Mariga, avoid an own goal; politics is a different ball game
- It would seem to me that Mariga has allowed some characters to destroy a legacy that he has spent more than half of his life building.
- What Mariga should instead focus on is mentoring the next generation of Kenyan footballers. Being a sportsman or woman in this country is a tough and thankless job.
Is McDonald Mariga Wanyama leadership material or just another empty tracksuit?
This was the million-dollar question stewing in my mind all week since the star footballer was formally declared the Jubilee Party candidate for the upcoming Kibra parliamentary by-election.
After watching his cringeworthy interview, in which he relentlessly insists tutashinda (we will win), I have come to the conclusion that he is either the most confident fool we have in this country, or somebody has done a proper job of hypnotising the young man.
Let us start by giving credit where it’s due. Mariga is a man who has done very well for himself, all factors considered.
For a young man raised in Nairobi’s Muthurwa estate to scale such heights of international football is not a feat that should be ignored.
He courted the attention of international football scouts while he was still a schoolboy at Kamukunji High School and went on to make history as the first Kenyan to play in the European Champions League.
He has since played for various international clubs, including Inter Milan under the tutelage of the famous coach Jose Mourinho.
It is also admirable of Mariga that he mentored his younger brother Victor Wanyama, now an international footballer with Tottenham Hotspur.
The story of Mariga is the perfect storybook example of grass to grace, rags to riches… Muthurwa to Milan.
But that is where it stops, I am afraid. It would seem to me that Mariga is hell-bent on destroying his legacy — this beautiful success story that he has worked so hard for — in only a matter of days. Allow me to rephrase that:
It would seem to me that Mariga has allowed some characters to destroy a legacy that he has spent more than half of his life building.
For Mariga or anyone else to think that he is a leader capable to fill the big shoes of the late Ken Okoth is not just a comical overestimation of Mariga’s capabilities, it is also an outright insult to the great legacy of Ken Okoth, perhaps the best MP Kibra will ever have, if you know what I mean.
Mariga is talented, full of energy and life, and he perhaps understands the Kibra life more than many of us.
However, whoever lied to him that he is leader material is either trying to push a very selfish agenda or is simply a malicious individual who wants to destroy Mariga for good.
Mariga should know that political leadership is not for everyone. This is in no way an insult, but a word of advice to the young man.
Politics is a whole different ball game, so to speak; it requires a certain nimbleness of mind and clarity of thought that I am afraid Mariga does not quite possess.
Politics requires the gift of the gab, the capacity to express oneself and more importantly, the ability to articulate your vision to the constituents.
Politics also requires a vision, a plan, a roadmap — an agenda.
Mariga may be the most successful East African footballer in the UEFA Champions League, but the truth is, he is not cut out for leadership; and running for Kibra MP will be the biggest blunder of his life.
What Mariga should instead focus on is mentoring the next generation of Kenyan footballers. Being a sportsman or woman in this country is a tough and thankless job.
When the officials handling the Olympics are not mishandling monies meant for your accommodation, the clubs you play for pay you so little it is ridiculous.
For people like Mariga and his brother to make it on the international scene is nothing short of a miracle.
Mariga should appreciate this and, instead of allowing himself to be used by politicians to settle scores, he should busy himself with leaving a legacy by charting the path for younger footballers who aspire to be like him.
Rather than muddying his name and his brand with politics, Mariga should set up a football academy in Kibra or even his hood in Muthurwa, with the aim of creating a pipeline of footballers for the international market.
If Mariga wants to give back to his society, football, not politics, is the way to go.
He should understand that his success and influence ought to count for something other than being used for selfish political ambitions.
He should also know that he is in that position at such a time as this for a very specific reason, and that is to play his part in improving the quality of life of the many youngsters who will come after him.
Surely, Mariga, embarrassing yourself on national television and being a pawn in a political game is beneath you.
A man stands on his own — and you must use your influence in the way that works best for you and in a manner worth the many years of hard work you have put in.
You must be remembered for pulling up other footballers, not the footballer who threw away his life for politics.
Mariga should know that it is not too late to pull out of this race. Do the honourable thing and leave politics to politicians. Yours, Mariga, is a higher calling.
Ms Chege is the director of the Innovation Centre at Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications;