Little-known Kakamega man wants to become Kenya’s president

Mzee Eliab Imbiakha, 75 years old, during an interview with The Standard at Emusanda village in Lurambi on January 2, 2021. Imbiakha wants to vie for the top seat this year. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The list of 2022 presidential aspirants is growing.

Eliab Imbiakha, a little-known man from Emusanda village in Kakamega County, says he will contest the presidency as an independent candidate in August. 

From his unique manner of dress to his pedantic code of conduct, Imbiakha is a marvel.

He welcomes us to his house with a prayer. He then excuses himself and goes into an adjoining room.

Moments later, he emerges with a worn, soft leather-bound notebook that has seen better days. He takes his time finding a fresh page, then writes down our names, identification card numbers and phone contacts against which he asks us to append our signatures.

“I may not be educated, neither am I rich, but we must defend our rights and freedoms. With support, I will contest the presidency in August, this year,” Imbiakha says.

He speaks with an assuredness that comes from experience. In 2017, he made an application to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission seeking to vie for the presidency, but the approval came late. To date, he cherishes the certificate IEBC gave him.

Dressed in military-style fatigue with additional colourful decorations and a wide double-strap brown leather belt, black boots, green and white knee-high socks and a head gear that looks like a beret, Imbiakha stands out like a sore thumb.

If he were in the movies, he would look like a pirate. For the interview, he dons different colorful attires, but one cannot miss the black, green and white theme that decorates the attires.

“These colours represent the original FORD party under Martin Shikuku. The party was formed in 1991 by Shikuku, I and Shamalla Japheth,” Imbiakha says, while flipping through the greying pages of his notebook in which newspaper cuttings of news stories and pictures of opposition leaders in Kenya have been pasted.

Imbiakha was born in 1945 to poor parents. He schooled up to class five at Ingotse Intermediate School and dropped out in 1960. His mother died in 1957, and his father seven years later.

“Even while dad was alive, life was tough. I was forced to look for employment as a houseboy. I was lucky to find work in Eldoret in 1963, but left in December, the same year.”

In 1964, he was again employed as a houseboy at Majengo in Vihiga County.

“I had gone through enough trouble and decided to seek greener pastures in Kampala, Uganda. Equipped with my first salary of Sh15 in September 1964, I took the OTC bus from Kakamega to Kampala. The money was just enough for the fare, and nothing else. I made it to Kampala on the food I took in Kakamega. On arrival in Kampala, I can assure you I became the first street boy in East Africa. For three days, I roamed the streets of Kampala, hungry with nowhere to sleep,” Imbiakha reminisces and a smile lights up his face.

“It was tough. On the third day, I overheard some boys conversing in my mother tongue. I approached them for assistance and they informed me they were altar boys waiting to bid goodbye to Mr Eshitemi Tsisichi, a Kenyan missionary who had offices at Kigumba Mission, Uganda. When Tsisichi finally came, he offered me food and put me on a bus back home.”

Even as he rode back home, Imbiakha says he had fallen in love with Tororo and made a note to go back one day.

“I went back to my previous employer in Majengo. Unfortunately, my father died that year. After his burial as custom demanded, I was given a cow, which I sold for Sh150 and headed back to Tororo, Uganda. I took driving lessons in 1966 and came back,” Imbiakha says.

He travelled to Mombasa in 1969 but couldn’t find work, so he went back to the village.

“From 1969 to 1979, I was involved in sand business. In 1979, I found work as a driver in the Ministry of Works. It was in the course of that work that I met Martin Shikuku and became interested in politics,” he says.

At Shibuli market along Kakamega-Bungoma highway where Imbiakha has a modest office, he is fondly known as prezzo.

“He comes across as eccentric to those who do not know him because of his loud dressing. But truth be told, he is a very sober man who knows what he wants,” says George Ambundo, a resident of Shibuli.

“He is a likeable old man, very strict and does things in an orderly manner. He does not entertain mediocrity,” says Benedict Asakhulo, a neighbour.

Imbiakha says he will vie for the presidency even if the only vote he gets is his own.

“All these people who seek the presidency are corrupt and selfish. I cannot cast my vote for them.

If I vote for the corrupt, God will take me to task. So, I would rather vote for myself. Today, people have corrupted the meaning of ‘opposition’ to enrich themselves at the expense of poor oppressed citizens. Nowadays, political parties are business entities,” he says.

Imbiakha believes that only a total overhaul in leadership, from MCAs to the presidency, will change the fortunes of this country.

“Register in large numbers, shun tribalism and elect caring leaders if you want change. IEBC must not allow vote stealing for us to avoid violence,” he says.  

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