OTANI: From student leader to national leader – How campus politics births political careers

OTANI: From student leader to national leader – How campus politics births political careers

Many political careers start at the grassroots in the country while many others start by accident through being prompted by one’s mentors, like was the case with President Uhuru Kenyatta during his first stab at the presidency in 2002.

However higher learning institutions in the country have given birth to quite a noticeable number of national leaders, especially the current crop of elected leaders in the National and Senate Assemblies.

Current and former university student leaders are also throwing their hats into the political ring as the country slowly dives into the political campaign mode ahead of next year’s General Election.

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Among the student union leadership elite that have already publicised 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.

Owino, who is infamous for his lavish lifestyle and thought-unsettling remarks, is interested in the Embakasi East Constituency Parliamentary seat currently under the helm of John Omondi of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party and is already campaigning for the seat.

babu owino
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.

David Osiany
Osiany, who served as SONU chair from 2009 to 2010 and later served as an advisor to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the opposition CORD Presidential Secretariat in the run up to the 2013 General Election, is currently studying for his Masters at Bristol University in the United Kingdom and is married to Citizen Radio queen Syombua Mwele-Osiany.

Former SONU vice chair Irene Kendi is also eyeing the Meru County Woman Representative position in next year’s election, with many others expected to come out to declare their political interests.

Many other universities across the country have also thrown into the national scene student leaders who now lead wider regions, bigger than their university campuses and leaving trails behind.

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.

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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.

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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.

Gladys Wanga
Gladys Wanga


Nominated Senator Martha Wangari

Over the past four decades or so university student unions seem to have continued to provide a rich pool of politicians who have gone ahead to hold speckled national elective and appointive positions outside the precincts of their campuses.