Political & Social Empowerment




ne wise man is quoted saying that there are but two certainties in life, Death and Taxes. Recent events have brought this unerring reality to perspective. His train of thought may not have strayed too far off from the actual trajectory of matters. Famous Anglo-Irish academic and essayist Percival Arland Ussher added, “A man does not die of love, his liver or old age; but only because he is a man.”  Any creature with life will ultimately lose it. But the question is, when? From the dawn of time many species including humans have appeared on the grand stage called the earth, done their dance and some without any warning departed that same stage leaving many a mortified and sorrowful bereaved nay inconsolable. Even the dinosaurs, suave in powerful elegance could not have foretold of their own Armageddon on that fateful day 65 Million years ago. A meteor that had hurtled through space for eon inexplicably headed the earth’s direction, got trapped in our gravitational field and burnt as a brilliant ball of fire through the atmosphere eventually splashing into the bay off the Yucatan Peninsula as a megaton bomb. The pristine occupants of the earth were gradually wiped out by the effects of this catastrophe. Some of the passing-ons with the most profound impact are of the people we hold dear. Relatives, kinsmen, close allies, fervently close individuals to us. Perhaps, the most profound blow is dealt when a mentor, sport or music icon or even your favourite politician passes on.  Here in Kenya, we have had innumerable instances of people we greatly adore ‘taking the final bow’ in the year 2017. I will not attempt to quantify the tremulous quakes that this incidences have had on our individual personas but only a man knows where a shoe pinches him. What I know is that the cruel throes of death leave an immutable chasm of unquantifiable magnitude. Consolation comes; scant as it may be, in the realization that we are all flesh and we all will in due course perish. But the key thing is to take critical lessons from the lives of our heroes so that when they inevitably become the deceased, will be left richer by our consort with them. I will attempt to pay ever so gently; mild tributes to a few eminent individuals to have sempiternally departed from earthly grace but whose memories may linger with many of us in perpetuity.

Chieck Tiote was a famous football icon. He was an Ivory Coast football lynchpin, an enforcer at the centre of the park, a defensive midfielder of no mean repute. That nation has rapidly developed to a football powerhouse with names like Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure who have taken the diadem of African footballer of the year multiple times. Playing a team sport, the aforementioned is in the same breath as these two; in no denigration, an integral part of their national team success. Though not so decorated in his club career, he lifted the 2015 AFCON with the national side. He has indeed featured in two World Cups. Many of us caught not just a passing glimpse of him, but peered at his movements, week-in-week-out in the English Premier league. Here he played for Newcastle football club. Needless to say, at the time of his passing he had become a household name. Many an Arsenal football club fan has no doubt been stirred up in cold sweats remembering the nightmare that was their match with Newcastle on 5th February 2011. Leading 4-0 at half-time and on course to a budgeoning victory, Arsenal surely took the foot off the pedal in the second –half. In what can only be termed an insipidly calamitous collapse Arsenal blew that lead setting up a grand-stand finale. Exhilaration for the Newcastle fans and many neutrals was sealed late in the match by none other than the iconic central midfielder. With the Match poised at 4-3 in favour of Arsenal FC in the dying embers of that encounter, the equivalent of a thunderbolt hit that ground. A resounding goal-ward smash of the ball from 25 yards out into Arsenal’s net and the resulting celebrations almost awakened apparitions of all the heroes of yore buried at the St. James’ Park! Tying that game, not many were the days when he endeared himself to the club faithful as on that day. But it was not all peaches and rainbow-chasing for this young man. He was of humble extraction in his native Yamoussoukro in Cote d’ Ivoire. Born in 1986 among nine siblings, he was given none of the fan-fare, the equivalent of the proverbial dedication at ‘pride-rock.’ He played rural street football bare-foot, only saving enough to buy his first boots at age 15. His special talent took him abroad in 2005 at age 19. From then on he conquered the world of football. Scaling the dizzying heights of the game, it all came tumbling down when he collapsed on the turf during training on 5th June 2017 in Beijing, China playing for Beijing Enterprises. Efforts to resuscitate the young man proved futile and he was lost to the world at the tender age of 30.

Lesson: You are never too young to make an impact. Even the fledglings receive the ethereal clarion call. Give your all in what you do aiming for ultimate greatness in all endeavours. Try to be a human worthy of emulation.

