Youth­ful MP joins po­lit­i­cal class for the price of Prado

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - SUNDAY REVIEW -

John Paul Mwi­rigi, the 23-yearold Igembe South MP who cam­paigned by walk­ing from door to door with the sup­port of boda boda rid­ers in the Au­gust 8 election is the proud owner of a fuel-guz­zling, car­bon-emit­ting Toy­ota Prado cour­tesy of Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta who promised to gift him a car af­ter he rode in a matatu to Nairobi for a Ju­bilee af­fil­i­ated MP’S meet­ing at State House early this month. The Pres­i­dent made good his prom­ise this Fri­day at Sa­gana State Lodge when he pre­sented the youth­ful MP of Igembe South the keys to a sil­ver Toy­ota Prado as a ‘re­ward’ for win­ning the par­lia­men­tary seat.

On the sur­face, this ges­ture shows the pres­i­dent’s mag­na­nim­ity in re­ward­ing youth lead­ers like Mwi­rigi who emerged vic­to­ri­ous de­spite the many fi­nan­cial chal­lenges youth and women face in ex­pen­sive elec­toral cam­paigns in Kenya. Yet the same ges­ture could also be per­ceived as sym­bolic of the pre­vail­ing pa­tron­age pol­i­tics through which the pres­i­dent hopes to keep the Igembe vot­ers grate­ful and hope­ful for more good­ies to come if they vote him in the Oc­to­ber 17 pres­i­den­tial election.

By re­ward­ing the hum­ble Mwi­rigi with a Prado the pres­i­dent is also in­di­rectly telling the MP that he has now grad­u­ated to a new class called the ‘po­lit­i­cal elite’. And once some­one joins this po­lit­i­cal class, you have to fol­low the elit­ist rules of the game be­cause you are now part of an ex­clu­sive club.

Look­ing at the video footage of that State House meet­ing, it is sad to be how pa­tro­n­is­ing some of the MPS con­grat­u­lated him loudly and promised to con­duct a haram­bee to buy him a car.

The MPS were clearly ‘em­bar­rassed’ on his be­half though the youth­ful MP seemed ex­cited and a tad ner­vous with all the at­ten­tion but quite obliv­i­ous to any em­bar­rass­ment his matatu hop­ping and walk­ing to State House caused the po­lit­i­cal class. This in­ci­dent re­minded me the anx­i­ety a friends of mine had when they joined Par­lia­ment in 2013 as their cars were not ‘good enough’ to be parked next to the shiny fuel guz­zlers of other richer col­leagues.

The in­duc­tion to the po­lit­i­cal class is quick and Mwi­rigi is learn­ing fast. For in­stance, he has dis­carded his grey pullover for sleek suits. He will soon un­der­stand that from now hence­forth, he is part of a class of peo­ple who subscribe to a cer­tain code of con­duct and who dress and talk in a cer­tain way.

Uhuru Keny­atta and Ju­bilee may ben­e­fit from this ges­ture by se­cur­ing Igembe votes if the vot­ers de­cide to thank him for re­ward­ing their son in the short term. How­ever, he has missed an im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity to de­mys­tify lead­er­ship by af­firm­ing Mwi­rigi with­out gift­ing him any­thing as the kind of ser­vant leader Kenya des­per­ately needs.

The Igembe MP would still have bought a Toy­ota Prado from the huge loans MPS get to buy cars and houses im­me­di­ately they join Par­lia­ment. Mwi­rigi’s win is sim­i­lar to the 1990 by-election in Ny­eri where vot­ers de­cided to teach for­mer Pres­i­dent Moi a les­son by elect­ing Wai­henya Ndi­rangu, 22, a stu­dent at Ki­mathi Univer­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy which was then a tech­ni­cal col­lege.

The pres­i­dent should have cap­tured the mo­ment to cel­e­brate what an au­then­tic leader from the peo­ple is about. He should have cap­tured the mo­ment to show those greedy MPS call­ing for more money so they can re­cover their cam­paign money, the kind of voter mo­bil­i­sa­tion model we should as­pire to which still guar­an­tees re­sults as Mwi­rigi has shown.

Uhuru Keny­atta should have taken that mo­ment to en­cour­age other MPS that their ob­ses­sion with power by driv­ing fuel guz­zlers, hav­ing big bel­lies, be­ing called mheshimiwa and os­ten­ta­tious liv­ing, was pre­vent­ing them from chang­ing the way vot­ers per­ceived them - as Mr and Ms mon­ey­bags.

Mwi­rigi was funded by vot­ers and, un­like other rich MPS, he did not need to do­nate for ev­ery event he was in­vited. He just needed to be present and that’s what we need from our MPS. Mwi­rigi was elected be­cause he lived among the peo­ple, went to public hos­pi­tals and public schools like them and I hope he can con­tinue with the same spirit.

Our cur­rent po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship model is not fea­si­ble due to the high wage bill from the po­lit­i­cal class com­pared to other im­por­tant sec­tors such as health­care, se­cu­rity, ed­u­ca­tion and re­search.

The Mwi­rigi model sug­gests a way out of this cyclic mess of ex­pen­sive cam­paigns and the MPS need to re­coup the money back by

NJOKI WAMAI By re­ward­ing the hum­ble Mwi­rigi with a Prado, the pres­i­dent is also in­di­rectly telling the MP that he has now grad­u­ated to a new class called the po­lit­i­cal elite.”

Dr Wamai is a post-doc­toral re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Cam­bridge Pol­i­tics and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies Depart­ment. @njoki­wa­mai, njoki­wa­

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