By Isaac Swila
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.
This new breed of politicians is not just trending, no. It has taken city politics by storm – sending their more established and experienced opponents into panic mode.
But beneath the grandiose wealth, the swagger of youth and the ability to charm crowds, can these young politicians really change the set political order? Can they inject something new and refreshing into our form of politics, which has hitherto been toxic and ethnicised?
Here, we take an analytical look at these political gerrymanders 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 soberness of mind.
Last year, for instance, he won the 2016 Africa change-maker award – an honour bestowed on Africa 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, a last born in a family of three, 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 senator and being a top Jubilee honcho, he no doubt has a lot of campaign machinery at his disposal, which his opposite number may not have.
His appeal to the middle and lower class is also a plus for him, but in Sifuna, the opposition Nasa dangled a sweetened carrot to the voters which might in the end spoil a destiny that was his.
You see, both Sakaja and Sifuna are Luhyas and this will automatically divide the Mulembe vote in the capital. With a majority his ethnic block backing Nasa, Sakaja will heavily rely on central Kenya voters and sections of the Kalenjin vote to attain his goal. His rival Sifuna is no pushover either, and this promises to be a titanic battle.
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, having won three consecutive terms – to become the only student leader to have achieved the feat – and earning him the unenviable tag, “Mugabe of UoN”.
Besides being a rabble-rouser, Babu, as he is fondly known, can be a loose canon; at times, he opens his mouth before he thinks.
He is a populist par excellence and perhaps a mirror and true reflection of former ANC Youth League leader – Julius Malema – the firebrand South African politician who once famously remarked that he was ready to take up firearm to help propel Jacob Zuma to the presidency.
Babu is, without a 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 evokes 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 once represented by the late Mwenje. The others are Embakasi West and Embakasi South.
At just 29, he boasts of massive wealth, which includes owning lavish apartments in the up market suburb of Hurlingam.
His hot head, deep pockets, political networks, youthful constituency, and ability to charm crowds are some of his greatest political assets. One simply needs to look at Sonu where his iron-fist reign withstood the test of time, and which 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 ‘Honourable’ that he so much craves, never mind that he is may not be the most honourable aspirant there is, or honourable at all.
However, his major political baggage is his savage tongue, which, in many instances, has rubbed many the wrong way.
Flash back to 2015 when then Barrack Obama confirmed his maiden visit to the country as US President. Owino went on record threatening that some of his comrades (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 that offer abortion services. This was in the wake of the death of a female student at one of the clinics while undergoing the procedure.
With cash in his hands, analysts opine that he has a high chance of winning the seat. Critics, however, argue that with his volatile politics, he is likely to play to the public gallery with endless stunts similar to those of Nairobi gubernatorial candidate, Mike Mbuvi Sonko.
Owino, in fact, in a recent TV interview, put “rogue” companies in his constituency on notice, saying that they would be forced to change their ways or move shop should he win.
“There are a number of companies in my constituency who are not willing to employ locals in their firms. We are putting such companies on notice because once I become MP they’ll be closed down,” he said at an interview with a local television station.
Boniface Mwangi, 33
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 dropped out of school and shocked the country last year when he went back to class to sit his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations (KCSE). He believes that what ails Kenya is bad leadership, which he maintains he will fix (at least in Starehe) 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 comforts of inner peace or trappings of (ill gotten) 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 Western world.
Because 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.
His bravery and eloquence are his greatest political attributes. 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 land that belongs to Lang’ata Primary School. He has also, not once, not twice, taken the powers that be head-on bull. His much publicised court battle with the country’s second in command, DP William Ruto, earned him admirers and haters alike, but to him, there is no love lost between him and the political elite. Mwangi is married with three children.
Steve Mbogo, 30
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 as a Member of Parliament on an ODM ticket, Mbogo has met his match in young, energetic and vibrant candidates in Charles Njagua Kanyi 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 argues.
Though the source of his 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 others.
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 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 hoi poloi 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 Njagua Kanyi, 31
A big name in the entertainment industry, Kanyi alias Jaguar grew up in Nairobi where he also attended school. At the age of eleven he lost his mother who by then was his only guardian. He was forced to enrol in informal employment working several odd jobs to earn a living.
Through struggles working as a tout 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 a 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. Will he be first time lucky? We shall see.