The youthful swagger in City politics

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They are young, suave, and urbane. Besides, some of them are lucky enough to have limitless cash at their disposal, while others have impeccable organisation skills and the gift of the gab to boot.

These new breeds of politicians are not just trending. No. They have taken city politics by storm, sending their more established and experienced opponents into panic mode.
Besides the grandiose of wealth, the swagger of youth and the ability to charm crowds, however, can these young politicians really change the status quo? Can they inject something new and refreshing into our body politics that has, hitherto, been toxic and ethinicized?

Here is an analytical look at these political rookies and what their possible election to parliament on August 8 portends for the country.

Johnson Sakaja, 32

A Jubilee nominated Member of Parliament; the 32 year old has lived true to his call proving his worth with quality debates. He is also highly respected across the political divide owing to his sober mind.

Last year for instance, he won the 2016 Africa change-maker award– an honour bestowed on African achievers, movers and shakers from across the continent, including politicians and industry captains.

The award was in honour of his role in transforming the lives of young people in Kenya through his various legislative initiatives.

He is contesting the Nairobi Senatorial seat, which, if he wins, will mark his first election as leader of a national constituency.

He, however, faces a litmus test from Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) candidate in lawyer Edwin Sifuna. A graduate of Actuarial Science from the University of Nairobi, Sakaja, is a last born in a family of three and was born and raised in Nairobi, and because of this, he has good grasp of the matters that affect Nairobians.

However, politics being the game it is will perhaps not be kind to his roots but will gauge him on the sheer volume of effort he puts in convincing the voters.

Before ODM picked Sifuna as their candidate for the senatorial position, Sakaja seemed to have been assured of the seat but the landscape has now changed.

Having served for five years as a Member of the National Assembly and being a top Jubilee honcho, he no doubt has a lot of campaign camp at his disposal which his opposite number may not have.

Paul Ongili alias Babu Owino, 29

The 29-year old has cut his teeth as a no-nonsense student leader whose reign at the University of Nairobi has stretched beyond six years winning three consecutive terms – to become the only student leader to have achieved the feat –hence earning the unenviable tag “the Mugabe of UoN”.

Besides being a rabble-rouser, Babu, as he is fondly known, can be a loose political canon that, at times, opens his mouth before he thinks.

He is a populist per excellence and perhaps a mirror and true reflection of former South Africa’s ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema, the firebrand politician who once famously remarked that he was ready to take up firearm to help propel Jacob Zuma to the presidency.

Babu is, without doubt, a riff-raff whose breed of politics purely fits the rugged treacherous political landscape of Nairobi. A glimpse of him addressing his charged youthful supporters evoke the memories of past fiery city politicians such as David Mwenje, Ferdinand Waititu and Fred Gumo.

In fact, the constituency he seeks to represent, Embakasi East was hived off from the larger Embakasi constituency, which was interestingly represented by the late Mwenje, long before it was sub-divided to the current three units (Embakasi East, Embakasi West and Embakasi South).

At just 29, he boasts of massive wealth, which includes lavish apartments in the up market suburbs of Hurlingam.

His hot head, deep pockets, political networks, youthful constituency and ability to charm crowds are some of his greatest political capital. One simply needs to look at Sonu where his iron- fist reign withstood the test of time that even the university administrators could not break.

Granted that his political tentacles are growing fast and furious, Owino faces an acid test in Embakasi East in his quest to earn the term ‘Honorable’ that he so much craves for come August 8.

Flash back to 2015 when then US President Barrack Obama confirmed his maiden visit to the country of his father as the US President, Owino went on record threatening that some of  his  comrades (read fellow students) would commit suicide if Obama  snubbed the UoN in his itinerary.

Prior to this, he had allegedly authored a controversial letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta seeking his permission to lead his comrades in burning down backstreet clinics procuring abortions .This was in the wake of the death of a female student who had allegedly died at one of the clinics while undergoing the procedure.

With solid cash in his hands, analysts opine that he has a high chance of winning the seat. Critics, however, argue that with his volatility, he is likely to play to the public gallery with endless stunts similar to those of Nairobi Gubernatorial candidate, Mike Mbuvi Sonko.

