Matatu tout’s journey to honourable chambers
As an aggressive matatu tout at the bustling Kapsabet town in Nandi county, Fredrick Kipkemboi had a unique way of keeping himself abreast with current affairs.
Not by reading profusely the daily papers or publications, but taking time to listen to gossip from arriving and departing passengers.
“Hawakujua wananielemisha. Hii stage ilikua ndio gazeti la maana kwangu. (They did not know they were making me an informed person. The terminus was like a daily newspaper for me),” says the second term Member of County Assembly (MCA) representing Kapsabet Township ward.
His dream of becoming a renowned scholar crashed after the only family dairy cow was sold by his widowed mother, Rosemary Cheptoo, to raise school fees for his elder brother to proceed to secondary school.
Kipkemboi then dropped out of school in Standard Seven in 1993. At some point he contemplated suicide.
“But I changed my mind. I decided to go out, get a job as a tout and raise fees to educate myself in addition to providing food for the rest of the family. Our large family of seven siblings made me dread having children I would not be able to raise,” he says.
He enrolled at Lessos Village Polytechnic for adult education and in 2012, he sat for Kenya Certificate of Primary Eduction (KCPE) exam with his firstborn daughter, whom he beat.
“I got 260 points against my daughter’s 222 who sat for her exams at Namgoi Primary School,” he laughs.
At Kapsabet town, Kipkemboi was a no-nonsense tout. “He pushed us to work hard and respect our job as hustlers and took issue with anyone who consumed alcohol at the work place. We nicknamed him chief hustler,” remembers ex tout and business man in the town, Willy arap Kemei.
So, how did a tout end up as an MCA? “Initially, I had no desire to vie for any elective position. But residents pushed me saying I was a born leader,” he recalls.
He did not have much to spend on his campaigns. On a good day as a tout, he would take home Sh2,000. He had saved Sh40,000. He travelled to The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) offices in Nairobi.
Then he visited the URP offices where he learnt that there was a waiver for those with limited education. What was needed, he says, was 500 voters signatures to prove his endorsement.
I paid Sh20,000 for the party nomination then headed back to Kapsabet to a rousing welcome. “I won because of the goodwill of the electorate. They said they wanted to vote for a hustler to bring change. And they are the majority in Kapsabet town,” he says.
Making it happen
“The few posters I made with the balance of Sh20,000 were photocopied by supporters and hanged up in the town and its environs. And so, during the 2013 General Elections, my name was in the ballot,” he adds.
Kemei says Kipkemboi pledged to push for the education agenda to ensure young people don’t fail to pursue further studies and at the same time empower young people by involving them in the affairs of the government where they would be better placed to raise resources for programmes that would guarantee them a bright future,” says Kemei.
Coming from a large family, Kipkemboi is focused on reproductive health and family planning programmes.
Twenty-eight-year-old Felix Kimutai is one of the family planning champions in the county who was mentored by Kipkemboi and recently picked to represent young people at the County Budget Economic Forum (CBEF).
The 45-year-old has also not given up on his education dream. He aspires to join university to pursue an automotive related course. “Many people wonder why I’m still keen in pursuing an education. But I want to teach young people to value education,” he adds.
Asked what would be his advice to people who feel life has given them lemons, he breaks into a broad smile and makes reference to his neighbour and world marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge’s rallying call — No Human Is Limited. “You didn’t get enough education?
You haven’t achieved your desires? You feel you are a failure? Never give up. Everyone is gifted in special and unique ways,” he says in conclusion.
A God fearing and devout Christian, Kipkemboi says this kept his faith burning, which made him remain hopeful in life.