Why Wamae has already won space in public arena
Seasons give rise to phenomena! In the 2017 General Election, this prize went to Miguna Miguna, the Canada-based man of letters; a clever juggler of words who was running for Nairobi’s gubernatorial seat and who, on stage, left his competitors recoiling at his acerbic tongue.
As this electoral circle begins to wind down, it is already pointing at players whose future fates are being set. It seems that these defining moments are firmly in favour of the Roots Party of Kenya. Roots Party agenda remains provocative.
It is simultaneously the most examined and critiqued. While many will disagree with its proposals, the positive part is that Roots Party has Kenyans talking. Then came the Deputy President debates and the party threw a surprise at Kenyans.
Their candidate for the number two position, Justina Wamae, previously unexamined, is a fresh face on the Kenyan political landscape.
Warm, bubbly, engaging and knowledgeable, she was easily the runaway debater of the night across the tiers, and who knows, she may as well take the trophy for this political season.
Ms Wamae ticked everything right on Tuesday night. She showed up in a striking red colour. Experts in colour communication suggest that the colour red denotes energy, warmth, passion, strength, courage, physical activity, creativity, and security among others; and Wamae had it all.
From the word go she appeared to hit all the right buttons. If anybody thought that after so much discussion around marijuana and denunciation of their platform from the religious community, she would recoil and be apologetic about it, then they had a surprise in store.
Ms Wamae displayed great knowledge of the people’s pet subject of marijuana. Even if some people did not get it, she was clear about the different types of marijuana, their chemical compositions, and their physical appearance and stated her party’s preference and the reasons for it.
While scholars, including those in her own party, have had a more technical way of explaining the weed, too often leaving the less learned lost in the meandering paths of explanation, Wamae is a straight talker, simplifying the difficult concepts or making you think she has done that, and spicing the explanation with an irresistible striking smile.
During the debate, rather than just answering questions, she asked questions of her own, and nobody seemed to notice that Wamae was breaking the rules and getting away with it. Instead, her opponent got trapped and attempted to answer her. Her charm was directed not just at her opponent but the moderators appeared to get carried away in her enchantment.
Days later, nobody will remember what she advocated but will keep crediting her with intelligence and talent. And her position will look less dangerous. It is little wonder that in some circles she is already being baptised on the 6th. And this is where Wamae remains a better advocate of her party’s manifesto than her principle could be and a dangerous advocate of a social taboo.
Prof George Wajackoya may have all the papers, be prodigious in coming up with ideas and remain a phenomenal dancer of reggae music on the campaign trail, but Wamae is disarming, charismatic, easy to relate with and hardly looks the part of an advocate of an anathema.
The opponents of the Roots Party will find Wajackoya easy to profile but would give Wamae a pass. At a mere 35 years, she is young, educated, speaks well, a mother and a housewife; hardly a character capable of advocating harmful ideas such as is commonly associated with a bang.
Students of communication have for long remained fixated with research on the impact of a speaker on a message and Justina Wamae they have a case study that may have ticked all the right boxes relating to speaker credibility. Could the Kibera-born city girl, long bitten by the bug of politics, make palatable to Kenyans the seemingly toxic mix of marijuana farming, snake venom economics and the fiscal value of hyena testicles?
Win or lose Wamae has in fact already won, booking for herself space in the nation’s public arena.
—The writer is the dean, School of Communication, Daystar University