Anyone who was born and old enough to follow Kenyan politics in the nineties must have heard of the name Nicholas Kipyator Biwott. The self-styled ‘total man’ may have fooled many with his diminutive stature but not his confident strut that belied the Lion of the African Savannah he was. He was born in 1940 to a grocer in Keiyo District, in the former Rift Valley province. Shortly afterwards, his family moved to Eldoret where his father was a market trader and herdsman. He was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug at an early age that in his teens; complementing education he also helped his father in trade. By the time he was 20 he had his own grocery and eggs business. To expand the venture he took on funds from a finance institution. From early adulthood he inculcated in himself a business philosophy of purchasing small or flailing businesses and reinvesting in them with a more frugal and targeted management structure. He grew his enterprise and with that his own personal fortune and stature as a preeminent entrepreneur immensely. He also made strides while working in Civil service. He rose from a local DO to Senior Secretary in the Ministry of Finance working under no less than the future third president of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki. His enterprising mentality, zeal and excellent working relationship with the higher echelons of power saw him noticed by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and on personal recommendation moved him to the Home Affairs Ministry; a docket held by then Vice President Daniel Moi, an erstwhile tribesman. Here, personal rapport was kindled between the two which saw their collective future destinies intertwined. After unsuccessfully bidding for the Keiyo South seat in the 1974 polls, he finally captured it in 1979. For 29 years he enjoyed a vice grip on the seat and colossus status in the Kanu politics of the entire Elgeyo Marakwet. While a Member of Parliament and personal confidant of the president; he had his hour under the sun. He was appointed Minister of State in the Office of the President holding the portfolio from 1979 to 1982. He became so powerful as to be equated to ‘de-facto’ Vice President under Moi. Thereafter, he held seven other Cabinet posts throughout the Moi regime ending in 2002. He had a taint in tenure that saw him step aside from all roles in government between 1991 to 1997; heeding to public hue and cry, for suspicion of involvement in the assassination of high rising Foreign Affairs Minister, Robert Ouko. New evidence portends that the ghastly crime was ostensibly committed in one of the official presidential residences. All said, few politicians have impacted the facets of life in both Elgeyo Marakwet and Kenya as a whole as this man. The consummate philanthropist of vast fortune breathed his last on 11th July 2017 in Nairobi hospital following a long bravely borne battle with throat cancer.

Lesson:  No matter your genesis, fortune always favours the hardworking and enterprising man. After success never forget that you owe society both a moral and pecuniary debt of gratitude. None is so great as to unbolt the door to the grave.

When Godfrey Gitahi Kariuki was born at the dawn of 1937 in Rumuruti, Laikipia; not even one at the acme of his profession as a clairvoyant could have foreseen his destiny both in the Kenyan political landscape and government. At his death he was the only leader who had served in the first Kenyan Independence parliament in 1963 still in elective office. By the time he came of age, the clamour for independence in Kenya was at fever-pitch and he was determined to be a player. He eventually took the Mau-Mau oath and was a junior leader of its revolutionary council. In 1963 he was elected Member of Parliament for Laikipia West, a position he held up until 1983. He was defeated in the elections but thrown a lifeline in 1993 to 1997 as a nominated MP. He was re-elected in 2002 to 2007 in the same constituency. Throughout his political life he has held himself as a beacon of hope for the populace in terms of servant leadership. Whereas many view public office as the once in a lifetime opportunity for self aggrandizement and exercising wanton unwarranted abuse of power, GG took this as the opportunity to show his altruistic nature. No less, when many colleagues from the Mount Kenya region took to proffering a demi-god status to President Kenyatta and avoiding any friction with him; the rable rouser in 1966 went against the grain. He introduced a bill in parliament to try to influence resettlement of the landless in post-independent Kenya. This was in view of the fact that the strife for independence had disenfranchised many Africans, leaving only a few with the financial muscle to purchase vacated colonial lands. Prevailing government policy was that of ‘willing buyer- willing seller’ unfathomable to many a gentleman who had spent most their adulthood in the forest fighting for freedom with the Mau Mau. He owned a land buying company ostensibly to resettle the landless. With this in mind he sought to influence policy to cap land prices at Sh.10,000 per acre to favour as many people as possible not just the former colonial home guards. Though at cross purpose with government, he was determined in his cause. He failed in this venture but still had caught the president’s eye all the while endearing himself to the people. Coincidentally, in 1972 his efforts bore fruit as he was appointed Assistant Minister for Lands, Settlement and Physical planning. He held this post to 1979 when he tasted induction into cabinet as a powerful Minister for Internal Security and Provincial Administration. He was reverted to his previous role with full ministerial power in 1982 serving for a year. Continuing his life-long streak as anathema to subservience and complacency, he in 2009 threatened to organize all local gangs to wreak havoc culminating in overthrowing the government which he deemed insular to the suffering of the masses! He was arraigned in a Mombasa court over the matter. In April 2013, he was handed a lifeline back to public office when he was elected Senator of Laikipia County. He held the post until his demise on 30th June 2017. On the education front he was not one to slouch to modest levels. He had a Diploma at entry into Parliament attained in 1959. He inspired many when after going out of government in 1985, enrolled for a course in the Institute of Administrative Accountancy. If you thought he was in his sunset years, in 2016 he graduated with a PhD in International Relations at the University of Nairobi. If you feel you are done with learning after Graduation with a mere Bachelors Degree, you were no doubt put to shame by the grand old man.

