Our institutions of higher education have been, for a long time, incubators for national leaders.Political careers in Kenya start at the grassroots, and others by accident or through endorsements by one’s mentors and family connections. However, a huge majority begins in the lecture halls and the dormitories in our universities.
This is as true today as it was from the birth of our republic. Recently, current and former university student leaders have shown interest in running for office as the Kenya slowly dives into the political campaign mode ahead of next year’s General Election.
Among the student union leadership elite who have already made public their intention to vie in the August 2017 poll include current Students Organization of Nairobi University (SONU) chair Babu Owino, a controversial figure that has held the post for four notable consecutive one-year terms. Former SONU chair David Osiany has also declared his intent to seek to be the next Member of Parliament for his home area’s Rongo Constituency, a seat currently being held by veteran politician Dalmas Otieno, who was a long-serving minister and MP under the independence party KANU. This list does not exclude Lone Felix, the former Kenyatta University Students Association (KUSA) chairman who hopes to contest for the Bungoma Senatorial seat.
These fresh graduates hoping to lead Kenyans come from a long list of university leaders who extended their passions to a national stage. Among former students leaders now enjoying national elective and nominated seats is Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen formerly of Moi University, Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa who led students at Nairobi University, Mombasa Senator Omar Hassan who was the Moi University students union Secretary general and Senator Moses Kajwang who served as Student Representative in the Moi University Senate.
Others include Nominated MP and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA party Chairman Johnson Sakaja who was an executive SONU member, Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba who was a student leader at the University of Nairobi and also chaired the Kenya Law Students Society and Ugenya MP David Ochieng who held a leadership position at Moi University in the year 2000.
Also in the former-student-leader-turned-elected-national-leader is Mukurwe-ini legislator Kabando wa Kabando at UoN in 1992 and Siaya Senator James Orengo who served as SONU president in 1973. Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga, who holds a BSc from Kenyatta University and MSc in Health Management from the same university, was a former Secretary General at the Kenyatta University Students’ Association (KUSA), the first woman to hold the position while Nominated Senator Martha Wangari served as SONU Vice Chairperson.
To sum this up, we see that our leaders are not only a product of our society but also a product of our institutions. If we get bad leaders, it is because we allow them to rise up in our campuses. This means that the solution to the leadership problem needs to be administered in our campuses and sometimes even in our secondary schools.