By Prudence Minayo
With the August 9 elections now behind us, a section of the politicians are celebrating while a majority are licking their wounds. Those who lost after spending a fortune and being promised votes at the polls-felt betrayed by the electorate. This is what Festus Kithinji experienced when he only got 5 votes from his home polling station, killing his dreams of being a member of the county assembly (MCA).
The experience was so painful that he took to social media to express his pain.
This is his story as told by WoK.
Festus Kithinji was born in 1995 in Mbeu ward, Tigania West Constituency in Meru as the last child in a family of four. He attended Kimberei school which was five kilometers away from home. Coming from a humble background meant that they went to school barefoot. He was appointed prefect until class 7 when he was demoted after getting into a fight. He was also introduced to drugs in Class seven by his uncle’s worker. He started with cigarettes, then alcohol and marijuana.
When his parents realized, he was disciplined and he promised to change. He stopped taking the drugs, became serious in the second term of his final year in primary school and sat for KCPE. He secured a spot in a day school close to home where his siblings also studied. He became a prefect and was later made school president. The school principal, who admonished him whenever he engaged in nutty shenanigans gave him the nickname ‘papa’. Festus was fond of girls more than his books and was cautioned of this behavior by both the deputy and principal. He led his first demonstration while in Form Four. The principal was leaving and they did not want him to go until they were done with school.
Upon sitting for his KCSE examination, he got a C+ which could not get him direct entry into university. He repeated and managed to score a B Plain and was called to study Education Technology at the University of Eldoret.
The family had no money and they had to organize a Harambee. They raised more than Sh40,000 but he was very disappointed that his church (with over 600 members) only contributed Sh625. Thus, he switched churches.
He joined the University of Eldoret and was elected class representative. He also resurrected the Meru University of Eldoret Students Association which was on the brink of collapse and was elected chairman. During his university days, he went back to Meru and organized locals to protest over the poor state of roads. This endeared him to the people and he became acquainted to several politicians with one promising to mentor him. He was then elected secretary general at his university.
All this time, he was saving part of his HELB money with no intention of touching a single cent. He was also active on social media and used it to campaign for an aspiring Member of Parliament. This angered the sitting MP who refused to award him a bursary that would have enabled him to sit for his exams. He called the politician he was campaigning for hoping to get assistance but got none. It was a very different MP who came to his rescue.
At the time, Festus Kithinji had formed a connection with a Meru woman who had relocated to the Coast then moved to Germany. She would use him to pass messages to her family back in the village. During Covid-19, she even sent him money to buy stuff for needy people and distribute it across the village. She promised to assist in his aspirations but passed away suddenly upon arriving in Mombasa from Germany.
During his graduation, he invited many family members and villagers to celebrate with him and expressed his interest to vie for a political seat. The family was supportive and even told him he had more than 500 votes from them alone.
He secured a job in a technical college and helped about 270 people from his village get access to school funds for free. He would give some money to buy food. In his reasoning, giving them an education would empower them and give them an edge over the others. They would earn more compared to those who had no technical training.
The UoE graduate finally resigned from the technical school to get fully immersed in politics.
After failing to secure nominations in various parties, he joined Wiper and vied for the Mbeu Ward MCA seat. A member of his family also stood and vied for the seat thus splitting the votes. He used his savings and money from friends to fund his campaigns-which was relatively minimal compared to his rivals. Nonetheless, he had hopes that Mbeu people would give him their votes following his track record of helping the community.
Festus Kithinji spent nearly everything and received the shock of his life during the election date. One agent told him he had two votes at a particular polling station and he couldn’t believe it. Thinking it was only that station, he called his other agent who informed him that he only had five votes in his home polling station. Disappointed , he went to his house where he followed the elections on a Whatsapp group.
All in all, he spent about Sh1.1 million. Frustrated, he posted a video on Tik Tok calling out the people of Mbeu for deceiving him. He told them not to call him for their harambees and tearfully expressed his disappointment, especially remembering he had no money left.
Later, he apologized on LYNN Show or his remarks which he said were made due to pain and frustrations. He said a section of his friends and family were concerned for his mental wellbeing and reached out to encourage him including Wiper party leader, Kalonzo Musyoka.
While he was very hurt, he hopes to try his luck in Mbeu come the next general elections.