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Is Prof George Wajackoyah manifesto just taking youth for a ride?

Roots presidential candidate Prof George Wajackoyah with his running Mate Justina Wamae at the KICC on 24, 2022. [Samson Wire, Standard]

It is a fine line that straddles the divide between true genius and sheer lunacy.

When Professor George Wajackoyah started his presidential bid, he was lauded for his apparent sagacity.

But lately, he is beginning to sound more like a candidate for the loony bin. And his manifesto, launched last week, confirms the worst fears of many; that his bid may be way over his head.

At first blush, Wajackoyah’s proposals seem to pack an oversized entrepreneurial punch. They appear to address Kenya’s onerous debt burden through out-of-the-box solutions.

Suggestions like the legalisation of marijuana growth and extraction of snake venom for export tickle the fancies of many especially when they are deemed so lucrative as to be able to service the country’s external debt.

However, these proposals, subject to scrutiny, come across as outlandish if not out rightly bizarre. They are improbable and workable only in the realm of fantasy. They do not consider the present realities of the country, to wit, that there are no safeguards to prevent the abuse of the intended medical marijuana through recreational use.

Or that the nation’s cultural conventions preclude many from taking up snake farming. Nor do they contend with the fact that hyenas in Kenya are protected by wildlife laws that sanction the capture and processing of the same for markets in the orient.

Yet Wajackoyah continues to get good press. This, unlike Waihiga Mwaure, the other presidential candidate considered minor, who gets scant mention. It leads to many questions: Who is bankrolling Wajackoyah’s campaign?

Roots presidential candidate Prof George Wajackoyah. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Why is he being given inordinately prominent coverage when some of his ideas, like suspension of the Constitution, are clearly risible and contemptible? How was he cleared for the presidential election when a second-time candidate like the venerable Aukot Ekuru was denied assent on the basis of some technicalities?

There are some who consider Wajackoyah a conviction politician; one consumed by his own fundamental values or ideas. But according to Professor Adam M. Grant of University of Pennsylvania, “conviction should follow facts, not precede them.” He further says, “what you want to believe shouldn’t dictate what you believe.”

Tragically, Wajackoyah lures the country’s youthful demographic cohort with promises of making Kenya a pothead enclave. At least, that is what they want to believe.  He cleverly exploits an expletive popular with the young by turning WTF into “Wajackoyah the Fifth”, a campaign slogan.

He capitalises on an impressionable constituency that would sooner believe in simplistic ideas bereft of the intellectual heft associated with their proponent. They do not question these ideas having been taken in by the sheer personality of Wajackoyah. Professor Grant aptly describes this situation saying, “holding strong opinions in the face of weak evidence is a sign you are not critically thinking.”

But even absurdity has its limits. After a period of relative success, an increasing number of youth are beginning to think the ganjaman is not bang on target. They do not believe that the orient has a huge demand for dog meat that will be met by exports from Kenya.

A poster of Roots presidential candidate Prof George Wajackoyah. [Samson Wire, Standard]

They will not be duped into thinking that those caught in acts of corruption will be hung. Deporting foreigners will go against the spirit of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area.  And a four-day working week just doesn’t make sense in a country where gainful employment opportunities are few and majority of its youth are either underemployed or unemployed altogether.

It is difficult to disabuse one of the notion that Wajackoyah is a distraction; part of a stratagem to split the youthful vote and thus, precipitate a presidential runoff in this year’s elections. The notion is lent credence by the professor himself when he asks a section of the country to support a leading candidate.

This gambit appears to be unravelling at the seams. Perhaps the bounds of credulity have been stretched too far. As Professor Grant cautions, the youth should, “beware of getting stranded at the summit of Mt. Stupid!

-Mr. Khafafa is a Public Policy Analyst