Political & Social Empowerment


{Credits to the Sunday Nation column, ‘Whispers’ by Wahome Mutahi (1954-2003, RIP), hyperbole and personal experience}

Kenya is a land riddled with storytellers. No wonder one Michael Joseph, former CEO of Safaricom; a Kenyan mobile telecommunication giant, after enjoying abundant returns as a result of this virtue or ilk (depending on where you stand) once quipped, “Kenya is a land of queer habits”. This view is also reiterated by former great France goalkeeper and two-week Kenyan football coach, Bernard Lama who is quoted as saying that what looks like an outlier on the normal distribution curve of the world’s realities is a norm in Kenya. He was not entirely flawed in his assessment. The Reverend Sister Immaculata; the proud lady who nurtured my incursion into the alphabet, arithmetic and literally ‘wiped my nose’ as a toddler had a perpetual anecdote-mill. Also a proclivity to deliver a sharp soundtrack (read ululation) at the slightest hint of elation. Countless were the times when the veteran academician burst out in mellifluous vocalization, may be out of the sheer joy of being alive smack in the middle of a priest’s homily (Catholic parlance for ‘sermon’). I may not be able to conjure up what she did when the pioneer class of the school ‘passed’ KCPE & had a few guys admitted to national schools; including yours truly. I have heard stories. But I digress, as what I wanted to write about is the story of a master (or in her case mistress as she was my Headmistress anyway) storyteller! With such a well-oiled mouth and with a wide repertoire of exclamations she rarely missed out on the proverbial biscuit.

In every sense I stayed in school because of the stories she told. Dry-joke Tuesday stuff!

I was reminded of the moral of the stories the other day as they were regaled to me a few years ago when I virtually still had porridge stains on my ears. Recent events have brought these teachings back to life. It was as if by the power of premonition my headteacher had the foreboding to see the current circumstances. In 2002, with ‘Baba wa taifa’ set to retire and go home to look after his livestock and engage in horse-play with his grandchildren. It was as if the grand matriarch of Kenyan erudition – May God rest her soul in Eternal peace – had seen the man from the shores of the big pond in Western Kenya; Lake Victoria, and the one from Kabartonjo in the Rift Valley partaking in a merger and divorce.

Madam would have arrived in the classroom, white veil on her head and dressed in religious vestments in full voice. She would have come wearing a decent enough pair of shoes which must have been crafted from hippopotamus hide due to its durability. I cannot remember a day when she did not wear this specific pair except those she wore her sandals just for some change or to accommodate the girth of her ankles which had a tendency to intumesce sometimes. Needless to say, her footwear had outlived the rain and sun.

Teacher would then aver that the story she was about to tell was the truth and nothing but the truth like we are usually made to believe in some movies.  These were stories about real animals that walked this planet. She then concluded if we did not believe her it was our own business as these really happened. The first is the story of the frogs and their king.

As it were the frogs were restless that they had no one to rule over them. So they sent a delegation to Jupiter; the king of the gods, and one tasked in naming leaders and presidential candidates and asked him to give them a king. Jupiter could see and smell the folly of this plan from a mile. However, as one who pays great credence to free will and could not mind someone having his own imprudence for dinner, he ascented to this. In his infinite wisdom he threw a log into a pond where they lived and told them, ‘there is your king.’ No doubt they got a dead thing for a king. Inanimate royalty!

The frogs were terrified at first by the massive splash caused by the log dropping into the water and scattered all over, including hiding in the deepest part of the pool. With the passage of time, it was evident that the log was not receiving delegations from each county and having songs and poems composed in his honour.

One by one the frogs came to the surface and not before long became bolder and bolder. They decided to sit on the log and see what would happen. The log said diddly-squat. Finally, the frogs thought of Jupiter as the prime joker and as is tradition sent a delegation to him. They told him in typical Kenyan parlance, “hata wewe unakuanga na jokes saa zingine. Give us a proper king. This ‘project Log’ could make a nice skit for a comedy. Might as well have given us the axe which cut him to be queen!” He was irritated. “Some way to speak to a god,” he muttered under his breath. He was evidently below amusement level. He initiated plan B, ‘Project Stork’. This was not what you would call a lethargic leader by any stretch of the imagination. He also exercised his authority as leader and feeder supreme. As you were taught in science storks really love frog; but not in a brotherly or romantic way! He could have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner with ruthless abandon.

In short, immediately the ‘new project’ came into power he started feeding on the frogs in the pool with the speed of the famed concord of years gone by.

The moral of this story: Refrain from ever asking an incumbent to name his successor. He might name you a guy with slightly more efficacy than the log. On the other end of the pendulum, he might name an ogre who will promptly organize a feast with you on the menu.


After more lubrication of her vocal cords, ‘Mayi’ as we fondly referred to her moved on to the next story called the Fish and the Crane.  A wolf once went out to fish for its dinner. He indeed found some delicious but highly bony fish. That troubled him in the least as he was ravenously hungry. However, with the passage of time, a bone got stuck in his throat. Mr. Wolf tried every trick to dislodge the bone. He even began seeing a bright light and thought the end was nigh. Just then a benevolent crane happened to pass by. In desperation, the wolf gruffed off to the crane for help. He could not let the crane whizz by while he was dying. He told the crane to put his long bill down his throat. “I will give you a real big prize for your co-operation. You will be my ally for life and we will share everything. The prospect of a good working relation with Mr. Wolf really pleased the crane. In no time he leaned into the wolf’s mouth and with his long bill and easily fished out the bone. He was volubly thanked for his co-operation.  Payback time.

“What about my fee?” asked Crane, Esq. “What about it?” snapped back the wolf barring his teeth as he spoke. “What is wrong with you? How many Cranes can you count who put their heads in a wolf’s mouth and retained them? Indeed, I commission you to go boasting off to your friends that you once put your head in a wolf’s mouth and did not get it bitten off, but do I say?