Lesson: Learning is a continuum that is only interrupted by death. You are never too old for school. Also as taught by Nicolo Machiavelli in his master piece, ‘The Prince’ – never bow down to policy that is detrimental to your constituents when you have power to influence its change. Legacy is of prime consideration.

Amb. Bethuel Kiplagat was a man with a feathered hat as far as achievement in Civil Service, Academia and peace-keeping in foreign missions is concerned. Born on 28th November 1937, he studied Physical Science at Makerere before moving onto Sociology of Religion at University of Sorbonne in Paris. He served as a Deputy Secretary of National Christian Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) from 1971 to 1978. He was on tour of duty as a Kenyan Ambassador to France and the United Kingdom between 1978 and 1983. He returned as the Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs from then to 1991 where his toil mid-wifed peace processes in Uganda, Mozambique and Ethiopia. He was a resource person for IGAD in the Sudan conflict. He served as Chairman of the African Medical Research Foundation from 1993 to 2003. Under the IPPG agreement between the opposition and churches in Kenya, he took on the role of an Election Monitor under the NCCK for the 1997 elections. Between 2003 to 2005 he was the Kenyan Special envoy for the Somalia Peace process. Between 2009 to 2010 he was the Chairman for the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission in Kenya to probe past human right violations by the previous governments in Kenya before then. He was eventually forced to acrimoniously resign in November 2010 when he was investigated for his role in the Wagalla Massacre at Wajir airstrip in 1984. This was a major human right violation in Kenya’s history and his commission would have had conflicted interest to investigate it with him at the helm. He denied involvement but as one of those who sat in the Kenyan Intelligence Committee due to the portfolio he held at the time, it would be foolhardy rebutting culpability. He toured as part of a delegation to the area prior to this gut wrenching, macabre undertaking. He made an application in August 2016 to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution to launch new investigation into the matter with a view to explicate his name from the saga. He passed on, the morning of 14th June 2017.

Lesson: Even the high and mighty envoys of this world cannot negotiate with the grim-reaper when he has your name written in his collection schedule for the day.

The bolt out of the clear sky of all these was Retired Major General Joseph Kasaine ole Nkaissery. He was a sitting Cabinet secretary; holding a portfolio that put him as first among equals even among cabinet colleagues. He was the Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security. He was a relative youth compared to the other three previously discussed having been born in 1949 coincidentally on the twelfth birthday of the previous entry in our write up. He was a career soldier who joined the now defunct Kenya Army in 1973. As a military man he kept to a strict routine of exercise and discipline. In 1982 he became a Combat Instructor at Kenya Army. As one of the more erudite servicemen, he had a steady rise in the ranks to hold the post of Military assistant to the Chief of General Staff between 1987 and 1991. By December 2002, he was a Commandant of Armed Forces Training College. His proclivity for academics; though may have been thought of as petered when he dropped out of a Bachelor of Education Degree at Kenyatta University in 1971 was alive and well. He enrolled at the Defence Staff College Military Academy in India in 1985 for a year. He also attended the United States War College to study military intelligence and surveillance. He later returned to Kennedy School Harvard in 1996 to 1997 to study Leadership, Development and Strategic Management. On the Political front he was elected MP for Kajiado Central under NARC in December 2002. He was reelected on an Orange Democratic Movement ticket in 2007. Consequent to the formation of the coalition government under President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga after the viciously contested election and a tumultuous 2008 peace deal, he was named assistant minister for internal security later moved to defence until 2013. He was re-elected MP for the constituency for a third term under the same ODM ticket now in the opposition. In December 2014 and as a direct consequence of the misadventures of one Joseph ole Lenku as a Minister; utterly inept for a time when an occupation force had been sent to Somalia and the Al-Shabaab terrorists were hitting back with ruthless abandon at national installations, he was tapped as full CS. As per the provisions of the newly enacted 2010 constitution he could not serve as both MP and CS concurrently, he had to relinquish his parliamentary seat. He served with distinction in the role; sometimes scarring friend and foe in his efforts to keep the nations enemies at bay while keeping security sound within. On the day prior to his death; 7th July 2017 associated with remembrances of past opposition rallies and repressive violence by security agents, he had attended several meetings, prayer rallies, scheduled a fund-raising, assured of security at the IAAF youth championships and the forthcoming General Elections. Despite this schedule, he still had time to hit the Gym at 9:30 pm, have dinner and talked of slight chest pain. After retiring to bed that night, for him the lights were out eternally. As a healthy looking character and exuding good continence even on his last day on earth he gave no one even the slightest indication of potential departure. At the time of penning this piece, foul play was still being suspected with funeral arrangements in top gear.

