Inside Politics

When politicians struggle to be ‘man of the people’

Friday, August 5th, 2022 08:15 | By
Nairobi governor candidate Polycarp Igathe cleans a toilet with Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa. PD/file
Nairobi governor candidate Polycarp Igathe cleans a toilet with Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa. PD/file

Some Kenyan politicians have abandoned their luxurious lifestyles while on the campaign trail, turning to clean toilets, chopping vegetables and making tea in a bid to woo voters in the build-up to Tuesday’s General Election.

One of the politicians who has entertained Kenyans the most is Polycarp Igathe, who donned a brand new overall, boots and gloves, before grabbing a mop and washing bucket to clean public toilets in the capital, Nairobi.

He spent less than 20 seconds mopping a toilet, while cleaners looked on in amusement.

“For a long time it has been considered dirty work but this is responsible work,” the bespectacled Igathe said.

Toilet cleaners in the city often use old mops and buckets to clean facilities that are often stinking.

Igathe – who is running for the prestigious post of governor of Nairobi – has also been pictured washing cars, DJing and serving alcohol in nightclubs.

His antics had some people joking that he should come and babysit and do domestic chores for them.

Igathe was the county’s deputy governor under Mike Sonko but resigned less than a year after taking office saying he had failed to earn the governor’s trust to administrate.

Political analysts say these public relations stunts are well known to the electorate and are unlikely to influence voters.

Igathe’s main challenger is Nairobi senator Johnson Sakaja. He too has not been shy of gimmicks, sharing photos of himself buying fish from roadside vendors and tomatoes and onions from the market rather than the supermarket.

Sakaja has been the senator for Nairobi since 2017 and this is his first attempt at running for governor.

Nairobi resident Anne Wambui quipped that politicians do not know where the markets are located until campaigns begin.

“We are struggling to survive in this city yet someone who shops in expensive places comes to pretend to understand us when they want our vote,” she told the BBC.

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa has been trying to woo voters by riding on motorbike taxis, abandoning his luxury vehicle.

He also climbed into a wheelbarrow that was placed on top of his vehicle. The wheelbarrow is his party symbol and has been used to appeal to young enterprising Kenyans.

Barasa has also been pictured taking tea with locals in a mud-walled hotel.

Other photos show him using a three-stone traditional fireplace to make tea for a 67-year-old widow albeit still wearing his fancy leather shoes.

He did not win over everyone with these scenes of domesticity, garnering some rude comments on social media.

Former senator Boni Khalwale who is again running again in Kakamega, western Kenya, wanted to prove his street credentials by opting for a roadside polish of his shoes.

He sat eating roasted maize while waiting for them to be cleaned.

He captioned the photo “Kazi ni Kazi”, a Kiswahili phrase meaning “Every hustle matters”.

Khalwale’s stunt also outraged some people on social media, once again proving such antics do not always work.

Embakasi West MP George Theuri posted photos of himself walking barefoot on the streets captioning them: “Loving every moment in my neighbourhood”. Theuri also wore shorts in the photos prompting one of his followers to comment, “It takes an advanced sort of idiocy to believe such politicians.”

Five months ago senator Isaac Mwaura went to great lengths to get his party’s ticket to run as an MP in Kiambu by helping vendors chop vegetables.

Mwaura said he was trying to understand the struggles of small businesses in his Ruiru constituency.

“Sadly... you didn’t know mama and baba mboga (vegetable vendors) existed until now. It took the dawning of an election year to be awakened to this reality,” one person posted on social media.

Ultimately, it did not help the politician as he failed to be nominated and will not be on the ballot come Tuesday.


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