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You need a wife to be elected MP in Kenya

 MP Peter Salasya alias PK with his party leader, Eugene Wamalwa.

The miserable 300 votes Mumias East MP Peter Salasya alias PK got when he ran for parliament in 2017 were an apt illustration of how his Luhya community view unmarried and homeless upstarts seeking political office. Then two term MP Ben Washiali roundly disparaged Salasya's candidacy as that of a joker who'd not mastered the sheer courage of leaving his mother's house for his own isimba (boy's hut). How could he lead?

"Can you vote for a man without a house, a wife and even one who cannot afford a comb to style his hair?" Washiali would scoff at each campaign rally. Not surprisingly, he flogged the young fella blue black.

Eugene Wamalwa built him a decent house

But Salasya dusted himself and got back to work and years later Salasya, he sailed to parliament at 32 years of age, without meeting the threshold of having a wife and opening his home for walk-in guests. Well, at the heat of the 2022 campaigns the freshman in parliament mastered a populist campaign approach that endeared him to supporters. Defense CS Eugene Wamalwa, on whose Democratic Alliance Party Salasya ran, built him a decent house.

How he won in a community where bachelors are considered grown up boys not worth sitting with elders is baffling, especially since there was no one to cook for the army of villagers who start streaming to aspirants' homes immediately they declare interest political interest.

"It is a thorny issue especially in western Kenya. You want to be Omwami (leader)? Prove that you will treat us well when we visit your home. Most people who seek leadership are usually moneyed so voters want to know whether they well be served food or sneered at.

"Those who walked into PK's home learned would quickly understand he was not moneyed and the person they met was his mother, a widow who could offer just a little. Somehow, they (villagers) understood and elected him without a wife who could cook for the visitors strolling in," Walter Mutimba, an elder from the MP's home area, says.

Mutimba, however points out that the MP, who recently told a media station that he is wife-hunting, is unlikely to make it to parliament a second time should 2027 find him single.The old man advises the youthful MP to find a welcoming wife, and not "the Nairobi type who will sneer at visitors" who largely walk in to eat and go when they feel like.

"Go to (immediate Mumias East former MP) Benjamin Washiali's home; does he have a gate? Does his wife chase us away?" Mutimba posed. Indeed when we checked Washiali's home, we found no gate to shut people out or in anyone who feels like they can walk in and be served food by his wife, a teacher."Now that he is moneyed, let PK marry and open up his home so that when a constituent gets hungry, he leaves when satisfied," Mutimba says. "If he chooses another way, then we will teach him the Butere way."

When one Jesse Eshikhati Opembe floored Martin Shikuku

Washiali' was referring to what transpired when one Jesse Eshikhati Opembe floored Butere political giant Martin Shikuku in the 1988 poll.But before his term expired, he made the mistake of trying to manage the human traffic that walked in with empty stomachs by improvising an application that lit his gate with words "Opembe In'' when he felt like meeting the crowds and "Opembe Out" when he was not in the mood of meeting the masses. Just like that, he lost touch with the masses and was booted out in the next election.

The political sacrilege of attempting to control the flow of locals to one's home would also claim a budding MP from western in the 2017 elections.In December 2016 MPs from the region gathered for the annual football festival that Musalia Mudavadi religiously loves to attend.On the way to the tournament which is usually held at Buchenya Stadium, journalists who'd hiked a ride in the politician's car heard him whisper to his aide, "You mean it's December and the area MP has shut his gate? That's not strategic!"

And true to his word, the MP who shut his gate lost to a weaker opponent, even though he hailed from a clan with numerical strength.An MCA in Kakamega who was once married to two wives says a key area constituents thoroughly gauge you on is how visitors are received in your home and whether your home and family are orderly.

When I ran for MCA in 2017, I had two wives who had irreparable differences that had cost me the seat in 2013. That year, I asked them to act as if they had no issues with each other.

"One would knead wheat flour while the other rolled chapatis for visitors. I sailed through!" says the former MCA.

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