Babu Owino of UoN wealth and Age
As government ministers drive around in Volkswagen Passats, Paul Ongili ‘Babu Owino’, the 26-year-old student leader of the University of Nairobi, cruises in a Range Rover Sport, a towering monument to the conspicuous fuel consumption that Kenya’s president. Uhuru Kenyatta did away with in an austerity measure a few years ago.
On University Way behind the wheel of another of his toys, a black Hyundai Tuscani sports car, Babu presses a button and the sunroof slides open, attracting the attention of a lecturer walking besides him
in the scorching Nairobi sun.
As he slides the shiny Hyundai into his reserved parking space outside the University of Nairobi’s administration block, starry-eyed girls sashay around him, winking and giggling in their youthful gullibility. The Students Organisation of Nairobi University (Sonu) leader is living the good life, and he knows it.
Three yrs ago, City Council askaris made the ‘mistake’ of clamping his BMW because he had parked it at a restricted area. Babu’s lieutenants, the students he leads at the UoN, liberated him from the askaris after a commotion. He is living the good life… and he is also untouchable.
A Range Rover Sports car sells at between Sh11 million and Sh20 million – depending on the trim and power – at the Cooper Motors Corporation’s Industrial Area showroom in Nairobi. Spare parts of the Tuscani, which is targeted at the young and trendy driver, have to be imported.
“My first car was a Toyota 110,” Babu says. “Then I bought the BMW and the Tuscani. Now I also have the Range Rover.”
While his fellow students struggle to secure hostel rooms that cost about Sh3,000 a semester, Babu lives in Kileleshwa, where his neighbours include top managers, MPs and Cabinet ministers.
As students beg the administration to reduce the cost of ugali in the campus
cafeterias to a manageable Sh8, their chairman goes for lunch at Ranalo Foods, where a plate goes for about Sh500.
He has earned it, he believes. Never mind that, as the chairman of a 60,000+member
student body whose annual budget of Sh28 million is more or less the value of the cars he drives around in, his monthly
allowance of Sh4,500 is not enough to fuel any of these cars for two weeks.
He is popular alright, but where does he get the resources to live this kind of
Many believe the 26-year-old, like many of his predecessors, is in bed with the country’s top politicians. He disagrees, but says he sure has a close working relationship with Kenya’s top businessmen and technocrats.
In 2012, Babu met, negotiated and offered his support to presidential candidates Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, and Raphael Tuju.
In 2012 before elections, he was invited by securities mogul Jimnah Mbaru to the Murang’a County Forum, where he addressed thousands on regional development and growth strategies. He also was to various forums in different Kenyan communities to promote his upcoming youth peace initiative.
When not traversing the country, Babu administers student matters at the UoN, sometimes with a lot of vigour.