This was pontificated with a sleigh of hand.

The moral of this tale: ‘Beware of offers of co-operation particularly those made in desperation at the spur of the moment.’


The next day immaculately dressed her name suggested; she regaled us with more tales. As was the norm, she began the story by saying that those who did not believe that the story she was about to tell as the truth and nothing but the truth, could as well go fly a kite. This one was of the Sun and his wife. It went that once upon a time the sun was tired of retaining his bachelor status in the face of all the beautiful faces he shined his rays upon. There were some frogs in a pool somewhere. When they got wind of this story, they were undeniably terrified. The sun was already a force to reckon while single. He already dries up their pools with his heat alone. What would become of them when he gets a wife and brings along other suns as his sons. Woe on us.

The moral of this one: When a previously disjointed opposition unites into one formidable force, the incumbent force that used to bash them each time as individual entities in divide and rule strategy will feel the heat. Unity is strength.

Another day, our matriarch who without a shadow of doubt typified the saying, ‘it is not over till the fat lady has sung’ looked left and right, closed the door and even looked out of the window in a jocular manner averring that walls too have ears. This was already a source of mirth for the classroom watching a portly lady run this way and that in a way that was not typical of her. In the real sense she could face anybody and put across her point without fear or favour anyway. She whispered this story to us.

“There were two men travelling together. One was as in a society living the straight and narrow and was full of integrity. The other; as in any market economy where supply is minimal yet demand is abundant, suffered an economy of the supply of truth. One was virtually the flipside of his mate. They walked for insufferably long distances without anything to prick their sense of adventure. Ultimately they got to the land of the apes whose king was invariably an ape.

This king was in quite good spirits to receive his guests. He sat on his throne and with his visitors enjoying the ambience, had choirs of apes singing praises to him. In jest, he asked the two venerable guests what they thought of him. First up was the master of platitudes. ‘Your Excellency, who but a fool cannot comprehend that you are the wisest king who ever lived? Who cannot see the unbridled joy of your people? Who cannot hear that even the birds of the air sing your praises? Long live the King.

The ape king was ecstatic at what he heard. That was the greatest ego prop he had ever received. He immediately ordered that a beach plot be apportioned to the man suffering acute lying disorder. The other traveler thought that if his friend had been rewarded this good for pouring out figments of his imagination to the ape, then how much he the straight-shooting truthful operator! When the same question was posed to him he wasted no time in giving a strait-jacket indictment of his host. He told him he was a fine ape and also all his subjects were particularly agreeable apes whom he could take out ‘on the piss’ any day. The Ape king wore on his face a contorted mask of ire. He ordered the fellow thrown in jail immediately. His crime? He called an ape an ape!”

The moral of this tale: Featuring at #19 in the 48 Rules of power, always proclaim platitudes to the king and keep your criticism to yourself. Never call the king an ape even if that is apparent.


It was now time to open the door and tell the next story with an unflinching dedication to fact. This story is set in Kenya in the region of Mogotio famed for producing the most delicious roast goat due to the natural salinity of the goat’s meat caused by the water or divine providence. A fox fell into a well and was unable to get out. With all his cunning he must have seen that coming but did not. As he was getting austere and requesting the Lord to absolve him of all the sins he had committed and set him a seat next to Jacob and Elijah in the next world, a really thirsty goat chanced to pass by the well. His plea was heard. Our Mogotio-goat asked the fox how the water was down there. The Fox sensing redemption replied, “old friend I have never tasted better water. But you don’t have to hear it from me. If you don’t believe me come down and taste it for yourself. ” Edged on by thirst and in the comfort of the company an old friend, he did not require a second invitation to jump into the well. He gave himself a particularly healthy helping of drink of water.

After satiating his thirst he popped the question to his gracious host and now comrade in the bowels of the earth. “My guy, how did you in particular get in and how are we going to get out of this place?” The fox replied with a knowing grin on his face and an index finger in the air, “I have an idea. Do this. Stand on your hind legs and firmly plant your forelimbs against the side of the well. After that I will climb on your back and onto your horns eventually out of the well. When I am out I will help you out too.”

The goat did as instructed and the fox clambered on to his back and in no time was out. He then casually walked away without a scintilla of gratitude. The goat shouted at his friend in dismay saying, “My guy, I thought we were cool that you get out and then see how to help a brother out. You must keep your promise.” The fox merely turned and asked if they had just met. He added that if Mr. Goat had as much sense in his head as hair on his chin he would not have descended into the well without a formula of getting out.

The teaching in this story: Never trust the tongue of a politician. If you seek co-operation with a politician, be sure he will ride on your back and after attaining his aims leave you stranded. In short be wary of them. The sweeter his word, the more danger it portends.


Finally, she closed with this gem. Once upon a time there were a number of dogs which were hungry. Passing near a river, they saw some hides under the water. They thought they had seen their supper but could not get to the hides as they were submerged under some deep water. In their infinite wisdom from congregated heads, they resolved to drink the river away until the river was so dry that they could access their dinner. Consequently, they drank so much water that they each exploded their guts and died.

Lesson: Don’t scramble and die for small bribes from politicians. Keep calm and get the real thing, which is his neck for lying to you a la Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam of Haiti in 1915. It is already bad enough that as a taxpayer, your money is being bandied around campaigning for someone you hate to death. You are all the while being admonished for complaining being told that the finances do not stem from your feminine parental entity. The worse thing is that you by the ‘tyranny of your numbers’ empowered them and there is nothing you can do about it!

By dennismukoya

I am a consummate thinker of new solutions which I passionately endeavour to implement.


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