Boniface Mwangi, 33

An accomplished and renowned photojournalist, his name is synonymous with street activism. On his website, he describes himself as “a change maker and leader who has spent his life fighting for justice for the ordinary mwananchi”.

Born in Taita Taveta and raised in Starehe, the struggle for survival took him away from school and pushed him to engage in odd jobs including hawking books.

He sat his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations (KCSE) last year, 18 years on, after he was expelled in high school in form one. He believes that what ails Kenya is bad leadership, which he maintains he will fix if elected.

“I’m not going into parliament as a politician but as an activist,” he recently said in a TV interview insisting that he does not want to be referred to as a politician.

Compared with his opponents, Mwangi is probably the common man’s candidate. He has never been a fence sitter on key issues that form the national debate and has never enjoyed the comfort of inner peace and wealth.

Apart from that, he is probably the only candidate who has come out to ask for donations from the ordinary mwananchi to run a campaign – a practice that is not only common – but also anchored in law in the west.

Bravery and eloquence are his greatest political attributes and one need to look no further for this. In 2015, for instance, he led a group of other activists and school children in bringing down a wall erected by a private developer to annex part of that which belonged to Lang’ata Primary School. He has also not once, not twice taken the powers that be head-on.

His much publicized court battle with the country’s second in command, Deputy President William Ruto earned him admirers and haters alike. Mwangi is married with three children.
Granted that he has no baggage as far as management of public resources is concerned, many believe that he reflects what public service should be all about, but whether he practices the same if elected is another matter all together.

Steve Mbogo, 30

Born on October 29th 1986 in Mt. Elgon Hospital, Kitale, the second of four children is among the three hopefuls for the Starehe parliamentary seat.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Cairo University School of Business in 2008. After completing postgraduate studies at the London School Of Economics in 2010, he received the Samuel Morse Lane Scholarship to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at University Of South Australia (UNISA, Adelaide), graduating in 2012. He subsequently gained admission to UNISA Flying School training as a pilot and earning a Private Pilot’s License (PPL) and Commercial Pilot’s License (CPL) certificates in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Running in Starehe for Member of the National Assembly on an ODM ticket, Mbogo has met his match in young, energetic and vibrant candidates in Charles Njagua Kanyi alias Jaguar and political activist Boniface Mwangi.

Riding on the ODM popularity, Mbogo hopes to beat the other candidates and is banking on the electorate to rubberstamp his quest.

“I’m calling on the voters to support my candidature because I’m a firm believer in politics of ideology. I want them to look at what I have for them and at the end of the day, I believe they’ll make informed choices because they are enlightened,” he recently argued.

Though the source of wealth is unknown, those close to him intimate that he is an entrepreneur with vast interests in real estate, manufacturing, renewable energy, ICT, Insurance, Aviation and investments. He has the ODM machinery and the NASA wave to count on, but to the common youth, he comes across as an elitist whose only desire is to dine and wine at the mighty table of kings.

He will probably need to work hard on this image and soil his hands a little bit if he is to connect with the constituents of Starehe.

A limitless resource is a plus in his quest but like his competitors, he is new on the political landscape and it remains to be seen if he’ll have the final laugh.

Charles Kanyi, aka Jaguar, 31

A big name in the entertainment industry, Kanyi alias Jaguar grew up in Nairobi where he attended school. At the age of eleven he lost his mother who by then was the only guardian. He was forced to enroll in informal employment working several odd jobs to earn a living.

Through struggles working as a tout in Nairobi and support from friends, he managed to complete school. Those close to him say he is a self-made man though controversy surrounds his flashy lifestyle and source of wealth. Not long ago, he was in news for all the wrong reasons after it emerged that one of his vehicles had hit and killed a passenger.

His biggest political capital is beating veteran politician and former minister Maina Kamanda in the Jubilee nominations.

Initially, the Jubilee honchos tried to cheat him out of the ticket but eventually saw sense after a negotiated boardroom settlement. He boasts of a legion of loyal fan base who identify with his music. He is also a philanthropist, but whether these attributes will endear him to the voters is debatable.

Apart from his music, Kanyi has served as a board member at the troubled National Authority for Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) and would probably be counting on the boardroom negotiation skills he has acquired should he get elected.

This is, without doubt, the biggest political fight in his life so far as he goes head-to-head with the affable young men who march him in every facet – money, youth and swagger and appeal.