Lesson: Death like a thief snatches when least expected. It can paradoxically snatch with effortless ease the life of a man who ran the police force which arrests other thieves fleeing with it to the ethereal realm.

Political & Social Empowerment


“No army can stop an idea whose time has come”. This is a famous quip by the iconic French poet, novelist and playwright; Victor Hugo. Gone are the days where youths were regarded as the leaders of tomorrow. This has stemmed from enlightenment and the realization that they form a critical mass of the population. It is the trend the World over. Look at Canada with Justin Trudeau and France with Emanuel Macron. Beginning 2009, the most powerful man in the world; POTUS was Barrack Obama, a relative youth compared with his contemporaries. Closer home we had until recently youthful Andry Rajoelina; a former Disk Jockey, the president of the island nation Madagascar serving between 2009 – 2014. For long the youth were shunned to the periphery and outer echelons of leadership. Their numbers were only exploited to gain power only to be parlayed as a crow-bar to access greater wealth and fortune for their forebears. Needless to say, little trickled down back to them. In days gone by, they were conveniently conscripted with the sole intention of harnessing their massive reserves of energy for either negative if not downright nefarious agenda. They were merely used as a battering ram to wreak havoc and interrupt political rallies for rival candidates. Their creativity, ingenuity, muscle, naivety, zeal, eccentricity and even idiosyncrasies were only channeled to the benefit of the older financially adroit candidates. Matter of fact; as per my spoken word colleague “Teardrops” there is an amorphous invention by the crime deterrent agencies dubbed – The Crime triangle. To calculate its area (propensity for potency) you require a ‘base’ where young men “chill-out” and the determinant – altitude, being the height of you guessed whom, the youths involved. Why all this stereotyping? We will perhaps attempt to quantify in a future post the role of young women in the Traditional African political scene. I lied. If warming the beds for the ‘hallowed ones’ counts, then that it was. Even politically in eon past, the youth were only relegated to members of quasi-military wings of political parties to coerce the hand of the electorate. Case in point, in the cataclysmic outcome of the fiercely disputed 2007 General Election, most of the social ills that were perpetrated were blamed on the youth. They were virtually the hatchet boys who meted out the diabolical schemes manifested phenotypically as murder, rape and forceful transfer of population at the behest of their older counterparts. Many of them were incarcerated in retribution for their acts. Some were even purged off extrajudicially to ostensibly extricate the real purveyors of these heinous acts from their own cups of judgement and culpability. A very dark episode in our history indeed.
Fast forward now. Never in the history of Kenya has the prospect of so many youthful elected leaders ever loomed so large. Once frowned upon as naïve, inexperienced, undisciplined, puerile, disco and shisha-heads with the proverbial porridge behind the ears; they now stand at the cusp of leadership and with a real chance to deliver the long mooted meaningful change. After proving themselves at the acme of personal businesses and even industry they have found their voice and now intend to dabble in the quagmire that is the political scene. Some are already prominent personalities in acting, music, dance, youth organization initiatives and sports (mostly Athletics- our pride and joy). As is often stated experience can never be purchased from any shop but can only be lived through; the same experience has shown that older leaders perhaps may not be so suited to the task after all. My job here is not to try to attract curses for lampooning the silver-foxes who may read this piece but just to enumerate the innumerable merits of having younger leaders.
Younger leaders are often still pliant and amenable to change. With all the time in the world ahead of them, they feel the need to experiment with as many combinations and permutations with the aim of unraveling the best formula. They still are audacious and no doubt will champion for change, taking as many risks as can be balanced on their shoulders. Those wise enough know their weaknesses and hence seek the services of more vibrant and intelligent team members. They always strive for improvement as unlike the old Turks they are aware of the fact that they will be around for a long time. This may be too long to tolerate or suffer the consequences any failed strategies & anathema. They have only a modicum invested in the past. As such they have no difficulty challenging the status quo as they are not part of it and may be are not yet aware of any benefits stemming from breaking in. They are neither shackled by any misgivings, traditions nor impediments that come with ‘getting bitten too many times.’
As stated earlier younger leaders bring energy & dynamism to the table. Zeal and enthusiasm is the staple of the youthful leader. He still has well oiled muscles, flexible tendons, vibrant comportment, straight backs, no creaky bones; hence, the spring in the step sufficient to surmount any challenge. Fail today, they are unlikely to rest on their laurels but get back in the face of the same challenge till it is defeated. They can easily enjoin song and dance in their campaign and may travel long distances without having so much of the aches that come with doing so. Their resolution and restitution is still on point. They possess both physical and mental energy required to face colossal hurdles that may teem their way. Tell me, which old man will go through the physical rigours to deface his rivals’ posters in the dead of the night when the very cold gives him joint ache?
Younger leaders have visions which come with yet unfulfilled expectations. They still possess the optimism that most of their goals are attainable no matter what as only a function of time. They don’t have sad, bone-gnawing stories about what a tough life they have had, errors in judgement or failed initiatives. Even Biblically, it is captured in Acts 2:17 “I will pour out my spirit on them such that young men will see visions while their progenitors will dream.” Even those early day sages could perceive the clear-cut dichotomy between the functioning of the mind of a young and old person. The old guard is nostalgic of the good old days they wish to relive while the younger character wants to create the ambitious new and better world he has never experienced or change it for the better. New wine does not deserve to be packaged in old wine skins.
Vote in a new crop and they will set ambitious long term goals. The older generation know they haven’t many years ahead of them and so will attempt to achieve as much as possible quixotically within a crammed period of time. It is even more dire if you have a character who in his youth lived the happy-go-lucky life and never saved or invested his finances. The thought of every passing day fills them with great terror and trepidation of what heritage they are to bequeath upon their progeny. Self aggrandizement and corruption sets in. As has been observed in many African countries older leaders preside over the most kleptocratic regimes. Some even attempt to hand over power to their newly acquired younger wives getting severely chided in the process. “Power is not a S*****ly Transmitted condition,” the rebuke they get. Independence leaders have totally sullied their legacies. The saying, ‘if you do not exit the stage if still a hero you will live long enough to turn into an odious repugnant villain’ rings perpetually true. Young leaders pick scalable targets that can be improved or regressed backwards when deemed unattainable.
Younger leaders are more innovative geared. I am not castigating anyone’s Gramps here for being a cave man with no knowledge on electronics’ use. Hell No! I’m just trying to make the point that the younger generation live in the digitally inclusive world that has turned the world into a small village. Creative and even unheard of ways of doing business & politics are put into play. As recently as the late nineties who ever heard of predictive analytics and its use to forecast popular trends. Crowd sourcing for very desperate, noble and even useful initiatives in society was unheard of. The digital age heralded a grand revolution in the modus operandi of getting elected and even determining the functionality of initiatives. Social media trends are the way to go. No self respecting politician exists without a myriad of social media platforms to boost their popularity and get word out to more. Gamification which is a new and interactive way to call your audience to action has taken traction all thanks to the younger politician in the developed world. Our founding fathers never engaged the man at the grassroots at such close quarters as the current leaders.
Younger leaders are more compassionate albeit altruistic with their fellow youth. The socially oriented are even more open to getting their audiences more engaged, energized and excited about achieving their own goals. They inspire their teams in some strategy similar to affiliate marketing that gives them the impression that if they make one person succeed the entire team succeeds. They are more in tune with the new world problems affecting the majority of the populace who are the youth, empathetic to their plight. They most likely came up through the same period, went to university in the “post-boom” era and struggled with odd jobs in the city, got pick pocketed and lost their phones and wallets to the ‘boys in the hood’. When similar message is transmitted to the crowds, mirror neurons pitch in and the leader is deemed more likeable to their peers, a rapt audience.
As opposed to generalized approaches of handling situations, younger leaders have been brought up on the S.W.O.T analysis of tackling challenges. You work to your strengths, while trying to make up for weakness, all the while capitalizing on opportunity with a tantalizing aversion to threats. Solutions are focused, targeted, deliberate and specific to a particular problem at a time. A younger prince may take an objective look to a problem perceiving it through the clear prism of their eyes untainted by misconceptions. This is a clear advantage to them.
To crown it all, Power political or other is not issued freely like confetti at a victory parade but usurped by proper planning, deliberate action, sound implementation of one’s vision and a clearly adhered to strategy. My message to fellow youth- Strike while the iron is still hottest. My hope this year is that more of the young guns get elected as I have this innate feeling that they will excel in the role and ameliorate our current social malaise.

