’s sec­re­tary-gen­eral Raphael Tuju said Mr Mi­guna is not a mem­ber of the party and de­scribed the de­ci­sion by Mr Sonko to pick him as “non­sense”, ar­gu­ing that it vi­o­lates the law.

“As a party, we view the ques­tion of mem­ber­ship not just as a mat­ter of pro­ce­dure, but a crit­i­cal as­pect of the law which can dis­qual­ify one from con­test­ing an elec­tion,” Mr Tuju told the Na­tion yes­ter­day.

At City Hall, mem­bers of the County Assem­bly con­firmed that Sonko had picked the con­tro­ver­sial lawyer for the po­si­tion left va­cant by the res­ig­na­tion of Mr Poly­carp Igathe in Jan­uary this year, but warned that they will shoot down the nom­i­na­tion un­less it is cleared by the party.

Ear­lier, Ms Elachi had sent mixed sig­nals on the nom­i­na­tion; first, she told re­porters that she had not re­ceived any let­ter from the gov­er­nor in re­la­tion to Mr Mi­guna, but a few min­utes later changed tune and con­firmed that she had ac­tu­ally re­ceived the let­ter, only that the right pro­ce­dure had not been fol­lowed.

“It’s the nom­i­nee’s lawyer who sub­mit­ted the let­ter to my of­fice,” she ad­mit­ted and di­rected Sonko to fol­low the right pro­ce­dure. She did not, how­ever, name the lawyer, only telling jour­nal­ists: “You know him.”

“I have talked to the gov­er­nor and no­ti­fied him of the anom­aly, and he has con­firmed he will do the right thing,” she said.

How­ever, Ms Elachi could not ex­plain un­der what cir­cum­stances she had ac­cepted the let­ter since it had been de­liv­ered to her by a stranger who has no of­fi­cial links to the county gov­ern­ment. That stranger is lawyer Cliff Om­beta, who in­sisted there was noth­ing wrong in the whole process, and that Sonko had given him the let­ter on Wed­nes­day night at Ser­ena Ho­tel in Nairobi. Sonko was not avail­able for com­ment on the al­le­ga­tion.

“There is no spe­cific le­gal re­quire­ment that the let­ter should fol­low a par­tic­u­lar route,” he told the Na­tion yes­ter­day evening. “The facts are, the let­ter was de­liv­ered, and it was re­ceived.”

He said there is no prece­dence on how such let­ter should be de­liv­ered to the Speaker’s of­fice as the law is silent on what should hap­pen in the event a va­cancy oc­curs in the of­fice of the deputy gov­er­nor.

“The Speaker is triv­i­al­is­ing a very se­ri­ous mat­ter. The truth is that she can’t wish the let­ter away. It is valid and the gov­er­nor has not de­nounced it. If she has a par­tic­u­lar rule on how such a let­ter should be de­liv­ered, she should ex­plain it now.”

But Ms Elachi in­sisted that Mr Mi­guna will have to present a clear­ance cer­tifi­cate from Ju­bilee Party for the assem­bly to con­sider his nom­i­na­tion, ar­gu­ing that this is in line with the pro­vi­sions of the Con­sti­tu­tion and the prece­dence by the County Assem­bly in Ny­eri when it last month vet­ted and ap­proved the nom­i­na­tion of Caro­line Karugu as deputy gov­er­nor.

I’ll not com­ment on ma­li­cious in­for­ma­tion, ma­te­rial or cheap pro­pa­ganda cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia. Prim­i­tive ac­cu­mu­la­tion of wealth and trap­pings of power such as money, large tracts of land, chase cars, first class air tick­ets, car­pets or body­guards don’t im­press me. Truth, logic, in­tegrity and so­cial jus­tice do. Viva!” Mi­guna Mi­guna

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