The electorate in Nandi County made history in last week’s General Election by overlooking cultural beliefs and sycophancy to entrust leadership on youthful candidates, some of them women.
The wind of change began blowing during party primaries where Mr Stephen Sang, 32 – now governor-elect – trounced political heavyweights, including former Cabinet minister Henry Kosgey and outgoing Governor Cleophas Lagat.
Mr Sang, who is the outgoing senator, clinched the gubernatorial seat with 241,858 votes, representing 91 per cent of the vote, termed a resounding victory.
Mr Anderson Serem was second with 13,075 votes. Mr Sang was elected senator in 2013 when he was 28.
“The clamour for change is the main reason behind the choice of many youths in this county. Locals focused more on issue-based manifestos as opposed to politics of rhetoric,” said the governor-elect, who is set to become the youngest governor in the country.
Mr Sang, a former Kapasbet Boys’ High School student, won hearts with his Nandi slogan Tuga Tai, which loosely translates to “cows in front.” He packaged himself as a herdsboy ready to lead cattle to the right destination.
“In the Nandi community, young boys are entrusted with the task of looking after cattle, which are valued in this region for economic reasons. It is the same trust that they put in the youth to lead them,” he said.
The senator-elect, Mr Samson Cherargei, 28, also made a presence in the county’s history books for being among the youngest leaders entrusted with leadership.
Mr Cherargei nurtured his leadership skills through activism.
“I think the fact that most of the voters were youth was a major factor in this change. It is all about the youth, giving room to generational change at the leadership level to drive the much-needed transformation agenda,” he said.
For MPs, the voters re-elected youthful candidates namely Alfred Keter of Nandi Hills and Emgwen’s Alex Kosgey, both under 40 years of age. They easily defended the seats they won in 2013.
According to elders in Nandi County, the voice of change at the ballot signals the wish by locals to give a try to a new kind of leadership which they hope will go a long way in transforming the region socio-economically.
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“Our culture does not undermine the leadership of youth because we view them as energetic. That is why they were warriors who defended the community in the old days,” said Nandi council of elders (Kaburwo) chairman Benjamin arap Kitur.
Teachers in the region exuded confidence in the new leadership, saying the common factor that is being displayed is the confidence in young educated minds to take over the mantle.
“We as teachers are happy that the young brains that were in our schools recently have ascended to the platform of leadership in this region. The electorate liked the way they articulated their agenda during campaigns,” said Kuppet national vice-chairman Julius Korir.
At the county assembly level, Ms Cynthia Jepkosgei, 24, who vied as an independent candidate, shocked many in the Jubilee Party stronghold after she emerged victorious, beating five men to clinch the Kilibwoni Ward seat.
“I had it rough during the campaign period with some of the locals dismissing me because of gender, age and marital status. I, however, focused on my goal which I achieved at last,” said Ms Jepkosgei.
A total of six women: Four from Jubilee Party and two independent made history by being elected to the county assembly as men scooped the remaining 24 slots.
Another youth who won a county assembly seat is former radio journalist Nancy Chemutai of Jubilee party. She clinched the Kobujoi Ward in Aldai Constituency with 5,812 votes, defeating Kanu’s Kelvin Kipkemboi who got 2,390 votes.
The region also made history by producing the first woman deputy governor in the North Rift. Dr Yulita Mitei, a former Egerton University lecturer, said the trust in women’s leadership is fast gaining momentum in the region.
Thirteen of the nominated women have now been elected into positions.