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Why Jalang’o will change his name in 2027 elections

Lang’ata Member of Parliament Phelix Odiwour, popularly known as Jalang’o, has confessed that voters faced difficulties associating him with his official name during the August general elections.

The first-term MP now says he will drop Phelix and use the name Jalang’o in the ballot paper instead in the next general elections.

In an interview with NTV on Monday, July 10, the legislator said the name Phelix did not resonate with his constituency, and that is why he now wants to be officially called Jalang’o.

“Hilo jina (Phelix Odiwuor) lilisumbua sana wakati uliyopita. (Using the name Phelix Odiwuor was a challenge during that time),” he said.

This is not the first time Jalang’o has hinted at changing his name. In 2021, while working as a presenter at Kiss FM, he announced his intention to officially change his name as using his old would have cost him the chance to win a political seat.

At the time, he said that he feared Kenyans might be unable to identify his official name in the ballot box as most know him by his alias.

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“I am changing my name to Jalang’o Jalang’o because that is the name that everybody knows juu ukienda kuuliza Phelix no one will know. The deed poll is already done and in the next few weeks I will show up with my new ID,” he said.

Ahead of last year’s General Election, several politicians opted to alter their names to reflect their more recognizable identities. But what is the value of a nickname? For some, a nickname is simply a way for friends and family to identify one fondly.

However, politics can make the difference between winning an elective seat and being left in the cold. For politicians, a nickname is how supporters identify them and, sometimes, what they bring to the table.

Changing names in Kenya is surprisingly easy. As long as one can pay the legal and statutory fees for the procedure in the region of Sh6,000, they are good to go. One needs to give reasons in their application to the Registrar-General.

Also read: Jalang’o – I made more money as a journalist than as an MP

Some names may be rejected, but nothing is entirely out of bounds, but you have to explain through your documentation.

A birth certificate is required in the name change documents, alongside a declaration by a person who knows the applicant. Often, a person adds or removes a name and remains with the rest.

In a few instances, however, a person changes their name to an entirely new one. That is why a name change gazette notice usually contains all the previous names and aliases associated with the person in case some tracking is needed for matters like criminal liability.

For this reason, some politicians have opted to legally change their names to incorporate the nicknames their supporters identify them by. Among those who went the way of changing their names is businesswoman-turned-politician Tabitha Karanja.

Mrs Karanja is the proprietor of Nakuru-based alcoholic beverages empire Keroche Breweries. Her name on the ballot paper during the August polls was Tabitha Karanja Keroche. She won the Nakuru County Senator.

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Before Karanja and Jalang’o, other politicians have gone down the road of changing their names. Former Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi, in 2012, changed his name to Mike Sonko. He was the Makadara Member of Parliament at the time.

The word ‘sonko’ is sheng for rich – the flamboyant former governor is known to have a penchant for flaunting his wealth – with ‘blinged out’ gold jewellery, designer clothes and shoes and an overall fancy lifestyle.

Another politician who changed his name is Ferdinand Waititu. His supporters referred to him as ‘Baba Yao’, which loosely translates to ‘their father’.

The nickname came about during Waititu’s campaigns for the Embakasi MP seat in 2008. It stuck, so much so, that the politician decided to legally change his name to include the Baba Yao tag ahead of the 2017 polls.

Others who have adopte their nicknames include Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria, whose official name was Francis Mwangi. Wa Iria is loosely translated to milkman in Kikuyu. The name came from his time at Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC) – now known as New KCC.

Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi, whose official name was Paul Kimani, also used his ‘Wamatangi’ nickname. The word loosely translates to ‘the water tank person’. The nickname came from his support for residents in his county, whom he helped buy water tanks.

Former Kieni MP Kanini Kega, who is currently EALA legislator, also stopped using his original name – James Ndungu and opted for the name, which means ‘small and good’.

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