On June 30, presidential hopeful Wajackoyah rattled feathers by launching his manifesto on the same day and time deputy president William Ruto took the podium to spell out his plans for the country if elected president.
Many broadcast media covered the two events live using the split screen option in the spirit of fair coverage.
However, unlike the Kenya Kwanza Alliance meeting where Ruto explained his manifesto to a seated audience, Wajackoyah’s was more of a reggae concert.
Dressed in a jungle green khaki outfit, military boots and a durag covering his grey hair, the goateed lawyer and his youthful supporters took to the dance floor to enjoy popular reggae tunes played by the disc jockey. There was more dancing and chanting than there were speeches.
The decision by Wajackoyah to launch his Roots Party’s manifesto on the same day and time as that of Kenya Kwanza Alliance irked the deputy president who claimed the move was deliberately planned to steal the thunder from his meeting.
“I want to be respectful to other candidates but a fellow was parachuted so that we share the screens. The media ought to be fair,” said Ruto, whose allies accused the Roots party flag bearer of being backed by the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Wajackoyah was quick to respond, accusing the deputy president of always crying foul when sensing defeat.
Since being cleared to run for the top seat, the 63-year-old lawyer has caused a buzz with his radical proposals which have resonated with many young people.
According to the latest opinion polls conducted by Infotrak and Tifa, the political newcomer is currently polling at 4% and there is a high chance his ratings will continue rising as the election day nears.
Businessmen are already cashing in on the excitement by manufacturing and selling T-shirts bearing his image and nickname – ‘Wajackoyah the fifth’.
Drae Frank, the founder of Permaprints is one of those making a killing on the Wajackoyah effect.
“We are printing and selling Wajackoyah T-shirts to every part of the country, and the demand is high,” says Frank. Each T-shirt goes for KSh1000 ($8.4).
Before being cleared to run for president, not many knew that Wajackoyah worked as an intelligence officer in President Daniel arap Moi’s administration but was forced to flee the country in 1992 and seek refuge in Britain after falling out with his bosses. He returned to Kenya after the end of the Moi era to practice law.
Political analysts contend that the Roots party’s presidential candidate might turn out to be the ‘Johnny-come-lately-spoiler’ for both Ruto and Odinga who want to win the August polls in the first round.
“There might be a run-off for the first time in Kenya’s history if Wajackoyah’s popularity translates into votes. If that happens then none of the two leading contenders will achieve the 50 percent plus one vote threshold to be declared the winner,” says political analyst John Charo.
In fact, Wajackoyah recently alleged that one of the presidential candidates sent a woman with a Sh200 million ($1,687,052) bribe to convince him to drop his presidential bid “but I chased the woman away.”
Marijuana and snake farming
Why is his candidature creating so much excitement among the youth and a headache for his competitors?
Political analysts argue that his radical proposals have played a big role in catapulting him to stardom as a section of voters seek alternative leadership outside the usual political circle.
His campaign is premised on legalizing marijuana, a substance that is illegal in Kenya but popular with Rastafarians and many poor youth.
The 63-year-old lawyer promises to commercialize the growing of marijuana to spur economic growth and enable the country pay its foreign debt.
“For example, a 90 kilogramme bag of maize sells at Sh2000 ($16.9), sugarcane is Sh4112 ($34.7) per tonne, coffee is Sh23 ($0.19) per kilogramme. On the other hand, the price of a kilogramme of industrial hemp is Sh159,000 ($1,340). Commercializing marijuana will not only provide employment for our youth but also earn us foreign exchange,” observes the Roots party presidential candidate.
He says Kenya should follow the footsteps of Canada, Israel, South Africa, Netherlands and Zimbabwe which have all legalized the ‘holy herb’.
The lawyer also wants Kenyans to venture into the lucrative anti-venom market by farming poisonous snakes whose toxins can be extracted to locally manufacture antidotes for export.
“If we did snake farming in Kenya, each venomous snake farmer would earn an average of $6000 per vial of anti-venom. For example, a cobra farmer will make $6,300 from a vial of cobra anti-venom. If we harvest black mamba anti-venom a Kenyan farmer will make $5,300 per vial,” Wajackoyah adds.
Exportation of dog and hyena meat
The lawyer also promises to push for the export of dog and hyena meat, which he argues will earn the country more revenue in the international market than beef and mutton.
“We shall export dog and hyena meat to China. Hyena testicles are considered medicinal in China. One testicle is almost Sh6million ($50,569) and one kilogramme of dog meat costs six times more than a kilogramme of goat meat,” he explains.
To sort out the never ending corruption problem, Wajackoyah advocates the hanging of those found guilty of stealing public funds, to send a clear message to avaricious individuals.
“In China if you steal somebody’s money they hang you, in Japan you commit suicide and in America, Britain and Canada they jail you but in Kenya are elected to parliament. We must stop this madness,” he adds.
The goateed lawyer says Rwanda rose from the ashes after the 1994 genocide to become a commercial hub because of President Paul Kagame’s strong economic policies and zero tolerance approach to corruption.
“Paul Kagame has become both an economic and corruption dictator and that is why Rwanda has become a commercial hub in the region. In Kenya we are weak on both issues due to poor leadership,” he adds.
The Root party presidential candidate promises to suspend the constitution for six months to allow a thorough review of the document.
“The committee of experts visited the capitals of South Africa, United States, India and then came up with a copy and paste document which is defective. We need to do away with sections of the constitution that do not work,” says an alumni of the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies
Criticism against Wajackoyah
However, Wajackoyah’s radical proposals have not only angered politicians but also religious leaders and animal rights activists alike.
Francis Mulinge, an animal rights activist, accuses him of trying to exploit the ignorance of many Kenyan voters on complex conservation matters.
“Hyenas clean up debris in the natural environment. They scavenge for anthropogenic waste, thereby reducing transmission of disease from wastes to humans and livestock,” says Mulinge.
He dismisses Wajackoyah’s proposal on exporting hyena and dog meat as empty talk, saying the idea will only encourage illicit trade in animal parts and make Kenya a pariah state.
Catholic Bishops have also criticized him warning voters against electing leaders who promote immoral and unethical practices.
“You (voters) should stand up against leaders who propose destruction of our youth through the liberalization of drug use,” said Anthony Muheria, the Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) at a recent church meeting.
What is ironic is that though Wajackoyah advocates for the legalization of marijuana, he maintains that he has never smoked weed in his entire life and would not encourage his children to do so.
“I will smoke marijuana for the first time as a sign of liberation after I win the presidency.”