For the last 50 years, Parliament has been home to all manner of characters: the flamboyant, the scholarly, the comedians and the eccentrics. Below is a list of some of the peculiar kind. ‘Prophetess’ Mary Wanjiru She was nicknamed prophetess by her colleagues for her penchant for delivering “divine” messages that she claimed had been given to her by God to deliver to the Kenyan leadership and people. The Kinangop MP (1992-1997) did not just prophesy. She dressed the part. She was always dressed in a flowing white dress and headscarf. Her political career unfortunately came to an end in the 1997 General Election. Wonder if she saw it coming.
Taita arap Toweett
He was a member of the First Parliament and was fortunate enough to make a come-back several times. But it was his peculiar ways that are still being talked about to date. It is said at one time, when he was Minister for Education, he called for the abolition of primary school education because it reportedly consumed an inordinate amount of the budgetary allocation to his ministry.
At one time, he gave what he saw as the best antidote against crime, “arrest the thieves and shoot them in public”. And no, he did not say that in the heat of the moment during a political rally. He had to call a press conference to make the stunning statement.
When the clamour for multi-party politics was raging in the 1990s and people were either calling for more parties or the retention of Kanu’s monopoly, Toweett’s idea was for Kenya to try the party-less system. His eccentricity was perhaps capped by his mole research project in his Ngata Farm in Nakuru and the underground house that he lived in.
Although short in stature, you would never fail to notice him in a crowd, thanks to his trademark glasses that were forever won on the forehead. Or he would be that man contentedly sniffing at his tobacco snuff, a peculiar stunt he would pull even during an international conference. He retained snuff box until his death in a road accident in 2007.
Mike Sonko did not only swagger into Parliament with just a peculiar name, he dresses and speaks in a peculiar style too. As MP for Embakasi between 2010 and 2013, Sonko proved to be a politician who does not mind looking out of place and appeared to enjoy ruffling feathers than anything else.
He had to be thrown out of the House several times for his “unparliamentary” dress or remarks, joined crowds in destroying offensive structures, rolled on the ground during demonstrations, punched walls and the list is endless. Early this year, he was elevated to the position of Senator of Nairobi. Sonko’s antics, theatrics and drama continues.
Known for his knowledge of standing orders and debating skills, Shikuku was a fighter and a daredevil who found himself in trouble many a times for his sharp tongue when he served for many years as MP for Butere. But the man had his own peculiarities, such as the grave he dug for himself several years before his death. And it was not just a grave.
There was a coffin ready for the D-Day. Attempts by his villagers to fill up the grave claiming that it would bring a curse to the entire community was met with stiff resistance. When he died last year – on August 22 (the same date Kenya’s Founding Father Jomo Kenyatta died in 1978) – no one needed to call a fund-raising to buy a coffin or hire an undertaker to dig a grave. Just as Shikuku had intended. It had all been planned by Shikuku himself. And it sure must have given him the ‘rest’ he much needed.
When Wakoli lost the race for the Bumula senate seat in the March 4 General Election, he announced that he would devote his time to helping people fight jiggers. That is the typical eccentric Bifwoli – always pulling off a surprise. The man once led a one-man demonstration in Parliament against the then Vice President Moody Awori.
“Woooi! Woooi! Awori ni tikiteta (dictator)”, wailed the honourable member as his colleagues watched with a mixture of embarrassment and amusement. Not in small part helped by a heavy Luhya accent, Bifwoli became something of a comic relief in Kenya’s quarrelsome Nineth and 10th parliaments and Kenya’s tragic politics. – By KIPKOECH KOMUGOR