At 23 years, Igembe South MP John Paul Mwirigi made history as the youngest person to win a Parliamentary seat in Kenya unseating a popular Jubilee Party candidate.
The story of his victory made national headlines due to his down-to-earth campaign strategy; door-to-door visits with assistance from boda boda riders, a job he once did on weekends to make ends meet.
Depending on well-wishers at the time for finances, the first-time MP got his message across to his target audience and edged out his well-funded opponents.Igembe South MP John Mwirigi taking his oath of office in 2017.
“Since I come from a humble background, I understand the issues that affect the residents. My key agenda will be to transform the lives of the people,” he stated in a past interview.
Mwirigi’s story is one of many, where young people are increasingly taking interest in politics and challenging the status quo of letting the 'matured' ones take the positions of power.
When it comes to making decisions, young people are ready to elbow their way to the front of the table and influence policy.
Politics is a ‘dirty game’ and takes more than just the desire of wanting to be in power to actually win the seat. It takes a lot of planning from finances to campaigning and as the polls near, riding the right wave in a particular region.
With 2022 the main focus, it is clear that many have started drawing the map to victory. In the Tanga Tanga faction that is led by DP William Ruto, there are a number of hopefuls.
In the camp, is an ambitious 27-year old MP aspirant. Kimutai Diaz is confident that he will clinch the Bomet East seat in the 2022 polls.
Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke, Diaz stated that campaigns had not started officially but he was laying the groundwork in the community - in essence - campaigns have already started, albeit covertly.
The youth leader pointed out that the issues most affecting his target voters were unemployment, listing on the Credit Reference Bureau as well as HELB Loans.Youth leader Kimutai Diaz who will vie in the 2022 pollsKimutai Diaz
"These issues, I feel, have not been addressed adequately by our leaders and they are really affecting our youth," he says.
Describing the DP as his political mentor, Diaz has created a following in the constituency with several social projects which he funds from his ventures in business. He says he has made deliberate efforts to constantly communicate with locals to better understand their most urgent needs.
Careful not to reveal his strategy, lest his opponent gets wind and counterpunches him at the polls, the aspirant maintains that it was time for youth to come together and take up even more leadership positions.
"Politics should be about selling your ideas to the people and as a youth we should shun divisive elements and focus on development for our communities sake," he stated.
On the ODM side, Kenyans.co.ke caught up with Sarabhai Emmanuel who is eyeing the MCA seat in Lucky Summer Ward - Ruaraka constituency.
Manu Sikral as he is popularly known from his days as a student leader at Moi University explained that his motivation to run was the exploitation of young people in the constituency.
“It upsets me when the youth are being exploited for cheap labour yet the elders are given high-ranking jobs with a huge pay yet we claim the youth are the nation builders.
“Though the current MCA is a youth, he has disappointed the entire youth fraternity by going to bed with enemies of development - zero development since he was elected. As we speak their is no public hospital, public school and other social amenities in Lucky Summer Ward, poor roads is also a menace,” he claims.Sarabhai Emmanuel AKA Manu Sirkal will be eyeing the Lucky Summer Ward seat in the 2022 polls.
Already with a 90-day plan the MCA aspirant seeks to remedy the issues with the help of both the county, national Government as well as international donors.
He says he receives political counsel from Saboti MP Caleb Amisi and maintains his loyalty to ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Joy Christine Nyokabi
Also ready to throw her hat in the ring is 23-year old Joy Christine Nyokabi who is currently serving as a delegate in social affairs and special needs at Moi University.
“I am vying because I believe in equity in leadership, if you look at this area, only old people vie for those seats, and youths are given blue color jobs. We can make good leaders and women for that matter,” the ambitious aspirant for Rwathia Ward Representative in Kangema Constituency, Murang'a County explained.
She observed that lack of capital to start businesses, drugs, early marriages, unemployment, societal brainwash and lack of skills were among the biggest challenges facing youth in her area and the country at large.
Nyokabi decried some societal expectations that would be a hurdle to her candidature.Joy Christine Nyokabi will be vying for the Rwathia Ward seat in Kangema constituency, Murang'a county.Joy Nyokabi
“One of them is that you must have a spouse in order to vie. We are living in a society that look down upon women, that their duties are to give birth to and raise children,” she stated.
However, the student leader revealed that she would not be deterred as she had female leaders who had succeeded despite the patriarchal system.
“Women like Wangari Mathai give hope that even women can make it in political leadership is a calling not a career.”
The Pain of Political Rookies
Bagging a seat on the first try is not assured and this is the case for many politicians.
The current Saboti MP Caleb Amisi had an unsuccessful first try in politics after vying under then-Peter Kenneth' party, the Kenya National Congress.
The second time around in 2017, he changed tact when he vied on an ODM party ticket in Saboti where it was alleged he ran one of the most expensive campaigns in the country.
"I had a lot to prove. ODM was not a popular party to sell in Trans Nzoia County and also I was young. So I used choppers to campaign - and I won," he told this writer in a past interview.
Winning an elective position is hard work and getting to work even harder which is why he advised any young person getting into politics to have a goal in mind.
"Know why you want to run because I know of some nominated leaders who don't even know why they are there and they still get salaries. Power without purpose is useless," he added.
As for Mwingi West MP Charles Nguna who won the seat on his first try in 2017 under the Wiper party, politics also had a negative side in terms of finances.
"I was stable financially, but when I joined politics, my financial status has declined but I'm not badly off. I have to share my income with the constituents and handle some projects from my own pocket as well," he confessed.
Terms like "Young blood, new ideas, youth empowerment, a new era," surface when a discussion on young people in politics emerges but what impact do they have when they get these positions?
A 2020, report by Mzalendo on the performance of youth in the National Assembly indicated that Didmus Baraza (MP Kimilili), Sabina Chege (Woman Rep Murang'a County), Ndindi Nyoro (MP Kiharu) and John Mwirigi (MP Igembe South) were the most active.A session in progress at Parliament Buildings in June 2020.Daily Nation
Indeed, when elected, the job of an MP is to represent their onstituents interests on a national platform and as Mwingi West MP Charles Nguna advises, "Be conversant with the people on the ground because they are the ones who will give you the power and have the power to take it away."
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