For Paul Maro, a boda boda rider from Hola, Tana River County, clinching the MCA seat was no mere miracle. It was the result of hard work and an undying spirit.
The 32-year-old orphan, who prefers to call himself Paulo in reference to Saint Paul the apostle, beat 17 seasoned candidates, among them local human rights activists.
He won the Mikinduni Ward seat on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party ticket.
Maro says he faced many challenges, ranging from a lack of resources during the campaign period.
He relied on ‘word-of-mouth’ campaign tactics with the help of his boda boda colleagues.
Sometimes, together with friends, they could sacrifice their daily earnings to campaign for him with the hope that once he gets to the assembly, he will champion their rights.
“It was not a walk in the park. We crafted a plan to woo our customers, and we did this by convincing them while in transit. We could ride the bikes on a maximum speed of 40 kilometers per hour as we talked to them,” says Maro.
Maro dropped out of school in Form Two in 2012, while studying at Hola secondary school.
It was a double tragedy.
The same year, his parents died.
He then ventured into boda boda business, charging Sh30 to earn a living.
“In 2012, I had nothing to do. I was forced to hang around boda boda riders in my village. That is where I learnt how to ride the motorbike and later embraced the trade. I was later employed as a rider. Later, after saving, I bought my own motorcycle,” says Maro, a father of two boys.
He started by transporting children to school.
He had to teach himself how to ride in the bushes away from other road users, fearing that he could be knocked down by vehicles.
Maro says traffic police were his main challenge. Further, he neither had a road license nor an insurance cover to ride on the highway.
He reveals that most boda boda riders without permits used to bribe police officers at roadblocks.
Despite his humble background, Maro has proved that everything is possible when you believe in yourself and work hard.
The MCA-elect, who is also the county Chairman of boda boda association, says that his opponents used to dismiss him as a ‘joker’ due to his financial status.
Maro was elected chairman of the boda boda association in Tana River county in 2017 in an election supervised by the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Tana River chapter because of his selfless service, and trust and love for his passengers.
He had previously vied for the seat twice and lost.
“I interacted with many people, not only from my Pokomo tribe. I learnt one thing - in any business, never rely on doing business with your tribesmen. I met many people who I believe, voted for me,” he says.
Getting a political party ticket to use in the election was a challenge since the parties demand hefty nomination fees.
“I thank Governor Dhadho Godhana because I approached him and he accepted my plea and handed me the ODM ticket. He paid for it,” he said.
At home in Kone village, his 27-year-old wife Mayaa Mohamed narrated how she quarrelled with him about his political ambitions.
Ms Mayaa, a housewife, added that she slowly accepted her husband was destined to be a politician.
“We depended on the boda boda earnings. It was difficult, but I was praying for him. My dream is that our lives will change for the better,” she said.
Joseph Buya, a boda boda rider and a close colleague said that their campaign tactic worked well and the message endeared to the people they interacted with, adding that he is hopeful that their plight will be addressed once the county government takes office.
“We are always harassed. We elected Maro as our chairman since he was always in the forefront to advocate for our issues with the police and county askaris. We talked to our customers and we thank God they voted for him,” said Buya.