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Is Wanjigi pulling a Trump in Kenya » Capital News


NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 19 – When he slowly descended the golden escalator to the basement of his eponymous New York tower clambered on to a makeshift stage to launch his presidential bid in 2015, he became a bone of joke for many.

He became an interesting topic for the media especially late-night shows like The Steven Colbert Show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and later Trevor Noah, who at the time only identified him with his reality TV show The Apprentice his real estate empire, and other businesses.

“Being assigned to cover the event was Time’s way “of through me a bone, I think.” Charlotte Alter, who was by then a junior reporter for Time Magazine, told The Guardian Newspaper UK.

He was referring to former United States of America President Donald Trump whose candidature later drew wide attention as he started collecting electoral college votes in the Republican Party primaries and subsequently became the 46th President of the United States.

Here in Kenya, while many are lost in the candidatures of two, maybe three candidates. A clean-shaven, 58-year-old, slender, soft-spoken political strategist, serial businessman just walked out of a one-day retreat at Aberdares Country Club in Nyeri and declared his presidential bid.

Businessman Jimi Wanjigi is trying his hands in politics.

The man is Jimmy Wanjigi, and just like Trump, has never given a shot in politics but at 58 years, he is confident of a win and is already banking on the endorsement of delegates of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party from 16 counties in the Mt. Kenya region.

ODM, led by Raila Odinga is arguably one of the largest political parties in Kenya. But, If you are knowledgeable about mainstream politics in Kenya, you would be forgiven for thinking that there was a joke at the end of the statement by JW as he is popularly referred to.

Mt. Kenya, which Wanjigi banks on is not exactly a region where the party enjoys support worth singing home about.

In addition, Wanjigi’s endorsement pits him against the former Prime Minister, Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya all of whom have held political seats before and are known to be the face of the party in their respective regions and nationally.

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But Wanjigi is not a novice to the political scene.

He first came to the limelight during the run-up to the historic 2002 General Election when he joined the presidential campaign of the then Opposition Candidate Mwai Kibaki who was going up against Uhuru Kenyatta.

Wanjigi was part of the team which saw Kibaki win the elections defeating Kenyatta who at the time enjoyed the support of outgoing long-serving President Daniel Arap Moi who had coached him as his preferred successor.

Businessman Jimi Wanjigi with ODM grassroots leaders in Nairobi recently.

Wanjigi’s political-strategic success did not end there. During the 2013 General Election Wanjigi claims that he was part of the team that paired Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto who later assumed power.

That election campaign was not like any other, the duo, who had been clouded with the threat of the criminal charges at the International Criminal Court resulting from the 2007/8 post-election violence managed to win the heart of Kenyans during the vigorous campaign.

Again, in the 2017 General Election, Wanjigi claims he bank-rolled Odinga’s Presidential campaign under the now-defunct National Super Alliance a claim dismissed by some high ranking party officials.

But what is making this self-proclaimed kingmaker want to come out of the shadow? Why does he want to challenge the status quo and be the flag bearer of a party which has unsuccessfully tried to bag the presidency in the 2007, 2013, and 2017 polls?

A sneak peek at Wanjigi’s Twitter handle tells of a man with fresh economic ideas he says will lead to the country’s economic recovery and a break from the past.

“Our forefathers fought for independence so that we can enjoy the fruits of freedom. Today we fight for economic revolution, nor just for us, but for the next generation and the one after that,” he tweeted recently.

“All these leaders seeking your votes right now have been in the system for 30 years. Ni nini ingine watatupatia? #Fagia Wote, (What is the new agenda will they give us? Vote them out!)” another indicates.

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Political analyst Barack Muluka argues that the shrewd political dealmaker is perhaps the only one who can rival the financial war chest that Deputy President William Ruto has in place aided with loyal comrades’ keen to see him execute his agenda.
DP Ruto who is also popularising his presidential bid is banking on the Hustler Narrative and Bottom-up economic model which has created a great discourse in the political scene.

“Maybe the time has come to say, what I can do for other people, I can also do it for myself. Once you have politics in the family people will always want to come out and try,” Muluka said as he pointed out that Wanjigi, is the kin to former long-time politician and Kamukunji MP.

Part of his agenda, Wanjigi also seeks to grow the party’s network to areas where it has traditionally had fewer support by conducting massive member recruitment

Every time has its own warriors and heroes. It’s time to change and that is why I am vying for this position,” he said.
“We will therefore popularize ODM in all counties. We will paint the mountain orange in our quest for change. I believe I represent change which I promise Kenyans, I will not let you down,” he told the delegates attending the retreat at the Aberdares Country Club.

Businessman Jimi Wanjigi has vowed to take on former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in ODM negotiations for a 2022 presidential candidate.

Going forward it will be interesting to see how Wanjigi who has been popping up in various parts of the country and meeting grassroots groups will convince the ODM leadership and the close to 4,000 party delegates that he is the most suitable presidential flagbearer.

The ODM National Delegates Conference is slated for December 2021 to decide whether it will for the first time since the Party was established in 2007 be fielding a different candidate to second liberation figure and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is yet to announce his candidature.

“Whether or not he takes on Odinga, Joho or any other for the ticket, look like a long shot. But if Odinga decides on retiring from active politics alongside his handshake partner, then Wanjigi’s candidature will depend on how he manages the ODM delegates system,” another political analyst Prof. Joseph Simekha opined.

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