Freedom is coming! On August 9!" That's the rousing chant of the unlikely online movement assembled by Professor George Luchiri Wajackoya, the strangest presidential candidate in the August election race. Elections always throw up oddballs, like Abduba Dida in 2013. Wajackoyah is the most intriguing we've ever seen. He's mentally transporting us to Jamaica, where reggae and rasta and ganja are emblematic.
He's not even playing undercover. He's openly fronting the weirdest political platform ever heard of in Kenya. Marijuana growing will be legalised and monetised, with the proceeds going to offset our Chinese debts. Mass snake farming will be introduced and commercialised. Venom will be extracted for use as anti-venom in hospitals while the snake meat will be exported to China. The Constitution will be suspended. A four-day workweek will be decreed.
Straitlaced Kenyans consider Wajackoya a nutcase. However, his core constituency, the youth, think otherwise. He promises "uncensored, high-octane and revolutionary campaigns; where we will come to your towns and bring houses down as we party and share the good moments Jah (Creator) has given us; and as we articulate on how we will use marijuana to pay our debts and put the rest of the money in our pockets." Phew!
Break down barriers
His running mate, Justina Wambui, expounds further: "We'll break down the barriers of hypocrisy, moral high priests' censorship and those of cultural purists to make this vote-hunt a one happy stress-free drive." The tone is upbeat, hip - like weed itself.
To the contemporary youth, all this is heady stuff. It catches their rythm. In fact, Wajackoya is in high demand across the country in entertainment joints (pun fully intended) where the youth are congregating to meet him and dance the nights away together as they smoke their thing. The fun! Bewildered parents are wailing that Wajackoya is corrupting their kids. The Christian evangelical bandwagon, eerily quiet for now as it sizes him up, will certainly activate its guns once it decides Wajackoya is an existential threat and not just a flash in the pan.
Wajackoya's crowd likes to quote folksy and highly colourful (if a tad vulgar) aphorisms that they lustily circulate online. One goes like this: "A broken bed is a sign of a good marriage." Another: "However fast the buttocks move, they'll always remain behind." Wajackoya himself has vowed that once he's elected, the first thing he will do when he enters the presidential office in State House will be to smoke a joint!
It's no mystery why Wajackoya is gaining traction among the so-called Generation Z (born from the late 90s). A potent brew is at work here. At one level there is an assertion of identity. At another there's a feeling of exclusion. What better way to express both than through political defiance? The youth feel alienated from everything, and shut out from the processes through which major decisions that affect them and the country are made. Their answer is rebellion, the only language guaranteed to make their seniors listen.
Figure them out
Ridiculing or scolding them won't help. Instead, try and figure them out. They've never really been part of the political process in any meaningful way. Suddenly Wajackoya happens along and they see in him their ticket to self-actualisation. His wacky ideas don't put them off. Not at all. They argue that the typical Kenyan politician is self-centred, corrupt and out-of-touch. They gleefully cite as examples their candidate's competitors – William Ruto and Raila Odinga. They want to try something different. Something out of the ordinary. However crazy it is.
One self-styled member of the Wajackoya fan club told me: "Don't get us wrong. Our reggae is not BBI. That one died. Ours will start soon." True enough, they have disdain for any project associated with the older politicians they despise. They speak reverentially about how educated Wajackoya is. Seventeen degrees! His bizarre past, incidentally, includes stints as a street boy in Nairobi and as a grave-digger in the UK. His fans are okay with that.
There are three drawbacks with the youth. One, they don't organise well politically. (Already there are furious online fights among Wajackoya's faithful on whether he's a "project" of Ruto's or Raila's). Many youths also don't register to vote. They'll dance themselves lame over a candidate during the campaigns, but when he needs them most at the ballot box they'll evaporate. When they vote they often do so unstrategically.
With Wajackoya in the picture, this has set some smart youths thinking: canvass for a mass youth vote. Force a run-off. If that happens – if – they'll for sure be invited to the high table for negotiations. For the first time ever, very senior government positions will be dangled to them. It all depends on how they mobilise their numbers purposefully. If not, it's all a pipe dream.
Hardly any candidates
One glaring problem for Wajackoya is that his Roots party has hardly any candidates for Parliament (or governor or MCA). Won't that place him at risk of quick impeachment if he's elected? No worries. He's thinking out of the box. Indeed without it. He's adopting independent candidates as "partners" and hoping to enter post-election pacts with them. They'll presumably be his "silent party". That is if they get elected.
One of those "independents" is a guy called Anthony Kirimi, a senatorial candidate in Kirinyaga. Wajackoya has put him in charge of a "bhang task force" that will work out the nuts and bolts of the "ganja economy" he seeks to create.
Wajackoya will not be president. No. But as we obsess over his bhang thing, don't forget his resolute stand on anti-corruption and State "thieves". He proposes they get hanged. In public. With rope made from hemp (the cannabis plant fibre). Wah!