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!

Political & Social Empowerment


Now picture this. You meet the woman of your dreams. You are captivated by her. You approach her, you throw in a few lines and she is ensnared. She says yes. Then you date her, pay her rent for that month, volubly praise her beauty and all her delightful qualities keeping flaws out of the debate. You make such a passionate case that she is even too flattered to say, “aki thanks!” After some time you are both in love, you propose to her, investing two months’ salary on a leviathan-sized ring. She is in tears and shouts yes. You plan a wedding to end all weddings. Buy all the requisites even importing one or two items on the request of ‘the apple of your eye.’ Come wedding day, all goes according to plan, vows are read and both of you concur. The thing is solemnized before God and family and the knot is tied. All the while there was a ‘private investor’ working behind the scenes on the same aim. Come the wedding night, the aforementioned character who is also the ex-boyfriend of the lady comes into the marital home when the husband steps out to shop for candles, lotion and ‘protection.’ He plays his chess pieces like a seasoned professional and convinces the bride to elope with him. Mr. X returns home bristling with excitement to have the first bite at the conjugal cherry only to get a vacuous reception. All his phone calls to his bride are interrupted by a ‘number busy’ error code. ‘Torrents’ as used in this context is not a popular movie downloading site but the amount of tears that wet this gentleman’s pillow that night. This piece has been the script of a few high grossing soap operas and skits over the years but sometimes fact is more excruciating and surreal compared to fiction. People have witnessed this scene first hand and left crest-fallen. In Kenya this has been the tragic-comical political ode to one Raila Odinga depending on which side of the political divide you are positioned.

