- I told my mother: “Mom, I want to be a politician.” Mother asked me: “Why?” “Because I want to be a leader,” I answered her.
- She looked straight into my eyes and said: “My son, you don’t have to be a politician to be a leader. Most of those people joined politics to make money or to protect their wealth.”
When I was a little boy growing up in Kibera slums, one of my dreams was to be a politician.
I told my mother: “Mom, I want to be a politician.” Mother asked me: “Why?” “Because I want to be a leader,” I answered her.
She looked straight into my eyes and said: “My son, you don’t have to be a politician to be a leader. Most of those people joined politics to make money or to protect their wealth.”
So as a kid, I started hating politics.
Mother told me about priests, community leaders, and health workers who were leading change in the areas and yet they were not politicians.
That thought encouraged me to be a priest as most parish priests were serving the poor.
I was tempted to be father Kennedy. I admired them so much. The weirdest part was that you had to pay to go to a seminary school.
Mother always told me the best way to serve God was to help the less fortunate.
But at this stage, I got into leadership without being a politician.
Slowly by slowly, I learnt about Marcus Garvey, a man I admired so much that I named my son after him.
He did not hold any political office. We do remember him more than thousands of politicians who ever existed.
I fell in love with leaders who never held political office.
Another man was Martin Luther King Junior— an evangelist who stood for what was right and fought for civil rights.
A woman called Rosa Parks who became the face of struggle.
Think about this; How many ministers and Members of Parliament were existing by then and yet we don’t remember them? It’s true that you can be an impactful leader without being a politician.
It hurts me when selfish individuals want to come to support communities only when they want to run for political office.
I wish they believe in uplifting communities and has nothing to do with payback.
I hope that Kenyans will be enlightened and people will vote for whom they believe in and not those who do transactions with them.
I have hope for the youth. I have seen changes in Kibera where I grew up.
Ten years ago, you could not be a councillor if you came from the slums.
It was for the outsiders who contributed money for small harambees. Now they are electing their own.
In the past three ward elections, leaders elected have been from the community.
And mostly it has happened in Sarangombe Ward, and soon even the MPs will come from the community as wananchi are getting tired of selfish leaders with hidden motives.
I’ve been asked to run for a political office several times but I always tell them my work in the communities has nothing to do with me getting into politics as that sounds like I want to use them for personal gain.
I wish those leaders, who give money to churches, would still do it if they were not running for political office.
Let’s challenge these leaders that they should not peg their contributions in seeking votes.
Let’s build our countries together without expecting anything in return. We must also salute other leaders in our communities.
I know women who adopt orphans with little money to feed them, people who have less and yet give more to the less fortunate in society.
Let’s support them so that our children will know that politics is not the only way to be a leader.
Lastly, let’s stop worshipping those who are stealing our money because they don’t deserve praise and yet they are criminals hiding under the good of politics.
Dr. Kennedy Odede, is the founder and CEO of Shofco, a member of USAid Advisory Board, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, multiple humanitarian award winner, including 2022 Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year, best-selling author. Twitter @KennedyOdede