When his name was announced as the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) flag bearer in the Kiambaa parliamentary by-election, few outside the constituency had heard of him.
“Ka-wa what?”, people posed, faces folded in a grimace, referencing to John Njuguna Wanjiku’s nickname “Ka-Wanjiku.”
No one outside his home village of Gatono knew for certain whether it was gleaned from his surname (Wanjiku), or it meant the candidate was “for Wanjiku” – the latter a colloquial for “the common man.”
Either way, both meanings converged in a political cauldron untested by the electorate – but backed by the Deputy President, – and propped by an economically disenfranchised populace known as the ‘hustler nation.’ The candidate’s mantra became “Ka-Wanjiku for Wanjiku”.
It stuck on the lips of the electorate like a candy stick on a tot, and the UDA wheelbarrow transformed into Ka-Wanjiku’s political Ferrari: Never since John Paul Mwirigi in 2017 (Igembe South MP, 23), has a greenhorn sprinted so fast from obscurity to August House.
When the results of the July 15 by-elections were announced, Ka-Wanjiku wept. He had beaten a political veteran Kariri Njama, backed by State House, with 510 votes (21,773 against 21,263). He didn’t say whether the tears were of joy or shock, of the monumental challenge ahead, or of happiness for finally “crossing the valley”: A KSh1 million salary sans allowances would make anyone who once hawked chicken intestines weep!
Ka-Wanjiku was schooled at Gatatha Primary, Thigio Secondary, and Kenya Methodist University. He was brought up by a single mother -Wanjiku-, who passed away in 2010. For the better part of his schooling and adult life, Ka-Wanjiku pulled himself up by his bootstraps. He paid his school fees by dabbling in “biashara ya mara“, whereby he bought chicken intestines at food processing company Kenchic, boiled and resold. “I am the real definition of a hustler,” he says.
Chicken business seems to be a good-luck trinket for political success. Wasn’t Deputy President a chicken seller in Eldoret? But I digress….
Who’s that Vagabond?
Soon after the win, a photo began circulating on the internet of the MP-elect hiding his bare-chest in a jacket that looked like a deformed trench coat. He looked older than 36, sun-burned, a wayfarer short on luck. What had happened? Was it staged? He comes clear:
“We had invited DP at Kawaida (within Kiambaa) for a funds drive to aid the bodaboda riders. I think the then MP (late Paul Koinange) wasn’t comfortable with the presence of the DP since he was from a different political camp-Kieleweke. I was among the youth welcoming the DP. One day at around 4pm, police arrested and handcuffed me. They took my laptop, phone and money. They told me to stop this ‘hustler nonsense’. They drove me to Burnt Forest (Nakuru-Eldoret Road) and dumped me at 2am……”