But the story goes even further. Historically, the region currently known as Kenya consisted of slightly more than 42 neighbouring nation-states. Each had its leader. Then came silk, the Bible, some rum lubricating the path for British Imperialism. Circa 1960, colonialism is crumbling all over Africa. The colonial Governor plans for a smooth transition. This succinctly put is to hand over power to Jaramogi Odinga who seems a level-headed, venerable leader of the day and not one of the marauding band ‘Mau-Mau’ who had given the white man so much grief. He in nationalist sentiment; flatly turns down the offer declaring, “No Uhuru without Kenyatta.” He receives much condemnation — even from fellow African members of the LEGCO, for “embracing detainees whom the government considered to be dangerous criminals”. The statement hardened the feelings of the Europeans in the LEGCO and outside, who began calling Jaramogi a communist lackey. Unlikely was the rebuttal from Dr. Julius Kiano and Hon. Jeremiah Nyaga both from the ambient of Kenyatta’s home turf.  “Jomo Kenyatta and the Mau Mau rebellion brought nothing but misery to thousands of GEMA communities for six years and another six years in hardship in secret oath-taking and subversion,” they opined. Kenyatta eventually got released, formed government with Jaramogi as his Deputy. In due course, karma came full circle. They had a bitter fall out culminating in a vicious public clash, Jaramogi left government seething at betrayal to form an opposition party and eventually was detained for trumped-up treason and subversive charges in a de-facto one-party state. Regrettable ungratefulness.  Fast forward to modern times, same swamp with similar mindset in the alligators therein. Now we have the progeny of the two titans gunning for national leadership, one being already an incumbent following in his father’s footsteps and the other a former Prime Minister.

Let me delve into the grouse of this piece for fear of being labeled a lopsided history lecturer. We are all victims of failed governance in this country. Corruption is at an all-time high and heavy taxation is not even bringing us to half a point GDP improvement. This situation should not prevail indefinitely as we will collectively be wiped out as a populace by the time we turn a corner. But the greatest of the ills bedeviling this nation and which will ultimately shred our national fabric to pieces is tribalism and ethnic parochialism cum imperialism. Even the enlightened and young professionals, the hope of this generation practice it with ruthless abandon.

The first among a raft of postulated solutions to this unfortunate conundrum is a rotational presidency, first among the remaining three of big 5 who have not put a guy in the ‘house on the hill’ yet while keeping an eye for the best of the rest. It is always a boon to anybody when you feel that with hard work, perseverance, smart enterprise and sacrificial toil you can aspire to greatness. I propose we start now so as not to afflict our progeny with the unnecessarily preposterous burden of ending such a vile and utterly pointless vice as ethnicity coupled with interminable external debt. Consequent to this move many more Kenyans will start feeling more valued and precious. The only two tribes practically existent are the haves and have-nots or in DSTV parlance premium subscribers and the mass market. But in the shackled Kenyan psyche we have 42 others to add to these.

The first beneficiary I propose should be the guy many in this country call BABA (father). Some prefer ‘Jamaa ya vitendawili’, others the clown who wants to defend the kraal with a gun that has only one bullet, et-al. But hate him or love him Raila Odinga is an enigma, a colossus in the Kenyan landscape and a national hero. Choosing him will be such a calculated and no doubt sagacious move dealing the death knell to ethnic vendetta and stigmatization against a certain section of this republic. It cannot be gainsaid; we are still draped in the archaic darkness of tribal politics. Every dawning day, I sympathize with my friends from one side of the ethnic divide who are usually either deservedly or by no fault of their own the target of animosity as a consequence of their tribal kingpins thanks to war provoking, wreckless, half-witted and inebriated pronouncements. The depth of these people’s putrid sycophancy knows neither limits nor regard for their constituents whom they endanger with each blast of senseless sentiment into a microphone. They are relegated to mere militia. This nation also has deep-seated historical injustices which we cannot paper-over and must try to remedy.

I know I will gain many allies and mint new foes in equal measure with this pronouncement but I still stand by it. I have a conscience and astuteness too exorbitant to ever be purchased so no one can dare call me a hired political minion.  People have done worse things in this country. We have elected drug barons to regional and national leadership as true testament to moral decadence and socio-economic deification of miscreants while prostituting ourselves for pecuniary gain in the name of poverty. Throw in the dyed-in-wool, academic-certificate manufacturing, apocalyptically denounced false – prophets alias ‘men of the cloth.’ I wonder how asinine or desperate one has to be to be influenced by such deviants, thought devout but in actual sense are far less righteous than the unworthy sinner called yourself. This is a reproachable dereliction of one’s mental faculty which I will surely harangue such in a future post.

