Legalise it! Peter Tosh sang it. Our own George Wajackoyah wants to actualise it, and he is getting a receptive ear that is just what this presidential election needs to make a difference from the same old slugfest between feuding upper-crust toffs.
Away for the regular histrionics, every election brings us a great deal of amusement in the antics of hopeless jokers with bizarre campaign platforms. Most of them cannot be assured even the votes of their own families, but it is their own money they are burning and the comic relief is a welcome distraction from the nonsense that spews forth from the ‘serious’ candidates.
Once in a while, however, a ‘hopeless’ candidate emerges who threatens to upset the apple cart. Year 2022 has given us one such a candidate in Prof Wajackoyah.
I’ve playfully referred to the Roots Party candidate as “Wackajoker” in various musings but now have to concede that, even though he has not the slightest chance of capturing State House, he is no longer just another joker.
The fellow who boasts more university degrees than the time required to actually sit through all those courses is doing enough to cause the leading candidates in the two-horse race—Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga—to both start looking warily into their rear view mirrors.
Wajackoyah is running on an outrageous platform that would ordinarily be laughed out of town. But there is no doubt that he has captured the imagination of angry, disaffected youth in both urban and rural Kenya, cutting across all the regular ethnic, regional and party lines.
It’s not that he has any chance of causing an upset but, in a race that is still neck-and-neck, a third-place finish with just about five per cent of the vote might be enough to ‘steal’ a first round victory from either of the two front-runners.
In all the past presidential elections since the return of multi-partyism in1992, fringe candidates have hardly ever registered more than one per cent of the vote, collectively, but now, Wajackoyah is being rated at anything up to five per cent, and his numbers can only rise.
Were they forward-looking, DP Ruto and Mr Odinga would be assessing what it will take to win over Wajackoyah in the event they are forced into a second round. The man will be in a strong position to trade a sizeable demographic that is usually cannon fodder at the service of the big guns.
What has catapulted the unconventional campaign into the national conversation is not just the promise to decriminalise bhang but a whole array of zany antics that are pulling crowds that ordinarily wouldn’t give a hoot about political campaigns.
Of course, much of his campaign rhetoric is absolute nonsense. He plays it fast and loose with figures plucked out of thin air to make his case for legalisation of marijuana. He also promises major earnings for farmers if they started rearing snakes, ignoring the fact that snake farming is not new in Kenya and does not need special authority from any president.
Jonathan Leakey, who died just about a year ago, long carried out a lucrative venture by Lake Baringo ‘milking’ snake venom for export. The National Museums of Kenya also does quite a lot in that line.
Again, the numbers he gives on potential earnings have been plucked right out of Cloud Nine. As for exporting dog meat and hyena testicles, he gives fantasy numbers not backed by known parameters.
But the fact is that his crazy proposals do attract attention, even if they might be products of some purple haze. Some of his pledges are outright mad—such as vowing to uproot the 500km Mombasa-Naivasha Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) just so that Kenya can replace it with one financed from bangiconomics.
Then there is the very dangerous promise to suspend the Constitution, the same basic law on which he will presumably be elected and sworn to uphold and protect. That is treason!
Mr Odinga or DP Ruto will sooner or later have to court Mr Wajackoyah, and everything else aside, I would urge them both to adopt, at least, his bangi platform. They both need to relax as the campaign gets angrier and noisier.
Almost the whole world is going in that direction. Prohibition only drives the trade underground, into the hands of the vicious organised crime, while legalisation will allow commercial exploitation of a herb that, beyond narcotic use, is much in demand globally for medicinal purposes.
I say, legalise, regulate, tax.
[email protected]. www.gaitho.co.ke @MachariaGaitho