For ages, elders in Mandera have largely been the ones making political decisions on behalf of the people and determining who vies for crucial positions during elections.
But this is bound to change as youths in the county now seek to bring a different narrative by supporting their own in the next General Elections.
In a bid to change the political landscape, a group of young people drawn from different clans and sub-clans residing within and without Mandera County is fronting one Shakir Haji Dayow as their gubernatorial flag bearer in 2022.
Turn the tide
In an exclusive interview with the youths’ candidate of choice, Mr Dayow, 32, said time is ripe for the tide to be turned against the norm in Mandera.
The youthful movement has since formed a secretariat of about 100 members and now plans a conference aimed discussing how to ensure their impact is felt.
The group says the political elites and elders in the county have always overlooked them in spite of their numerical strength in terms of votes.
“For the longest time, realistic political aspirations among our people has been a privilege of only seasoned politicians or very wealthy individuals but we are determined to change it,” he said.
According to Mr Dayow, many qualified young people of modest means are kept out of the political contest by what he termed as a force of privilege, reinforced by the "unfortunate belief" among locals that only some people can lead.
“Our society has been forced to believe that powerful posts are for those who have been accorded similar privileges before or those who somehow already resemble the roles they are vying for which is not true,” he said.
It remains a matter of time whether Mr Dayow will go beyond his announcement as elders have called for a conference this month to endorse different candidates.
The Garre Council of Elders will be deciding whom to back for governorship between Senator Mohamed Maalim Mohamud, County Assembly Speaker Mohamed Khalif, Mr Feisal Abdirahman, Mr Yussuf Mohamed Issack alias Yusuf Rafiki and Education CAS Hassan Noor Hassan.
“The competition is open and anyone is free to declare his candidature. We shall only declare what shall be brought to us from the sub-clan level,” said Mr Yussuf Alinur, the chairman of the Garre elders' council.
The Garre clan, being the majority in Mandera, is normally left to take the gubernatorial seat against the other three clans.
Mr Abdullahi Derrow, a member of the youth's secretariat, says the awakening of the young people in Mandera has come at the right time.
“In my opinion, Shakir's candidature is a kind of a relief for the youth and it rekindles hope in the youth. Factor number one is his daring attitude. The mere thought of dreaming of that seat in itself is a revolution,” he said.
According to Mr Derrow, a youth standing against the usual political norm in Mandera sends a message that any ordinary person can be a leader.
Break from the norm
“Essentially what this candidacy does is to give people a chance to break away from the norm of just electing wealthy middle-aged or elderly men. A candidate this young has little to no baggage and that naturally inspires trust,” he said.
He urged youths in Mandera, who are the majority in the county, to go for options that are different from the normal.
“This is a comfort zone that we have accepted and settled within, that no matter how dissatisfied we are, our collective fate will always remain in the hands of persons of means but I have offered myself to change it,” Mr Dayow revealed.
He added, “The time for these futile pessimistic notions to be uprooted is now."
He said their movement is all-inclusive and it will allow young women to seek elective posts unlike in the current situation where women are not allowed to vie for any seat.
Asked how he plans to manoeuvre and win against the will and choice of the powerful clan council of elders. Mr Dayow said, “Not only is every qualified person entitled to serve at every level, but with enough goodwill and confidence from the regular folks, the force-field of privilege can be dismantled and power restored to the people."
He said leadership is neither a preserve of a few and nor an entitlement of the privileged in the society or even a competition of the wealthy in the society.
“It is time to unshackle and free our collective mindset that a young, typical resident of Mandera with no financial muscle cannot dare dream and nurture gubernatorial ambitions with the sole purpose of disrupting and upending the status quo,” he said.
He said he is running to win, to lead Mandera to prosperity, wealth, accountability and prudence in resource management.
“I am offering myself to run for this position to assert the presence and the power of youth. I am here to put an end to an often repeated lie and hackneyed lethal chalice that youths are tomorrow's leaders. I am here to say today needs us for a better tomorrow,” he said.
In a county where any appointment or election is pegged on the candidate’s clan or tribe, Mr Dayow says he does not represent any tribe or clan.
“I represent the larger population of Mandera called youth, a youth who properly identifies with the struggle of the young people”.
End status quo
Mr Dayow believes a movement by youths, a revolt against the status quo in Mandera will yield fruits and see him at the helm of the county's leadership.
“This is our time. This is our chance and we should stand up and grab this opportunity,” Mr Dayow urged local youths.
The youthful candidate was born and raised in El-Wak town, Mandera South Constituency.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Financial Mathematics from the University of Greenwich, United Kingdom.