A vote for Raila will institutionalize meritocracy. Don’t you feel kind of odd when you have a struggling company trying to win tenders but are piped to the cherry by someone with minimal qualifications who concocts a company just to while having the bid ‘cooked’ for them? Doesn’t it rip out your very soul when you hear that someone took 60 million of your taxes to a mythical quarry in the dead of the darkest night to pay some ghost workers? That is the current state of doing business with the government in Kenya. We all enjoy a reward for our toil and sacrifice even if misdirected let alone focused, determined effort or achievement. Just as when ancient Greece under Solon and Cleisthenes introduced the philosophy of Democracy as an option to the prehistoric monarchy, feudalism, parochialism and stone-age man dictatorship. Many years later the Spartan King Leonidas single-handedly put up a last stand with only 300 men to defend the most feasible entry point by the megalithic Persian army led by King Xerxes into the rest of Greece and all manifestation of freedom and free enterprise. He valiantly defended these values held dear at Thermopylae. If God gave us freedom of choice, who is man to defecate on these values by instituting a narrow-minded ogre known as monarchy. This man has earned the right to be our president.

Crowning this man president will be payment of a debt of gratitude. He has been unfairly imprisoned, clobbered, chastised, tear-gassed among others for advocating for the rights which we currently enjoy. He with colleagues made the push that turned Kenya from a dejure one-party state to a full-fledged democracy. He has been consistent in advocating for the rights of all Kenyan citizens. He has sacrificed political ambition before, heeding to Kenyans pleas to declare ‘Kibaki tosha’ and help remove a repressive and kleptocratic regime that overstayed its welcome.  He campaigned for a crocked Kibaki when he was down and out, has braved whistles and castigation for naively agreeing to an MOU with a post that was not enshrined in the constitution. He has won an election, been rigged out, given a raw deal as ‘ceremonial’ Prime Minister, won again but rigged out on the basis of two million members of the electorate who only voted for his only viable rival presidential candidate and no one else. He suffered from the rash rulling of a time-barred Supreme court who curtly brushed his evidence aside. He has been bad-mouthed by a supposed arbiter who was the IEBC Chair as a ‘perennial loser who is a cry baby not able to stomach defeat.’ I think this is his chance. If not for any other reason, just try him out to get him out of our collective system and consciences. Moses died before reaching Canaan. However, let us not allow this great son of this soil to go aground before sitting on the presidential seat.

By having this man as president we will have proved to have weaned ourselves from the cyclical, self-destructive and detrimental dementia of tribalism to issue-based politics. Compared to Tanzania we look like cattle without a herder who inadvertently let our brains go out with the dung. Their Seminal policy after independence has proved beneficial. For Instance, take the Post-election Violence in 2007. He never called for the killing, rape and displacement of anyone. He only had a natural spontaneous reaction to having his bride stolen on the wedding night. Facts always trump myths. Fables are fleeting and volatile like ethylene vapour but the truth like the rocky outcrop of an escarpment will always prevail and retain structural integrity as testament to what is, was and will always be a fact. He has been accused of violence, a myth that was clinically dispelled by the ICC. It is self-effacing to assume you have monopoly over intelligence or maybe sound leadership abilities just based on your geographical genesis. Just give the man benefit of doubt. At least choose a leader who practices what he preaches. Peace and prosperity.

Despite many bottle-necks, the period most democratic reform and economic development was attained in this land uncannily coincided with the time he was in Government and later Prime Minister. A few talk about failures of ‘Nusu-mkate’, but those are the guys with a bigoted mindset and predominantly that same ‘nusu-mkate’ between their ears. They fail to see the pressures this man was under swimming against the tide of a forced co-principal hell-bent on ensuring his failure. He did not do too shabbily under those inhumane conditions.

He has proved to be one of the cleaner political operators. Despite the filth associated with politics, this one here has kept his head above the murk. He is yet to be implicated or dragged to court for a mega scandal. He has a clean moral rap sheet declaring time and again he is as white as fleece.

When one system fails institute another. When you have a ruler who leads a decrepit government so inept as to cry about corruption in the opposition ranks instead of using his authority to arrest perpetrators. A pretender statesman who trades insults with the opposition while he is president instead of taking cues and finding solutions lost me at ‘mugoroci’. When did the consummate statesman Barrack Obama ever trade insults with the Republicans throughout his 8 years in power yet he has our blood? To add insult to injury a guy who publically gloats about ‘kula nyama wengine wakimeza mate’ yet the jurisdiction he presides has neither mechanisms nor foresight to deal with the cyclical yet predictable phenomena like famine & cattle rustling but insists on depending on divine providence and rain-fed agriculture, we have the classic case of a failed system. To paraphrase Miguna Miguna if it quacks, walks and looks like a duck then it is one. Why put this guy through the rigmarole of serving a lame-duck presidency when we have a more experienced, humane, able and no doubt popular man ready to take charge?

