Shunning handout politics benefits young aspirants

Voter attitudes are changing, young people are defying the odds to ascend to office

In Summary
  • There are some lessons everyone can learn from MP Mwirigi and  Linet Chepkorir ‘Toto’ steadfast in the face of adversity.
  • The lack of adequate resources to engage in a campaign should not discourage one from contesting.

The political scene in Kenya is largely characterised by people who are advanced in age and have lots of wealth. One major contributing factor to this is the attitude citizens have towards politics.

Many Kenyans believe that politicians must dish out money or other goods to them while on the campaign trail. Failure to do so will often lead to one not gaining an audience. Softie the Film, a documentary by renowned activist Boniface Mwangi, depicts this.

This status quo has often seen young people shy away from politics as many lack the funds to run an expensive campaign. Further, many of them are perceived as ‘immature’ and therefore not fit to hold leadership positions. However, voter attitudes are changing. Young people are defying the odds to ascend to political offices.

In 2017, John Paul Mwirigi made history by becoming Kenya’s youngest member of Parliament at 23. Unlike his competitors, the Igembe South legislator did not have the money to traverse the constituency in flashy cars. He did a door-to-door campaign on foot.

This year, Linet Chepkorir, now famously known as ‘Toto’, has made history in Bomet county by defeating more than seven of her competitors to get the ticket for the women representative position under the United Democratic Alliance party.

Chepkorir, a graduate of Chuka University, was the youngest contestant, aged 24. While she may not have won the seat yet, having made it that far ignites hope that young people can excel in the political scene.

These two stories serve as testimonies that young people have the potential to emerge victorious in their pursuit of leadership positions. There are some lessons everyone can learn from them, but they apply to the youth more.

First, to be steadfast in the face of adversity. The lack of adequate resources to engage in an election campaign should not discourage one from contesting for a seat. There is also adversity in terms of mockery.

When Chepkorir came to the limelight, a picture of her taken at DP William Ruto’s residence in Karen during an aspirants’ meeting was what put her on the spot. Many mocked her as an ‘unserious’ candidate, but she stayed put.

Second, young people who get into such positions have a responsibility to offer good leadership. For a long time, Kenyan politics has been full of thievery and selfishness. Having young blood injected into the scene ignites hope for a better country.

However, when these people begin perpetuating those same vices, that hope is dimmed. Such candidates should also avoid blindly following party positions and stand for what is right.

It is also important for the youth to support one another. Quite often, young people who seek elective seats face so much opposition from their fellow young people. I do not wish to perpetuate ageism, where we should support young people because we are young. What I am saying is, if there is a young person who is visionary and virtuous, give them a chance. Or at least, don’t throw stones at them – both literally and figuratively.

Factions of Kenyan voters are shunning handout politics and this is a good thing for young leaders. If you’ve been thinking of contesting for that seat but feel discouraged, this is the sign you need. Go for it!

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