‘I told my schoolmates I’d be elected MP in 2017’

2017-08-13 06:01
John Paul Mwirigi

John Paul Mwirigi

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

When he was a schoolboy, John Paul Mwirigi once dreamt he was tabling a motion in Kenya’s Parliament. Years later, he is finally off to Kenya’s Parliament.

After his dream, he told his schoolmates he’d be elected MP come 2017, but local chiefs got wind of this and reported him to his school principal. They claimed he was smoking bhang (dope).

This week, the dream of the now 23-year-old bachelor of education student at Mt Kenya University came true when he was elected as an independent MP for the Igembe South constituency, about 250km northeast of Nairobi, with 18 867 votes.

This after he was campaigning using only his bike, while other candidates such as Rufus Miriti of the Jubilee Party, who trailed with 15 411 votes, had money and party machinery behind them.

Mwirigi had no money to “buy” votes with flashy projects and gifts, but he found ways, like his bicycle, to get around.

“I didn’t have any means of transport. Sometimes my peers, who are boda boda [motorcycle] operators, helped me move around,” the lean, soft-spoken, newly employed politician told City Press.

“I didn’t have any coin to give people, even food; I was given food as I went along,” he said.

Determined

Mwirigi did odd jobs, such as carrying logs at a factory, earning a pittance of 700 Kenyan shillings (R90) for a few days’ work, which would then fuel his campaign again. He was driven by a desire to help young people like himself find employment.

“I saw the way my people were being handled. Young people need employment, but the people who are given those jobs are the rich ones. Even if you are qualified to get a job, you do not get it,” he said.

Four years ago, when he decided to stand, Mwirigi said he went door to door to speak to people, but from last year onwards he started to have discussions with groups, such as the tea farmers in Meru county and the women.

“I was eating with those people, talking to them, telling them I am like them, and assisting them where I could,” he said.

Mwirigi lives with his mother, who was initially worried about his ambitions. “My mum wasn’t positive because she was fearing that I can be eliminated, assassinated,” he said. She is, however, happy about her son’s success, but concerned about “how will I cope with those I was competing with because they used millions and I didn’t use anything”.

Mwirigi’s father, who initially assisted as his political adviser, didn’t live to see his son’s success. He died in 2014. Although he’d have more money now, Mwirigi said he’d still work with the people because he wanted to be re-elected in 2022 and contest a county position in 2027.

He was one of the young disruptors in the high-stakes game of Kenyan politics, in which 16 000 candidates this week competed for fewer than 2 000 positions.

Another activist and social-media celebrity, Boniface Mwangi, ran a visible campaign for which he crowdfunded way beyond his constituency and which he publicised on Twitter.

He lost out, however, to two others who came from more established parties and that included a rapper. A voter from his constituency said: “Boniface is a good activist, but he must remain an activist, not a politician.”

Mwangi was one of the first candidates in the election to concede defeat, but he declined to be interviewed.

The recent elections also saw three women rise to become state governors for the first time. Previously all 47 states were governed by men.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
Watch: Investing in the future through child development

An investment of R32-million into 11 early childhood development centres is changing the future for children in the Northern Cape.

/Africa
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.