The force behind Wajackoyaism

Roots Party presidential candidate George Wajackoyah

The Roots Party presidential candidate George Wajackoyah. He is quite some character, and a unicorn not just in Kenya and Africa but globally.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Roots Party presidential candidate George Wajackoyah is quite some character, and a unicorn not just in Kenya and Africa but globally.

Prof Wajackoyah has promised to legalise marijuana. He’s not the first presidential candidate to do that. However, Wajackoyah says, although he has never smoked bhang, he will do it if elected to mark a new beginning for Kenya and to chase away “evil spirits” from the corridors of power in State House, Parliament and such like places. From the records that we could find, he is the first presidential aspirant to commit on the campaign trail to light a joint in the people’s house.

He has also promised to suspend the Constitution because he thinks it’s not fit for purpose in today’s Kenya. He’s the first civilian to undertake to scrap a constitution made through a popular process in just over 10 years of its life. Other politicians—even generals—who eventually overturn constitutions seldom say so upfront. They clothe their intentions in phrases like “constitutional reforms”, “creating a people’s document”, “giving the masses a say in defining how they want to be governed” and creating “a popular and participatory order”.

Then, when they are in State House, they do away with the damn thing.

Vote for Wajackoyah

On a WhatsApp in which his short contrarian manifesto [appears], a non-Kenyan, half in jest, asked how he could become a citizen and vote for Wajackoyah. That, however, might defeat the reason why candidates like Wajackoyah emerge. They are pacesetters, who aren’t supposed to win the race —except, of course if there is a dramatic turn of fortune in the contest. Their victory comes from their loss.

So, the important story about Wajackoyah is not about Wajackoyah. Why, then, do they occasionally emerge? They do so because politics gets atrophied, captured by vested interests, and withered by a lack of imagination. Their job is to shatter the shell that keeps new radical ideas locked out, to publicise the desires (some of them dark) in the electorate’s hearts that they are too timid to air, to be iconoclastic, and challenge conventional thinking.

It has become standard, for example, for every candidate to promise to reduce poverty and make the country rich. It sounds like the noblest of causes. Since Independence, it has been the song for every African government. But what if ending poverty is not the most important thing? What if it’s happiness (made possible by a bit of weed) or national spiritual health?

Happy people

A happy people could be better at creating a rich nation than those who have each received an enterprise loan from some state wealth creation scheme.

There were murmurs during election campaigns in the past about tearing down the symbols built to honour Kenya’s Founding Father Jomo Kenyatta and other Independence-era icons. They were greeted with outrage, and even horror, but, at base, they were a call to re-examine the country’s history in a new light and with the wisdom of hindsight and evaluate whether the country as is still makes sense. We’ve seen in some countries statues of heroes that stood for nearly 100 years being torn down.

The Wajackoyahs help us to light the fire under the feet of sacred cows. One interesting question is why they don’t come around so often. One reason is that, just as democracy often travels along a long and torturous road, the counter-political culture and the maturity of the rejection of the status quo takes even longer. And it rarely grows into a majority movement. By definition, it’s always fringe, peopled by a few wild and rebellious men and women.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be progressive—like legalising marijuana, decriminalising prostitution or taxing church collections. It can be conservative and retrogressive—like returning the death penalty, abolishing the courts and expanding polygamy—because it is a rejection of the broken existing order.

Very few Wajackoyahs

If we take a broad continental view, the disappointment, then, is that Africa has had very few Wajackoyahs. Their work is to bring into the mainstream new and once taboo ideas. They’re like good old Moses in the Book of Exodus—and Qur’an—who led the Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt to the “promised land” of Canaan.

On Mount Nebo, God allowed Moses a sneak preview of the Promised Land before his death. The conventional political wisdom and opinion polls have it that Wajackoyah will not set foot on the ‘Promised Ganjaland’. Unlike Moses, he should not perish. This, after all, is the 21st Century.

To recognise the necessary disruption he brought to the race, his campaign expenses could be refunded. He could also be put on a postage stamp, although one wonders how many people will see it in this era. It might be too much to expect that, come 2023, marijuana would be legalised in Kenya. God’s army is still too powerful for that. However, a ‘Weed Corner’ could be dedicated to Wajackoyah and other rebels in Uhuru Park.


Mr Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. @cobbo3

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