From River Road to EALA: I borrowed a tie to access House chambers
At 2pm on Thursday, when the election of Kenyan nominees to the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) was going on in Parliament, Godfrey Mwangi Maina Karobia was in downtown Nairobi’s River Road running his errands unperturbed.
Having missed out on the list of five names that were chosen at State House the previous day, Mr Maina had lost the most important support and backing, that of President William Ruto. But even then, he refused to give up saying “he has a spirit that never gives up”.
That Wednesday evening, Mr Maina thought about the next move just hours before the voting day. Although he convinced himself that he can still make it, a call from his mother that evening made him think twice.
“My mother called me on Wednesday evening and told me she has read the names from State House and that I’m not among the chosen ones. At this point I knew that I had lost it,” Mr Maina said.
In his first interview after the election, Mr Maina recalled how he sauntered into the precincts of Parliament on Thursday at around 6.30pm when counting was underway but could not access the Speakers’ gallery because he did not have a tie .
“I borrowed a tie from one of the MPs so that I can be allowed to access the chambers to follow the counting of votes. I was at peace with myself knowing that I had foot soldiers who were doing the work for me,” Mr Maina said.
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“I did not dress up as a person who was expected to go to Parliament. I just woke up to run an ordinary day. I do not ordinarily pray before I leave my house but on that particular day, I knelt and prayed,” he added.
He says majority of MPs did not know him but they overwhelmingly voted for him. “I would pass them in the corridors talking about Maina ...”
“I want to thank our MPs across the political divide for seeing me through the political prism but a person who can bring value to our country through competence. They viewed me as a leader of this generation who can inspire others,” Mr Maina said.
He revealed how women MPs played a major role in his campaigns by talking to other colleagues to vote for him.
“Women MPs from both Azimio and Kenya Kwanza delivered this seat to me, they told me ‘my son don’t worry, we will hold your hand’. They would take me to other MPs’ offices and plead with them to vote for me,” Mr Maina said.
The 28-year-old said that although his name missed out in the final State House line up, he knew the final verdict was to be made by MPs in the chambers.
“My spirit did not give up after the State House meeting, my supporters did not give up and my key stakeholders who were driving my campaigns did not also give up,” Mr Maina said.
Mr Maina says he had goodwill from both President Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua. He dismissed assertions that Mt Kenya MPs revolted against the Head of State by voting for him yet he wasn’t among those chosen at State House.
“There was no defiance nor protest, the voting for me by MPs just shows how there is democracy in the Kenya Kwanza coalition. I’m a symbol of democracy within the coalition,” Mr Maina said.
“If I did not have the goodwill of the President, my business would have been over at State House, but by virtue of being given a lifeline to even still remain on the ballot, means that I had his goodwill, DP’s goodwill and that of the parliamentary leadership,” he added.
Seen as an underdog that nobody focused on, including the media, Mr Maina said he did not use a single cent during the campaigns; they were fully funded by MPs.
While the majority of his competitors were former lawmakers and deep pocketed, Mr Maina wasn’t known in the corridors of Parliament and depended on the goodwill of Kenya Kwanza MPs.
“To the Kenya Kwanza MPs, I’m not new to them because I have interacted with them; I was the youth congress leader in UDA so they would introduce me to Azimio MPs who were very receptive,” Mr Maina said.
His mission in Eala? Push for a common currency and sustainable peace within East African Community, which would be a good bargaining chip for the region to have a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council within five years.
“I will be a good ambassador for the country, our President and the youth,” he said.
Others chosen to represent Kenya in the Arusha-based Eala are former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar, ex-Nandi Woman Rep Zipporah Kering, ex-nominated MP David Ole Sankok, ex-nominated Senator Falhada Iman Dekow, Kennedy Kalonzo, Winnie Odinga, ex-Kieni MP Kanini Kega and Mombasa politician Suleiman Shahbal.