Like their predecessors who rose to fame in the 1980s and 1990s fighting for multiparty democracy and a new constitution, some of those seeking elective seats believe it is time to exert their influence in county and national politics.
Tens of former student leaders who rose to national fame after the end of President Daniel arap Moi’s regime in 2002 are lining up to “graduate” from university activism to seek various elective seats ahead of this year’s election.
“We have generally lacked a cohesive message to rally the student movement since the fall of Kanu. Whereas much was expected from us, we have been further divided by an ethicised, polarised and corrupt country,” says Mr Ndindi Nyoro, a former Kenyatta University Students Association (Kusa) academic secretary who wants to be Kiharu MP on a Jubilee ticket.
Mr Nyoro, a former manager of Kiharu’s constituency development fund, says there is great resolve among former student leaders to “develop the country further through influencing the legislative agenda”.
Leading the lot for county positions are former Students Organisation of Nairobi University (Sonu) leaders Johnson Sakaja, who wants to become Nairobi’s next Senator, and Mr Fwamba C. Fwamba, a former Sonu vice chairman, who has declared interest in being a running mate in the capital’s governor race. The two are in Jubilee Party.
Also in the Nairobi line-up is Ms Janet Muthoki Ouko, the first woman to win the powerful seat of Moi University Students Union head, who wants to wrestle Nairobi Woman Rep Rachel Shebesh for the Jubilee ticket.
“I have fought for my space and that of fellow women in the murky world of politics right from university where I was suspended for championing student rights, to the national level. It’s now time to be involved in the mainstream development agenda,” she said.
In Laikipia, Kenyatta University alumnus and former student leader Simeon Gathuo hopes to put to an end Senator G.G. Kariuki’s political career of almost 50 years.
“G.G. Kariuki became an MP about the time my mother was being born. To date, he still serves us as a Senator. Aspirants fear and respect him but I want to take the bull by the horns,” Mr Gathuo says.
Kiharu MP Irungu Kang’ata is also keen to replace a politician whom he believes has served the nation well, but should retire: Murang’a Senator Kembi Gitura, 64.
“If we truly need change, the youth who have shown leadership skills should rise up the political ladder to empower fellow young people,” Mr Kang’ata says.
The immediate former chairman of the South Eastern University College (Seuco), Mr Walter Mounde, is also seeking to replace Nyamira Senator Kennedy Mong’are Bwokong’o, on an Amani National Congress (ANC) ticket.
Former Kusa leaders seeking to be MPs include Moses Nandalwe (Sirisia) and nominated MP Isaac Mwaura (Ruiru). Mr Nandwale, who was expelled from Kenyatta University for leading student protests in 2009, promises to fight for the rights of Sirisia people, just as he did as a student leader. “I come from a place where the voice of the common man and his wishes are rarely heard. My wish is to be their voice in the national arena,” the former Kusa academic secretary says.
Mr Mwaura, a nominated MP who defected from ODM to Jubilee last year, says that seeking an elective seat is more thrilling.
Former student leaders from Sonu, the country’s premier student body, form the majority of aspirants for MP positions.
While Kisumu Central MP Ken Obura will be battling to retain his seat, nominated Senator Martha Wangare, a former Sonu vice chairperson, wants to be Gilgil MP.
Others include former Sonu chairmen David Osiany (Rongo) and Paul Ongili alias Babu Owino (Embakasi East), former secretary-generals Generali Nixon Korir (Lang’ata) and Chris Obudo (Ugunja).
There is also Atemo Dishon (Luanda), Adhiambo Adhiambo (Lang’ata), Ngaruiya KJ (Nakuru Central), Booker Ngesa (Gem), Isaac Amuke (Teso North MP) Bernard Wachira alias Mamluki (Embakasi North), John Kamau Ngaruiya (Nakuru Town) and Bernard Wakoli (Matungu).
Former student leaders from other universities aspiring to be MPs include Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology’s Cathy Irungu (Mathira) and former Maseno University student leader Anthony Kibagendi (Kitutu Chache North).
Other than those seeking to be MPs and senators, many others will be seeking to be Members of County Assembly.
Mr Korir, the former Sonu official who wants to be Lang’ata MP, says that beyond their success in student politics lies the challenge of making it at national politics.
“My main aim is to lift the veil of tribalism in our society so that I can bring back the dream of our forefathers of a united Kenya. I seek to encourage fellow youth that you can lead despite your tribal or religious background as long as you have what it takes,” he says.
For Mr Ongili, popularly known as Babu Owino, the success of former student leaders in the August elections is crucial.
“Our win will incite more young people to take student politics seriously. Our win will kick-start the revival of the old comrade spirit,” he says.
Whereas in the past student leaders rode on their activism to make it to national politics, the current crop is coming up with ingenious ways to campaign.