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John Paul Mwirigi: From carrying logs to making laws

My Man

The August 8, 2017 General Election had a few shocking moments. One of them was the election of JOHN PAUL MWIRIGI, 23, as MP for Igembe South constituency, who vied as an independent candidate. John beat many odds; lacking finances to put up a formidable challenge against his opponent vying on the popular Jubilee Party’s ticket. Shortly after his election he was known as the MP who didn’t have a car and could only afford bus fare to Parliament. He talks to GARDY CHACHA about the miracle that was his election.


Why didn’t you seek to be nominated through Jubilee Party to vie for the position?


I am liberal minded and a free thinker. I only have allegiance to the needs of the citizens who elected me. I only follow a party if its ideas rhyme with mine. But I was also aware that since I didn’t have money, and the fact that I was young, I would be rigged out. Being an independent candidate assured me that my name would be on the ballot. The people of Igembe South needed someone who would work for them and not someone appointed by political honchos.


What were you doing before being elected?


I was an average young man struggling through life like many of my peers.


I read somewhere that you were a student?


I am a third year Bachelor of Education degree student. I enrolled in 2015 but on the school based programme. I couldn’t afford to be a full time student. I was paying my fees. So I needed to make money.


And how did you make money?


I worked at Igembe tea factory carrying logs. I also worked for a timber yard that belonged to a friend – still carrying logs. I made Sh350 a day at the tea factory.


From Sh350 per day to over Sh600,000: how does it feel?


It is because of the mercies of God. I really want to build my family and use the money to solve some of the issues affecting my constituents.


In the economic sense have you felt life change?


Yes. And it is still changing. Even so, I will continue interacting with other people just like I did before. Nothing about my manners towards people will change.


You want to be a teacher after you graduate?


No. I look at the degree as a stepping stone to study Masters in political science and public management.


Didn’t your parents help with campaign financing?


We are eight siblings in my family. I am the sixth born. My younger siblings, a brother and a sister, are still in school: mom’s was providing their fees and fending for them.


When did the idea to vie come up?


I think I was 19 and still a student at Kirindini Day Secondary. I dreamt – a normal dream – that I was in Parliament addressing a motion. I shared that dream with my classmates who thereafter urged me to go for it.


You never even once doubted that you were taking such a huge gamble?


Never! Though I will tell you many people discouraged me. I was told I didn’t have money. I was told I didn’t have a degree. Some suggested that I go for the MCA seat: which they still believed I wouldn’t win.


I would have taken the MCA advice, wouldn’t you?


I had a calling to be an MP. Not an MCA. It was not my dream to be an MCA.


Where did you get the Sh10,000 nomination fees?


From friends: I told them I needed money to accomplish something.


Would you characterise the family you grew up in as rich or poor?


I grew up in a not poor but also not rich family. We had food to eat – at least.


Your parents supported your political ambitions or they thought you had gone mad?


My father backed me up in the initial stages. But he passed on in 2014. In dad’s absence mom too supported my ambitions. Though at some point she thought I didn’t know what my priorities in life were. She gave me her blessings though.


Is there a woman in your life?


No. But I have had many lady friends growing up.


Let me rephrase: are you dating?


I am not dating anyone. With time I trust God will give me the right woman. I am very weary of girls who just want money and riches and nothing really to do with me.


So, by the time you are like 26 you’ll have married?


I don’t really know.


May be 30 years?


No. That is too much time. It will be before I am thirty.


What qualities would you cherish in a wife?


I want a God fearing woman. Also someone who will bolster my efforts to deliver for my constituents.


You won’t look at qualities like tall, beautiful, light skinned?


No. What good is a woman who is tall and beautiful but is only interested in a man’s pocket?


Have ladies thrown themselves at you?


Not one. Not ten. Many.


How do you respond to them?


I am a principled man. I am not going to waste my body and position bedding girls who have interests of their own.


You keep referring to God. Are you a believer?


Very much so.


How much did you spend during the campaigns?


I cannot say that I spent anything really. I didn’t have money to give people. I campaigned on motor bikes and sometimes I just walked from one place to another. There are friends who fuelled their cars for me to use while campaigning. I never really spent anything of my own.


You never bribed anyone with money?


I didn’t even have the money. Assuming I did and bribed people I don’t think I would have been elected.


Had you failed to win what would you be doing right now?


I would volunteer and create awareness among Igembe South constituents about how they can benefit from government services.


Did you have any inspiration from renowned figures?


Barack Obama challenged and inspired me the most. He was a black man with little clout vying in a white majority country. I was a young person with no money. If he did it I believed I could as well.


What advice would you give to young aspiring politicians?


You need to really believe in working for the people you want to represent. Right now I am fully focused on performing because if I don’t I will be cheating my constituents.

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