Written on the 29th June, 2018
The first aura you would get from John Paul Mwirigi is one of humility; a modesty that you may assume was brought about from shyness. He is young and lanky; average height with slender hands. His suit sits gracefully well on him as he takes his seat on the panel of the #NotToYoungToRun Celebration Conference. However, when he begins to speak, you can tell that even if this is a man of humble beginnings, this is also a man of the future, agile in his presence, shrewd in his words.
His story began from the mountains of Kenya, precisely at the foothills of Igembe South Local Government, where he represents as the MP of his constituency. Coming from a large family of eight, James’ interest in politics were piqued from a dream he had while in secondary school. According to this dream, he was tabling a motion in Parliament. With the spirit of hindsight, he began asking classmates and friends to campaign for him, as he know that one day, he will need their votes. That moment came in 2017, when he won the seat of representing his constituency as the age twenty-three (23), becoming the youngest MP in the history of Kenya and at best, African politics.
Sitting at #NotTooYoungToRun Celebration Conference, John Mwirigi tells his story in an articulated but emotional way. He talks about a strategy that worked for his campaign—engaging with the people on a personal level. He visited homes, walking there on foot until he began getting help from boda boda (the Kenyan word for okada motorcyclists), who would take him to his destinations. He sat on their porches with them, told them he was running for office and gave reasons why they should support and vote for him. This is one tactic of politics that is sometimes overlooked—that extra level of personal engagement with people. It goes beyond meagre providence of money, food or other things. It creates an atmosphere of familiarity with people and the constituencies, and leaves a sense of self with the people. And when you leave sense of yourself with people, they will always remember you.
“Social media as a tool for freedom of expression is key in facilitating young political aspirant’ meaningfully engage in political processes and should not be curtailed.”
– John Mwirigi
John Mwirigi’s rise victory is one that must be referred to in the future narrative of young African leaders who took the plunge to create a better future for their people. In such swift time, he showed that being rich or influential are secondary to the fundamentals of true politics, but being popular enough, connecting with the people one intends to represent, the people one promised to be their voice, always matters. And in his quaint voice came his resounding words of experience; “You do not have to be a billionaire to run for an elective office. All you need is potential and courage.”