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Villagers raise campaign funds for man seeking to unseat Keter

POLITICS
By Edward Kosut | November 29th 2021

Wesley Kogo, 30, addresses residents during a fundraiser for his political campaigns in Kipchamo village, Nandi Hills Constituency. The residents raised Sh1.6 million to support his bid to unseat MP Alfred Keter. [Edward Kosut, Standard]

It is common practice for politicians to offer money and other inducements to the electorate as they seek to win their support ahead of elections.

And while politicians are working day and night, crisscrossing villages, towns and cities trying to convince voters that they are best suited for the seats they will be seeking in next year's elections, something special is happening in a constituency in Nandi County.

As the 2022 General Election draws near, residents of Nandi Hills Constituency are organising themselves and doing what most communities have largely pretended to do every election – choose their leader.

First, they have identified the person they want as their next MP. And not just that, they have also unveiled a strategy to finance the campaigns of their preferred candidate.

The seat is currently held by Alfred Keter, a two-term MP who was elected on Jubilee Party ticket.

And the strategy to have 30-year-old Wesley Kogo become their representative in the National Assembly has already raised Sh1.6 million that will go towards financing his campaigns.

It all started when some elders felt the "community's son" Kogo would be an ideal candidate for the seat. They approached him and asked him to plunge into the race.

Kogo was skeptical. In his own words, he lacked what it would take to become an MP. He doesn't have money to finance a campaign being that he comes from a humble background. He doesn't have the fuel guzzlers to move from one place to another to campaign.

Further, he is not known in the constituency like Keter and others seeking the position are. And he had not declared interest in the seat and the idea was not even in his mind.

He is referred to as "community's son" because the community supported him throughout his education until he graduated from university, through fundraisers. He hails from Kipchamo village.

Kogo turned away the person the elders sent with their message for him to prepare for the parliamentary race. He saw it as an impossibility and as such declined the request.

Later, the elders roped in Kogo's parents. And after some time, he bowed to pressure and decided to throw his hat in the ring.

Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter. [Joseph Kipsang, Standard]

"I knew I would be a leader but not this soon. I just graduated from the university and wanted to focus on my career. The idea of politics was not in my mind. However, the elders and residents have promised to support me and have already raised some money to jumpstart my campaigns," Kogo told The Standard.

It has been three months since the plans to make Kogo an MP started. He says he was surprised when the elders and local youth organised a fundraiser towards his campaign kitty.

"To my surprise, hundreds of residents turned up and generously contributed towards my campaigns. They promised to continue supporting me. Those who did not have money brought agricultural produce which was very refreshing for me because it demonstrated their commitment to this course," he says.

After accepting the call, Kogo says a team was set up to coordinate his campaigns. It is this team that organised a funds drive at Keben Gardens, which netted Sh1.6 million in cash.

"After seeing me through school, by way of fundraisers, the community has started another phase, this time, making me an MP and have vowed to maintain me there," he says.

"I am happy to have an education today and I thank the community that raised money to send me to school. My parents would organise harambees and residents were kind enough to attend in large numbers and donated generously. They are at it again and I am grateful."

He was unable to join a national school, Friends School Kamusinga in Kimilili, Bungoma County, after sitting his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam in 2006 due to a lack of school fees. He scored 386 marks. Kogo would join a local day secondary school.

"I went to Samoei Boys High School in Nandi Hills. It was cheaper in the sense that my parents could negotiate with the management and agree on how my fees would be paid, mostly in instalments. It went on like that until I completed my secondary education. I scored A-," he says.

Kogo proceeded to the University of Eldoret where he pursued a Bachelor in Applied Statistics and Computing. Despite the struggles, he graduated in 2015. 

Kogo graduated from the University of Eldoret, where he pursued a Bachelor in Applied Statistics and Computing, in 2015. [File, Standard]

He hoped to get a job after graduating but it was not forthcoming. "After two years, the Board of Management of Taboyat Secondary School hired me as a teacher. It was the community that initiated the process and I got the job. For me, it was an opportunity to give back to the community after all the support it had given me,” Kogo says.

Last year, he left the teaching job to look for a job related to his university training. He is also settling down with his young family after his marriage in February.

"Even before I fully settled down with my family, the community has tasked me with a big assignment, and with great humility, I have taken the challenge and am looking forward to articulating issues affecting Nandi Hills and the county as a whole, including challenges affecting tea farmers, who are the majority in Nandi Hills," he says.

In all the learning institutions he attended, Kogo was a student leader. "But this never made me imagine I would be vying for a parliamentary or any other political seat," he says.

Kogo was appointed the head boy at Kipchamo Primary School and was a class prefect in secondary school. He would be elected the secretary general of the students association at the University of Eldoret between 2014 and 2015.

One of the issues Kogo pushed for while in the students association leadership at the university was the consideration of residents in giving out job opportunities at the university.

"I was among the student leaders who organised a protest, together with then Uasin Gishu Senator Isaac Melly and local politician Jonathan Bii, to push for the welfare of workers and to ensure members of the local community were not left out of employment opportunities," he says.

Kogo has been a youth leader. He has actively participated in many social functions in the area.

Born in a tea-growing area, he has been vocal against exploitation, mistreatment, and sacking of tea pickers.

"I think the community saw some leadership skills in me and that is why they are doing what they are doing today. I will not let them down," he says.

"This region, especially my village, has been lagging behind in development for many years because leaders we have been electing have refused to address issues affecting our people, including shortage of water and poor infrastructure, even after promising to do so."

James Kemboi, one of the elders behind Kogo's candidature, says they settled on him because the current MP has failed them.

"Kogo is a community project. We have contributed our resources to campaign for him and we will continue to do so. Kogo has been one of our greatest sons and we trust he will do well if he gets to Parliament," says Kemboi.

Isaiah Mengich, a political commentator, said residents are confident Kogo will bring change and enhance their living standards.

“Youthful Kogo has really endeared himself to the young generation of voters with the backing of elders. This has really affected the political landscape," says Mengich.

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