Student leaders bring a brush of youthfulness to national politics

For years, university student unions have churned out politicians who have held elective positions outside their campuses and this year is no different.

A number of student leaders across the country have declared their interests to run for various seats in the August polls.

In Nyamira County for instance, Senator Mong’are Bwo’kong’o picked 25–year-old Emma Okangi as his running mate in the gubernatorial race.

STUDENT LEADER

Ms Okangi, a catering and hospitality graduate and a former student leader at Maasai Mara University served as the director of accommodation and catering at the university.

Speaking to the Nation, Ms Okangi said life in power comes with great opportunities that if used well can propel a community to higher ranks.

She says the senator selected her because of her experience in student politics.

“I was a student leader in University and and I managed to convince the senator to work with me due to my track record,” she said.

BIG SHOES

Ms Okangi said she does not consider her new challenge as very big shoes as her opponents were taunting her.

She said, she infact considers herself lucky as she is the only female running mate in Gusii region.

Walter Mounde 24, who is eyeing the Nyamira senatorial seat on an ANC party ticket also served as the student union president at University of South Eastern Kenya.

Mr Mounde says that his long term experience in student leadership motivated him to run for the seat.

“I beat established politicians to win the party ticket and I am sure that I will emerge winner come August,” Mr Mounde said.

BABU OWINO

In Nairobi County, outgoing Students Organisation of Nairobi University (SONU) Chairman Paul Ongili alias Babu Owino is campaigning for the Embakasi East parliamentary seat.

Mr Owino of ODM believes his student leadership experience are an advantage to his candidature.

“I have done a lot for the students who I served in University of Nairobi and I am now targeting this seat so that I prove to the people that I am worth a leader before I run for presidency,” said Mr Owino who failed to clinch the Wetlands parliamentary seat in 2013.

Another notable figure is Nairobi senatorial aspirant on a Jubilee ticket Johnstone Sakaja who was a student leader at the University of Nairobi.

Mr Sakaja a nominated MP, first shot to the limelight in 2005 during the referendum for the then proposed constitution while he was still serving as SONU chairman .

In Kisii County, Duke Mainga, 26, a student leader at Kisii University beat other experienced politicians to win the Wiper party ticket to run for the Bomachoge Chache seat.

YOUTHFUL

Mr Mainga is considered a darling of the youths and he banks on their support for him to seat in the National Assembly after the August polls.

“The earlier the better because with the leadership qualities I have I see no reason as to why people will not vote me in,” Mr Mainga said.

According to him, while he was in campus he used his positions to share opportunities equally to students.

“We even started a student bursary in university during my tenure and if the people of Bomachoge Chache vote me in they will get more of such opportunities,” he said.

Anthony Kibagendi also a former student leader Maseno University where he served as secretary general in 2005, is eyeing the Kitutu Chache South parliamentary seat.

Mr Kibagendi who recently defected from opposition party ODM and is backing the Jubilee party said that he was assured of a win.

SAVIOUR

“As former student leaders from Kisii County we have always had a series of meetings our main aim being working hard to ensure that we clinch various seats come August,” he said.

He is also considered as a darling to the youths who have always played key roles in his campaigns and branded him as their saviour.

“For years youths in my constituency have been sidelined and it is time they get a leader who will champion for their rights,” Mr Kibagendi said.

Another emerging leader is Essy Okenyuri. She was appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta as the head of Jubilee youths campaigns in Kisii County.

Ms Okenyuri a former student leader at Maasai Mara University has been running youths campaigns in Kisii County and she has hopes that her position will see her get nominated to the National Assembly.

“I love serving the people and that is why I had declared my interest on the woman representative seat before Jubilee decided to appoint me as one of the leaders for the presidential campaign team in Kisii County,” said the former student vice president.

RELENTLESS

Another one is former UON secretary-General Thomas Obare who is eyeing the Bassi Boitang’are ward representative seat as an independent candidate.

In Homabay County, Mike Ogolla 28, an Information Technology will be Mr Tom Alila’s running mate who is eyeing the governorship seat on a Jubilee ticket.

Mr Ogolla told the Nation that the student politics is quite different from national politics but he was not going to relent.

“In University you only deal with elites but in National politics it’s all rounded because you deal with everyone. This is not easy but I believe that I will make it,” he said.

He also said that despite him being in support of Jubilee party in a place considered as an opposition stronghold things were working well for them.

“Homabay is no longer an ODM zone because the reception that we are receiving despite being in Government has really encouraged me,” he said.

Example of former student leaders currently enjoying national elective seats include Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen formerly of Moi University, Mombasa senator Omar Hassan served as Moi University students union Secretary general, Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwa who served at University Of Nairobi.

Others are Siaya Senator James Orengo was SONU president in 1973, Mukurwe-ini lawmaker Kabando wa Kabando served at the same university in 1992, nominated senator Martha Wangari served as SONU chairperson.

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