Controversy continues to characterise George Wajackoyah's first stab at the presidency as the clock ticks toward the August polls.
The Roots presidential hopeful is rubbing the big boys the wrong way with his pledge to decriminalise marijuana — scientifically known as cannabis sativa — in the country if elected.
For the first time in Kenya's history, the candidate with a rather unconventional manifesto continues to gain popularity among the youth, threatening the numbers of the two leading candidates Raila Odinga of the Azimio One Kenya coalition and Kenya Kwanza alliance's William Ruto.
In his bid to be Kenya's fifth president, Wajackoyah has tapped, arguably, some of the best brains in the country to help him sell the bhang agenda to the electorate.
Last week, he nominated researcher and political analyst Sammy Gwada Ogot as his Cabinet Secretary for 'Herb' ministry ahead of the polls slated for August 9.
In a media interview, Wajackoyah said he will sack most of the current state officials if elected.
In an elaborate move aimed at reviving the country's 'ailing' economy and settling her ballooning public debt, the candidate promised to create a 'Herbs' ministry to oversee the growth of the plant locally known as bhang for medicinal and industrial use.
This man Gwada Ogot
But who is this man who has earned Wajackoyah's trust to head a key ministry in his proposed administration?
Ogot, who hails from Siaya County, has been around for some time. He is one of the few Kenyans who have been at the forefront of pushing for the legalisation of the narcotic drug in the country.
He first made headlines in 2017 after petitioning the Senate to legalise bhang.
In a bold move, Ogot asked the Senate to pass a law decriminalising the drug and free those serving jail terms for offences related to the use and trafficking of the substance.
"I pray the House recommends amnesty for all people jailed for possession, usage, sale, cultivation and transportation of cannabis sativa. Criminalising cannabis creates criminals where none existed,” Ogot said.
He argued that legalising bhang would make the plant one of Kenya's cash crops and contribute to improving Kenyans' lives, besides boosting the country's revenue.
"God has made more than 430,000 plants and put them on earth then somebody has come and barred just one. You ask yourself why?" he posed during a session with the Senate committee members.
In the petition, Ogot advocated for the establishment of a Cannabis regulatory body-Cannabis Sativa Board of Kenya (CSBK) to oversee the 'promising' sector.
“Research has indicated that bhang can be used for medicinal purposes to cure diseases. It is disease resistant and can be replanted several times a year without use of pesticides,” Ogot's petition read in part.
During the unveiling of the Roots party's manifesto on Thursday, June 30, 2022, the scientist explained that the Kenyan electorate needs to appreciate the potential of the plant's fibre industry that is puffed up by three main strains of cannabis namely, sativa, indica, and ruderalis.
“All the paper currency in the world is made from hemp fibre. Everybody carrying a [bank] note; if you have it in your pocket, you are carrying proof of the efficacy and the economic benefits of marijuana. If you have money in your pocket, you have a sample of what marijuana can do for our economy,” said Ogot to cheers from the party's delegates who graced the event at the Kenyatta National Convention Centre (KICC).
He told the delegation that military fatigue and all the twine that is used to anchor the biggest ships in the world are made from hemp fibre.
"All military uniforms, including their tent gears, are made from hemp fibre. Clothing material made from hemp fibre, is about 70 per cent times stronger than that made from cotton, and is cheaper to produce,” he added.
Ogot said he has done research around bhang and he is convinced that Kenya shouldn't shy away from joining the growing list of other countries that have legalised it.
In a past media interview, Ogot said his own experience motivated him to conduct research on bhang.
Growing up, he said, he saw his own grandparents use the plant to treat illnesses such as measles, common among children.
According to him, there is enough evidence to show that the drug can treat more than 600 medical conditions.
"I have seen this product used to treat children. Let us take a leap of faith as a country and follow what others are doing and start to be medicinally self-sufficient," he said.
He did most of the research after quitting his job in neighbouring country Uganda where he served as head of research at the Citizen Coalition for Electoral Democracy, between 2009 and 2015.
Before joining the organisation he worked as a general manager at Spellman and Walker, a company specializing in outdoor advertising and marketing.
Ogot says his wide research taught him to question a lot of things.
He claims most of the people opposed to the legalisation of bhang do it out of ignorance, insisting that- Kenya, like many African countries, should do away with oppressive laws introduced by the white man to hinder the progress of the continent.
"I do not blame these parents because since the Gentiles banned bhang across the world all that has come out of this is negative yet what nobody says is that the leading researchers in the world in terms of bhang are Israel, the United States of America and Spain.
"What people should realize is that the silence that is being held unto us and we are not told anything about a lot of scientific progress that has been made in this area is because we are targeted as a market for the products that will come out of this. Because it is clear that this plant has huge medicinal value. Hence the massive legalisation that is ongoing in the world," he said.
"Everbody is engaged in marijuana research. People are looking to maximise profits from these products on their own and we do not expect to be led onto that. We must lead so that we create a market for others who intend to create a market on us."
Ogot has written a book about marijuana in which he highlights the numerous importance of the drug including the treatment of cancer.
"I have also written a book that explains the meanings of all the nations of the world, the meanings of all the names of the continents of the world, the meanings of all the rivers, lakes and mountains of the world, the meanings of all the prophets of Islam and Christianity and the meanings of all the cities of the world," he added.
In 2014, he came up with a new theory that explains that circumcision is based on the absence or presence of water and that all genital modifications are based on two factors, sunshine and water.
In the theory, Ogot explains that communities that reside near large water bodies such as Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana don't practice circumcision. He says the same case applies in Uganda and many other countries.
As of 2017, Ogot had led, trained and reported on 21 election missions across Africa.