By Athman Amran
When I finally caught up with him after almost a week of trying to pin him down for an interview, Makadara MP-elect Mike Mbuvi Kioko aka Sonko was still reluctant to disclose how much he spent on the campaigns.
But the flashy 35-year-old politician talked to The Standard On Sunday on how he accumulated his wealth and how he nearly failed to get a ticket to vie for the Makadara parliamentary seat on grounds he was a non-starter.
Makadara MP-elect Mike Kioko Mbuvi. Photo: File/Standard
The parties that dismissed him were Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM, Water Minister Charity Ngilu’s Narc, Kilome MP Harun Mwau’s Party of Independent Candidates, and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka’s ODM-Kenya.
"When I sought nomination from ODM, I was turned away on the excuse that Reuben Ndolo had done a lot for the party and had a lot of political experience," Mbuvi said during an interview inside his Hummer in Buru Buru.
His ‘secret weapon’ was support from the youth whom he had helped in many ways. They are the ones who gave him the name ‘Sonko’ – sheng for a man of means.
"Although I had set my eyes on the 2012 General Election, the youth wanted me to vie in the by-election when the Makadara seat fell vacant after an election petition by Ndolo," said Mbuvi.
So how did he accumulate his wealth?
Sonko’s wealth is traced to Mombasa where he was born and educated. There, his father ran a property and real estate agency, Pelly Properties, which he co-owned with another businessman.
After completing primary school at Kikowani Primary School in Mombasa, Mbuvi started getting more involved in his father’s business. At the time he was a student at Kwale High School, Kwale County.
"My father was a developer and used to sell beach plots at the Coast to European buyers. He made good profits because he bought the plots cheaply," Mbuvi told The Standard On Sunday.
He said he made Sh5 million working for his father when he was in Form Four in Kwale High in 1991.
Despite qualifying to go to university, he decided business was his calling. Instead, he took a course in Business Administration and Management at Edxcel International School in Mwanza and Pwani Business College.
At the time, his father and business partner split Pelly Properties. Mbuvi’s father started Gidson Properties where the young man, fresh from school, was the sales and marketing manager.
Mbuvi relocated to Nairobi in 1994 where he bought eight matatus, which plied the Kibera route.
He bought more matatus, which plied route 42 to Dandora and Umoja. He operated matatus in Dandora and Umoja from 1994 to 1997.
"I was also buying and selling plots and residential houses," says Mbuvi.
After 1997, he bought minibuses and began operating his matatu business in Buru Buru where his first minibus was christened ‘Ruffcuts’.
He later bought two buses, one double-decker, for a tours and travel business.
Because of helping the youth when in trouble with the police, and ensuring the arrest of a senior traffic police officer due to harassment and alleged extortion, among other things, he became the chairman of the Eastlands Matatu Association. There were more than 5,000 matatus, under him.
He gained popularity in 2007 after going to court when Eastlands matatus were denied access to the Central Business District. The Government then decreed that the matatus stop at the Muthurwa market and bus terminus.
Mbuvi said he has since diversified his business. He bought Club Casurina in Buru Buru as well as cyber cafes, salons, boutiques, and phone and accessories shops in Nairobi. He also runs a charitable organisation, which helps needy pupils.
He opened a number of youth projects "to empower the youth" in Makadara. He also increased stock for mama mbogas and built them sheds.
"But I never spent Sh150 million as claimed. I am not a rich man as alleged. I have given people projects instead of money. I have been doing this even before the campaigns for Makadara," says Mbuvi.
He says his agenda is to eradicate poverty and become Senator for Nairobi County. Mbuvi promises to declare his wealth after he is sworn-in as MP.
He said while the Constituency Development Fund would be for Makadara people, he plans to set up Mike Sonko Foundation to assist other city constituencies.
He said he expects Sh700 million from some NGOs in Europe within the next two months, which he would spend on projects in Nairobi. His message for the youth is they should work hard to be self-reliant.
"I cannot employ all youth but I will register youth Saccos, which will provide loans at low interest rates.
Sonko has had his run-ins with the law. In 1995 he was arrested for assault and was released on bond. When his mother died in 1997 the bond was cancelled and he was arrested and remanded at Shimo la Tewa Prison. He escaped to bury his mother and was rearrested, but the court pardoned him.
Is Mbuvi related in anyway to Mwau?
"No way," he said.