Youthful MP joins political class for the price of Prado
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, firstname.lastname@example.org