Lessons from student winning  parliamentary seat

Saturday August 12 2017

Igembe South MP John Paul Mwirigi ,23,addresses

Igembe South MP John Paul Mwirigi ,23,addresses journalists at Maua Girls High School, constituency tallying centre on August 9, 2017. PHOTO| PHOEBE OKALL 

More by this Author

The highlight, for me, in this election, was the surprise win of John Paul Mwirigi, the 23-year-old who is set to become the next Igembe South MP - Mr Mwirigi is a university student at Mt Kenya University, where is studying education.

He beat at least four seasoned, (and much older) politicians, who I imagine were flush with money and other goodies to woo voters with during their sophisticated campaigns.

As his contestants zoomed around Igembe South with a convoy of fuel guzzlers branded with their faces, Mr Mwirigi sold his agenda on foot, moving from homestead to homestead, explaining to those that opened the door why he had chosen to confront the goliaths face-to-face, and what he would do for them should they elect him.

I suspect that his opponents did not lose sleep over him, confident that he was no threat; after all, from years of experience, Kenyans in mashinani, (rural areas) tend to vote for the one that comes with the biggest money bag.

Mr Mwirigi had no money to his name and so he wasn’t a threat to them.

 I also suspect that there are those that out rightly laughed at him when he asked them for their vote.

They probably told him that he was wasting his time and energy, that there was no way he could possibly beat the experienced politicians he was competing with.

And what did a 23-year-old know anyway? More importantly, what was he giving them? Who faces the electorate empty-handed?

There was also the fact that he was an independent candidate while his rivals were competing under the umbrella of some of the country’s mega parties. Only a fool would compete with this, right?

Come August 8 however, this young man was right at the top of the hill with 18, 867 votes against the 15,411 votes that his closest contestant garnered.


Obviously, majority of the residents of Igembe South believed that he had what it took to take them where they wanted to go.

Those interviewed by the media following Mwirigi’s win explained that they had decided to give him their vote because they were confident that he knew their problems, (he comes from a humble background) and that he would address them. What a refreshing reasoning.

It did not matter to them that he wasn’t popular or that he did not have handouts to offer them, or that he was young and inexperienced; what stood out for them, what won him over, was that he had tasted the problems they grapple with on a daily basis and that from keenly listening to him, they had come to the conclusion that he was the right man for the job. If this were the criteria we used to elect our politicians to office, we would be a very prosperous nation.

This is not all this young man’s win taught me. It also taught me that sometimes it pays to start big, to dream big, I mean, it would have made more sense to set his eyes on the ward rep seat to begin with, for example.


But no, he dared to go for the bigger job and got it. However, it would be worth pointing out that he only got it because he understood the needs of his target audience.

His inspiring win also taught me that you don’t necessarily have to have lots of money to accomplish what you aspire for.

He started with what he had – a convincing agenda that the people could identify with and a will to do the hard work – walking from door-to-door and actually looking a prospective voter in the eye, thus opening yourself up for scrutiny takes guts.

His story also taught me that there are many ways to achieve the same result and that the tried and tested way isn’t always the winning way. Oh, and that a bold attitude will take you places.

I cannot wait to see how this young man performs once in office.


[email protected]; Twitter: @cnjerius. The writer is the Nation features editor




Talking about “storing food” just in case,” I don’t know if it's being paranoid, taking precaution or better safe than sorry. I am a positive believer and I have been praying for peace. So far I’ve been feeling “normal” but today, I see myself “succumbing to stocking food policy.” I will just force myself to go buy some “non~perishable food.”I don’t wan’t to be the only visitor in Jerusalem!


You are certainly not alone as far as what you highlighted in last week’s article. We as Kenyans claim to be a God fearing nation but this is contradicted by our actions. We believe more in politicians than the word of God. My prayer is that Kenyan’s will come to appreciate that at the end of the day it is not about blind tribal support but who can deliver the best as far as leadership is concerned. Keep up the good work.


You hit the nail on the head. We should exercise our affairs humanely, knowing we have a life to live. Love your neighbour as you love yourself.


Well said let’s hope for a peaceful co-existence during this election period. Kenya will always be there.


You nailed it today. There is a growing multitude of like minded Kenyans  and it will be well. Today’s marriage ban was between a guy from Nyanza and the lady is from Central -the priest asked does anyone have any impediment to this ? The congregation laughed clearly wishing them God’s blessings.