Muruguru Ward aspirant Simon Muturi 25, at Nyeri National Polytechnic during the county elections Board on 23 March, 2017. Nine member team was appointed to oversee the party primaries which is scheduled to take place on 21 st April. [Photo: Kibata Kihu/Standard]
In the high stakes game that is Kenyan politics, wealth and success are synonymous. Aspirants do not shy away from flexing their financial muscles, blowing their poorer rivals off the race.
But as aspirants of means invest millions of shillings on high powered public address systems, glossy posters and long fleets of branded vehicles, two youthful hopefuls are doing it the humble way.
The two are taking on their moneyed rivals one pedal at a time, and proving that a money is not the only competitive edge in politics.
Solomon Maritim Kiptarbei has caused quite a stir in Uasin Gishu County as he traverses the vast county on his old bicycle wooing voters. Kiptarbei is eyeing the county’s gubernatorial seat.
Hundreds of kilometres away in Nyeri County, Simon Muturi is hunting for votes for the Gatitu/Muruguru ward seat on his bicycle’s saddle.
Kiptartbei, who is popularly known as Dean, strongly disputes the notion that Uasin Gishu’s top seat is a two horse race between incumbent Jackson Mandago and wealthy entrepreneur Zedekiah Bundotich.
“I will not succumb to the misplaced notion that leadership is all about money, the two are very distinct. I am true to myself and I represent the ordinary Kenyans. I use this bicycle not only because it is what I can afford, but also because it gives me the advantage of a one on one interaction with the voters without disrupting others,” he tells Sunday Standard at Eldoret’s Oloo Street.
It is the same bicycle he rode 14km every day for four years to Wareng High School in Eldoret from his home in Maili Nne. It is now mounted with two posters, one on the front and one behind.
Kiptarbei, who holds a Bachelor of Business Management degree from Moi University, worked as an accountant at DL Koisagat Tea Estate until late last year when his contract was terminated.
He is now focusing his energy on unseating Mandago and beating Buzeki, whom he accuses of dividing the residents of Uasin Gishu. The 31-year-old has memorised his five-point manifesto.
“This is an open race — one of my competitors has been governor for four years and has failed to address key issues affecting the people while the other does not have touch with voters. The people know good leadership is not about fat bank accounts. I will pull a surprise win,” said Kiptarbei beaming with determination.
He says he chose to run for governorship rather than the ward or constituency seats because he wants to implement and not legislate.
In Nyeri, another county dotted with the red and yellow of Jubilee, Muturi presents a stark difference from his well-to-do opponents who move around in branded high end vehicles.
He considers himself the David among Goliaths — with his short stature and shallow pockets, he literally is. Muturi is aware that the odds are stacked up against him and is determined to capture the Nyeri town ward and write his success story.
“I am serious about my candidature because I know the others have little to offer, all they do is enjoy the perks and ignore their constituents,” he said.
At 25, unemployed and with little monetary resources, Muturi is vying for the seat against aspirants with money to blow. His opponents include Anthony Kibuu, a former county assembly majority leader, and Governor Samuel Wamathai’s personal secretary Maina Gathu.
His key supporters, he says, are women and youth. “I have focused on women because they see in me the dreams of their sons and know that I can work for them,” he said.
The central feature of his campaign is his bicycle. The treasured bicycle is not for mobility purposes but a treasured brand. It was a gift from an old man from his village. He uses the red and yellow painted bicycle to traverse the ward which has around 6,000 registered voters.
Hour of reckoning for ODM
To raise the funds to pay for his party membership and nomination fees, he had to conduct a harambee. He managed to raise the Sh30,000 required by the party.
Muturi graduated in 2015 with a degree in business administration. In university, he was involved actively in campus politics.
But victory will not come easy for Muturi, and he knows it. “I know I do not have as much as the rest of the aspirants have and the voters know that too. When I am invited for a harambee, I give what I have even if I will have earned it doing casual work”, he said.
The son of peasant farmers in Gatitu , Muturi’s mother has had to sell some of her treasured pigs so that the can facilitate her sons campaigns.
“I usually tell her that I will be her pride when I clinch the seat,” he says.