Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko's two drivers have been hauled before the courts for obstructing President Uhuru Kenyatta's motorcade, in a dramatic escalation of the troubles facing the embattled county boss.
The two, Antony Wangamba and Joseph Njue, are facing charges of obstructing the presidential motorcade while driving vehicles "without a fixed prescribed number of identification plates, design and colour inscribed as the identification mark".
The offence, according to court documents seen by the Sunday Nation, happened on Thursday, August 29, on Mombasa Road in Nairobi as President Kenyatta's motorcade made its way to State House from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after landing from Tokyo, Japan, where he had attended the Tokyo International Conference on African Development.
Appearing separately before Principal Magistrate Martha Nanzushi of the Nairobi Traffic Court, Mr Wangamba and Mr Njue, who are drivers attached to the governor, denied the charges. Mr Wangamba was driving a Toyota Land Cruiser J200, commonly referred to as the V8, while Mr Njue was driving the upgraded LX570 Lexus version of the J200, and police say both vehicles did not have number plates. The charge sheets indicate their addresses as the Nairobi County Government.
While both of them were arrested on August 29, Mr Wangamba was in police custody until the day he was arraigned on September 9, while Mr Njue appeared after being summoned for arraignment. He was represented by his lawyer.
Mr Wangamba was released on Sh50,000 bond while Mr Njue was freed on Sh100,000 bond.
The hearings of their cases have been set on separate dates in November.
On the day the offences were alleged to have been committed, there had been drama at the airport, when presidential guards reportedly ordered official photographers to delete pictures capturing the President's arrival.
The President, who had landed shortly before 9am, had been received by Deputy President William Ruto, Chief of Defence Forces General Samson Mwathethe, military service commanders, Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and Nandi Governor Stephen Sang, among others.
According to the reports, photographers from both the President's and DP's pools took photos as President Kenyatta exchanged pleasantries with the senior government officials who had come to receive him. After greeting Mr Sang, who was the last in line, he headed straight to the presidential limousine to leave for State House. But before the motorcade left JKIA, the Presidential Escort Unit Commander Josphat Kirimi reportedly ordered photographers to delete the photos, the reports indicated.
The arrest and prosecution of the two drivers is just one among the many woes facing Mr Sonko, who is fighting accusations that he illegally issued garbage collection tenders. He is also being investigated by the Kenya Revenue Authority over tax evasion claims.
So damaging are the allegations that the governor has set in motion the process of naming a deputy should he be required to step aside as the boss at City Hall.
"We currently have a crisis, but we are making plans to come up with a name, which we will then forward to the Assembly for approval," he said at the height of the corruption investigations.
Mr Sonko now cuts the image of a haunted man, a far cry from the flamboyance of the past during which he did not waste any opportunity to display his opulence and peddle influence, as well as demonstrate that he had the President on speed dial.
The admission that he is ready to step aside and let a deputy run the show at City Hall, after years of stubborn insistence that he does not need an assistant, paints the picture of a man coming to terms with his inner self.
When he returned from the KRA offices in Upper Hill, Nairobi, after hours of questioning two weeks ago, a beaten Mr Sonko said he was ready to carry his own cross and resign to allow for investigations.
"We must sustain the fight against graft, and we cannot purport to do so while remaining in office after being accused. So that is a cross I will carry on my own in support of President Uhuru Kenyatta's fight against graft," he said.
Mr Sonko then went underground for almost two weeks, even skipping his late father's memorial ceremony at the family's Mua Hills home in Machakos County.
Sources close to him claimed he had taken a break and was at the Coast, but others claimed he had gone underground as he feared the EACC could arrest him any time. This week, he said he had deliberately kept away from City Hall, and that he was not on the run at all.
Mr Sonko said he made a personal decision to stay away from his City Hall office to avoid being accused of interfering with official records, which might be used as evidence in ongoing investigations at the county government.
He said reports of him being in hiding are being peddled by his detractors, adding that the anti-graft agencies must be allowed to do their work independently without interference or intimidation.
"This is precisely why I have maintained total silence on the matter of EACC investigations even after several fake news reports by media houses as I do not want to issue any statement pre-empting or jeopardising the EACC investigations, its findings or final report," said Mr Sonko in a statement posted on his Facebook page.