PROFILE

John Njuguna: Greenhorn who took on ruling party

His entry in politics started in 2013 as Jubilee Party’s youth representative in Kiambu county.

In Summary

• Njuguna, 36, was born and raised by a single mother, who is now deceased, in Gatono village, Kiambaa constituency.

• Through a lot of hardship, he says, Njuguna schooled at Gatatha Primary School and later at Thigio Boys Secondary School in Ndeiya, Limuru, after getting a sponsor.

Kiambaa MP-elect John Njuguna
Kiambaa MP-elect John Njuguna
Image: STANLEY NJENGA

The Kiambaa by-election was a real battle between dynasties and hustlers.

This is because Kiambaa constituency has been in the hands of political dynasties since Independence.

The constituency has been represented by Mbiyu Koinange (1963-78), Njenga Karume (1979-92 and 1997-2007), Kamau Icharia (1992-97), Stanley Githunguri (2007-2013) and Paul Koinange (2013-2021).

Old, rich and mighty political giants.

The Koinange family wanted to recapture the seat, through the widow, June, or Lenah, daughter of the former Cabinet minister Mbiyu Koinange.

However, Jubilee Party settled on Kariri Njama, a popular politician and philanthropist. Interestingly, he was in the hustler camp until Koinange’s demise, when he decamped to Jubilee.

The ruling party was attempting to win back the seat through his popularity.  

But a relatively young greenhorn emerged almost from nowhere.

John Njuguna Wanjiku, popularly known as Ka Wanjiku (Wanjiku’s son), took Kiambaa by storm under the hustler banner and on the UDA ticket, triggering Jubilee machinery to react to save the seat three weeks to the polls.

Njuguna, 36, was born and raised by a single mother, who is now deceased, in Gatono village, Kiambaa. He has three siblings, two brothers and a sister. The mother worked in flower farms.

Through a lot of hardship, Njuguna schooled at Gatatha Primary School and later at Thigio Boys Secondary School in Ndeiya, Limuru, with the help of a sponsor.

Years later, he joined Kenya Methodist University.

Njuguna's first job was with Barclays Bank. He worked for a year before resigning to start a spare parts import business and soon after graduating to import vehicles.

We saw [Majority leader Amos] Kimunya coming to chest thump that if the people of Kiambaa don’t elect a Jubilee candidate then roads will not be constructed. That is backward politics because Kiambaa residents pay taxes

He was an evangelist with the Full Gospel Church of Kenya.

His entry to politics started in 2013 as Jubilee Alliance's’s youth representative in Kiambu county.

In the 2013 general election, he was Koinange’s campaign manager. 

Soon after that election, Njuguna decided to prepare for his first attempt at elective politics. So he started mobilising at the grassroots as early as 2018.

He allied himself with DP William Ruto, at one point inviting him as the chief guest for a boda boda Sacco fundraiser in Kawaida together with Njama. A photo of the three – Ruto, Njuguna and Njama –taken during the harambee, has been making the rounds on social media.

But his attempts to host the DP in February this year were not taken kindly by some quarters. He was reportedly arrested and intimidated over the move.

Njuguna accused the then MP, Koinange – ally-turned-foe – of using the police to intimidate him.

“I’d like to tell our MP to stop sending the police to disrupt the meeting. The DP will be there [Kiambaa] for only two hours and leave and he will have the ground to do whatever he wants but come 2022, the people of Kiambaa will decide the direction he will take,” Njuguna told the media on February 6 after the said kidnapping.

It didn’t even get to 2022. Now that he has been elected, what will he do in the 12 months to the election?

His language is hustler empowerment. He wants to empower the youth through education, particularly technical training centres.

He says given that once CDF sets aside Sh10 million for a TVET project the national government adds another Sh90 million, it is an area he will prioritise to take care of students who are unable to join university and to deal with unemployment.

He also wants to renovate primary and secondary schools to create an environment conducive for learning and create jobs in the construction sector.

“In the [NG]-CDF, there is Sh90 million our MP had not used. The other amount that will be disbursed will be Sh137 million. From this, we will set aside Sh10 million to build a TVET centre, another amount to renovate schools and build more classes as well as issue bursaries, 35 per cent of CDF. And ensure it is done transparently," he said.

“We will also sponsor 1,000 youths for driving and ensure they get the new driving licence without them paying a cent. We will also take 1,000 young women and mothers and sponsor them for short courses such as hairdressing as well as catering and hospitality so they can become economically self-reliant.”

Additionally, he says given an MP is the chairman or patron of the Constituency Roads Committee, he will ensure some roads are taken care of by the Kenya Urban Roads Authority and the Kenya Rural Roads Authority.

From the Sh30 million allocated for roads, we will murram the small roads to make them passable, he said.

Asked whether he will get government support to accomplish all this having run against the ruling party's candidate, he said Kisumu did not vote for Jubilee but it still enjoys development because it is the people's right.

“We saw [Majority leader Amos] Kimunya coming to chest thump that if the people of Kiambaa don’t elect a Jubilee candidate then roads will not be constructed. That is backward politics because Kiambaa residents pay taxes,” he said.

He added that the people of Kiambaa are ready for anything.

In any case, he said, they are preparing to be in government after the 2022 election.

"UDA party will form the next government. Those saying we are in the opposition, that's not the case. We are preparing ourselves. Even Jubilee is in Nasa. They are preparing so that they can start 2022 politics,” Njunguna said.

Former nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura, who is pro-Ruto, says Njuguna has been described by his team as clean hearted, faithful, available and teachable, "clearly demonstrating the importance of having good people joining politics".

"He started his campaigns with a rating of a paltry seven per cent against Njama’s 70 per cent but went ahead to beat him in the main polls," he opines