A dead teacher once won party elections in Nyeri

1988 Mlolongo elections

The ongoing political campaigns lack gravitas in terms of ideological leanings and philosophical grounding.

The recently-launched party manifestos proved as much. And while manifestos rarely win elections - at least down these shores - rigging can, and has won candidates entry into the august House.

And there are reasons to guide against rigging if the party primaries are any yardstick. But when all is said and done, few episodes of rigging will ever come close to the shenanigans of the mlolongo voting system in 1988.

Kanu was the only political party in Kenya, and two years earlier, its top brass had decreed that the 1988 elections be through mlolongo. Here, secret ballot was dispensed with and voters queued behind photos of their preferred candidates!

Whichever candidate garnered over 70 per cent was automatically declared the MP-elect!

But the sub-branch elections in Kiambu had comical turnouts when DC Victor Musoga, who was the returning officer, named Mukora Muthiora as the winner against party kingpin Njenga Karume, the assistant minister for Cooperative Development.

Muthiora, a coffee picker in Kiambaa where Karume was area MP, was flattered when his photo graced newspapers and KBC radio announced him as the latest aspirant to floor a political giant. Never mind Karume had no opponent in the election.

Former President Mwai Kibaki

But Muthiora was only a voter who posed for cameras and he went to the media to plead as much. Muthiora was arrested and threatened with detention if he did not keep the façade of having defeated Karume in what went down as “selection within an election!”

Musoga was later promoted to PC of the then Central Province.

Did you know a dead voter won a seat in Nyeri? Well, it so happened that the returning officer in Nyeri was reading the list of winners and Mwai Kibaki , then the Vice President, pointed out that one of the declared winners was a teacher who died the previous November!

During a press conference which he called after his loss, Kibaki declared: “Even rigging requires some intelligence!”

By the way, Kanu as ‘Baba na Mama’ was a study in mind over matter.

It was so pervasively powerful that politicians sported the party coat lapel as a sign of being Kanu damu.

One Cabinet minister, a ‘master of platitudes’ from Siaya, a dyed-in-the-wool party hawk from Murang’a, a former Lugari MP and a rabble-rousing party tin-god from Kirinyaga, were said  to have kept special wardrobes with suits all pinned with the Kanu coat lapel - just in case they  dressed in a hurry and forgot the insgnia!