A recent poll carried out by Nakuru-based Smart Octopus Limited on Kenya's possible next president had a shocker. It featured a name that nobody seems to have heard of. Ben Mulwa (pictured). And yet clearly 4% of Kenyans have heard of the name and would have voted for the man if elections were to be held today.
The percentage may seem small but the interesting thing is that Mulwa beat well known politician Martha Karua (3%) in the poll.
Let me shift to the old Kanu mode for a moment because plenty of old school guys must be pretty puzzled now and getting more so even as they read this.
Nani huyu Mulwa. Natoka wapi?
Where has this man been carrying out his campaigns? What political rallies are these that the press did not cover? Who licensed them?
Folks stuff that we have been discussing here for a very long time is coming to pass right before our very eyes. This is an early and clear sign that when it comes to the fourth president of the republic of Kenya, you can only ignore rookies and nobodies at your own peril.
This blogger is still doing plenty of digging to find out exactly who this Ben Mulwa is, but for now we shall focus on what he has done to land on the latest opinion poll for the presidency in 2012.
The man has entered the opinion polls exclusively via Facebook. (Old school: Hio nini?). Yes we have heard the old worn out tale many times; Kenyans are not on the web, the masses have no idea what the World Wide Web is and so it is a waste of time campaigning on the net for any political office.
Let me take you back for a minute to the disputed 2007 presidential general elections. Those who were Kumekucha regulars must have been rather surprised at the influence this humble little blog seemed to have on public opinion. Actually there is a very simple explanation. The 2007 general elections were the first in Kenya’s history where Kenyans in the diaspora ended up being a major force. You will remember that leading presidential contenders like Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka made several trips abroad to meet Kenyans living mostly in Western countries. These are the Kenyans who have remitted record sums of money back home so much so that these remittances are now the top foreign exchange earner in the country. Many of those Kenyans were naturally very active on the web and many chose Kumekucha as their main blog in the 2007 campaigns. ODM and Raila Odinga cashed in big on this trend. What happened is that these opinion leaders influenced Kenyan politics right up to the grassroots level. With tools like cell phones and text messages the transfer was quick, efficient and in real time. By the time PNU strategists realized what was happening it was too late.
But even before that American President Barrack Obama used social media extensively and it was one of his formidable political weapons. My political contacts in the United States now tell me that the president still maintains close contact with his social media network and they will no doubt play a major role in his re-election bid.
Bottom line, what Ben Mulwa is doing is not new.
But the question that is on everybody’s mind is what has he done differently on social media? A fair question because there are a number of other would-be presidential candidates and actual presidential hopefuls using social media for their campaigns. We didn’t hear their names in the opinion poll.
In my view the reasons for Mulwa’s success thus far is that he started early and his message has been very consistent. He has been telling Kenyans that we need a clean break from the past and that is why they need to seriously consider his candidature. Most of the other presidential candidates on Facebook have been hesitant to announce their real intentions, fearing to do so too early. Admittedly in politics timing is everything. But Mulwa apparently did not have that baggage and has been discussing his presidential agenda on a one to one basis with a wide cross section of Kenyans. And more importantly he has ridden on the wave of angry Kenyans we have been talking about here in Kumekucha who are looking for a clean break with the past. Currently Mulwa seems to be more visible than most when it comes to the rookie candidate Kenyans are looking for to teach the political class a lesson.
Read full results of the Smart Octopus Limited poll HERE.