Out of courtesy, I ask for your indulgence while I narrate a short story inspired by the indefatigable 24-year-old Linet Chepkorir who floored politicians of her grandmother’s age in Thursday’s party primaries for Bomet Woman Representative seat.
It was many years ago and I was very young but I vividly remember the small red car and its occupant. It was parked a few metres from my grandfather’s grave, on the upper part of the home.
A slim man had disembarked from it and walked to the section of the home where we lived. He spoke to one of my many relatives who told him that the person he wanted to see was not at home.
The visitor had wanted to see my father, and was directed to where he was. By then, a by-election had been called in the then larger Ugenya constituency after the results of the previous year’s General Election were disputed and the matter went to court.
In a strange twist of fate, the petitioner was found guilty of election malpractice and barred from elective politics for five years.
The visitor in the red car had come to see my father because he was a contestant in the by-election, and wanted to understand the political landscape — so to write — of Ugenya.
My father had been a candidate in the General Election — and like him, the man in the red car was a novice in parliamentary politics, and an outsider without much clout and political history.
The by-election came (my father did not contest), and the visitor in the red car was declared the winner. He was 29 years old.
The visitor was James Orengo, the 72-year-old Siaya Senator who has been in Kenyan politics from 1980 and was MP for Ugenya in four election cycles from 1980 till 2013.
I remembered that piece of history when I was handed the news story of Chepkorir on Friday. On a normal day, it was a story worth killing because of the way it was narrated.
But this was not an ordinary story; it was an inspiring one and had to be salvaged so the world can know about Chepkorir, the young woman who floored experienced politicians with deep pockets and connections in high places.
Like the 29-year-old Orengo in 1980, the 24-year-old Chepkorir of 2022 did not sit back and sulk and whine and hold a pity party that Kenya’s old political leaders have refused to leave the stage for the youth.
Nope. She joined the race, and ignored advice from friends and relatives to shelve her dreams because they would not be realised. She also proved wrong naysayers and that peculiar breed of Kenyans called political analysts.
Ideally, that should be the spirit of any young Kenyan who feels they can bring change by joining elective politics. It is better than whining and ranting endlessly on social media platforms and occasionally on mainstream media that aged politicians have blocked them from leadership.
There have been muted rants that the Orengos of Kenya’s politics should leave the scene for young blood. But what is deliberately being forgotten is that no older politician left the seat for the youthful Orengos of those days.
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They fought for their space by contesting against the old political order and won elections. They made their voices heard, just like Chepkorir did, and those who liked what they said, and believed in them, voted for them.
It is a fact that Kenya’s politics keeps getting dirtier and those who get elected on the platform of change turn against the voters and oppress them by passing bad laws and participating in corrupt deals.
However, it beats logic to keep wailing that the old politicians with archaic ideas should leave their seats for the youth who are not inspired to change the narrative from the beginning of an electoral process by contesting and winning against all odds.
As a matter of fact, when one has the inclination to join politics, it is defeatist to keep crying that the old politicians should exit the stage for the energetic youth with fresh ideas.
And what better way to prove that you have the energy to bring change and fresh ideas to uplift the people than to run rings around these geriatric politicians on the campaign trail and beat them at the ballot?
If they real want to inject fresh ideas in Kenya’s rotten political system, they should be willing to make sacrifices and go through the electoral process.
Chepkorir made sacrifices, and endured unpleasant situations and ridicule, but she remained focused on what she wants. Not many people would have known about her, and offered to help, if all she did was cry about elderly politicians not giving her a seat.
Complaining that aged politicians are not making way for younger Kenyans may sound chic, but in essence it is a lame excuse past its expiry date — and Chepkorir is living proof that it can no longer hold.