Curtains fall on councillor who quit job days after win

By Noah Cheploen
Thursday, December 17th, 2020
Mzee Joseph Chelelgo died on Saturday at his home in Sarambei Rongai constituency. PD/Courtesy
In summary

Noah Cheploen @cheploennoah

The curtains have fallen on the life of Mzee Joseph Chelelgo, a man who made history by resigning a few days after winning Makongeni Ward seat in Rongai, Nakuru County, in the 2007 General Election.

After cruising to victory, Mzee Chelelgo stunned both friend and foe by declining the job just days before he could be sworn in.

A former military man, Mzee Chelelgo was a clear favourite from the beginning with his business acumen having given him the headstart over his opponents in the largely cosmopolitan constituency.

The ward derives its name from the sisal (Makonge) estates dotting the place.

And, for many years these estates attracted workers from various parts of the country hence the cultural mosaic prevailing to this day.

Mzee Chelelgo had trounced Joel Nyandieka—another popular figure in the area at the time to win the seat—but according to people close to him, upon analysing the situation ahead of him and doing some soul searching, he did the unthinkable by declining the job.

His decision was unprecedented, especially considering that many Kenyans see politics as a shortcut to wealth and success and that is why politicians “would rather die than resign” even when their positions are untenable.

Mzee Chelelgo chose the path less taken in what insiders said was prompted by “personal reasons and principles” and earned him a lot of respect and admiration.

In a telephone interview, his son John Bundotich told the People Daily yesterday that Mzee Chelelgo realised that he was not cut for politics. “After analysing the situation, he realised that politics was not viable,” he said.

“He felt that he was going to spend more than he was going to earn,” he added, noting that he also didn’t want to disappoint his people.

“He was a straight-forward man. He was very honest and truthful,” Bundotich explained.

Although he said that there were other personal reasons that compelled the old man to decline the civic job, Bundotich said that the deceased felt that joining politics would be counter-productive. 

“He was an early riser. He would be up by 4am. He would first take a walk around his farm before leaving for Mogotio Town where he ran a chain of businesses, including rental houses,” he explained.

He eulogised him as a hardworking, disciplined man with strong principles. Those who know him  said that he was a stickler of time and a symbol of hard work.

After leaving the Kenya Army in 1972, Mzee Chelelgo ventured into business with military precision and discipline, something that earned him accolades in the area.

“He resigned from the military and opened a posho mill in Sarambei… with time he expanded to real estate,” said Bundotich. He also had interests in the hospitality industry.

Simon “Kilinga” Molok who succeeded him in the ensuing by-election described Chelelgo as a man of principles, adding that he was a role model to many people in the area. “He was an inspiration to many of us young people,” said Molok.

Born Savannah, a neighbour, eulogised Mzee Chelelgo who collapsed and died at his home last Saturday as an icon.

Chelelgo fell ill suddenly at his home in Sarambei Rongai constituency on December 12 and efforts to resuscitate him failed.  He died at 77 years. He will be buried next Tuesday.

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