We will not hear the end of the pride associated with our lake side kinsmen if their man ascends to state house, but so what? First Oliech then Obama, then Odinga… jamaneni? But we are a resilient people. We can deal with it. From diversity stems our strength, heritage and coagulant as Kenyans.

All in all know that the only driver of your destiny is yourself. Problems are to humans as rotting is to corpses. We cannot eradicate all social ills, but national inclusivity and a spirit of brotherhood will make our afflictions more palatable. Vote with your conscience my brother. Tribalism is a Cancer.

Political & Social Empowerment


Many of us who are keen followers of the English Premier League are aware of the name Mike Dean. In times gone by he was the envy of his peers. Viewed as the paragon of integrity and fairness coupled with athletic flair and some degree of theatrics from time to time was his trade mark. A top-level professional, he was given most of the high profile matches to play the crucial role of arbiter. He has also been feted by no less the same peers as the referee of the season for many a campaign, an equivocally great honour. Then it all unraveled before his eyes in ways even he could not ever have fathomed. In recent times his standards have been gradually slipping. But things came to a head when West Ham hosted Manchester United in January. Dean sent off Sofiane Feghouli for a challenge on Phil Jones which was later rescinded. This culminated in the official attracting an immeasurable quantum of criticism for his shocking performance. Dean awarded more penalties than any other league referee this season with ten. Remarkably, five of the last six red cards he has shown have been rescinded. EPL could no longer stomach such a horror movie actor. Ultimately, his credibility was sempiternally tainted by that fiasco. Punitively, he has been demoted to the lower tier known as the English Championship with less glamour and more ‘windy nights in Staffordshire’ and cattle track playing surfaces. This may be purgatory for him or in pessimistic Russian speak, “he may have let the Pierogi Burn.” How great the mighty tumble. Key word ‘credibility.’ Sorry, digression things!

I would like to take this chance to congratulate and cordially welcome the newly appointed IEBC Chairman Mr. Wafula Chebukati and his team to the hot seat! The above statement is not a misnomer but a candid assessment of the challenges ahead of this team. It will be an interesting chance and great honour for them to offer their skill, competence even eccentricities to the progression and success of this vital national institution. The task ahead of them is by no means a walk in the park. Ensuring a just, free, fair, accurate, verifiable, credible, accountable; hence, peaceful 2017 General Election is the first item on their in-tray.
From low voter turnout (apathy), inadequate voter education to understaffing in the institution, these tribulations continue to gnaw at the fabric of the organization like a very hungry louse. The apathy could two-pronged. Famine related as people have moved elsewhere in such of survival and general disillusionment of the populace with the current thieving, chameleonistic & ‘dead-beat dad’ current crop. Greater challenges include the failure of the biometric voter registration kit, instances of multiple identities registered under one identity card number already witnessed for two high-level dignitaries, mix up of details in these kits as seen for one opposition leader, irregular distribution of the kits, incorporation of foreigners into the voter register. Reports of the conscription of National Intelligence Service Agents into the voter registration process has reared a very ugly head into an already ghastly mix. To add insult to injury, an open attack on the independence of the institution by the edict issued by the Interior Cabinet Secretary to all county administrators that they jeopardize their tenure if they assist in the voter registration in the opposition strong holds has sullied the process further. A member of the ruling coalition recently by the skin-of-the-teeth escaped arrest in a neighbouring country leaving behind what may prima facie appear to be voter registration materials. What the hell were they even doing with these? Even the once noble National Youth Service registration of bio-metrics has been integrated into the voter register. These would no doubt present an arduous cogency challenge even for veterans in the job let alone one still in the internship phase of his / her posting.

The former Kenyan Prime Minister and irrevocably venerable citizen of this country has in recent time made some disparaging accusations against this institution. What steps are being made to disabuse his fears and render them moot? According to the empirical, logical and internationally acclaimed scientific norm in testing a hypothesis, one is usually adduced. Then you get a sample size for testing, collect data on the basis of this hypothesis, compare results obtained on the import of the hypothesis then you finally declare the null hypothesis a truth or fallacy. Have steps been taken with regard to this?

I have personally experienced an anomaly in the verification process. When I took the responsibility of going to confirm if my biometrics had been captured; the wide-eyed beauty (whose father must be very proud of) on call for that day gave me the obligatory precursory salutation. She then proceeded to ask a visibly animated ‘yours truly’ for my Identity Card. She keyed in the number and out spewed forth my name and polling centre from the last elections among other details. When I casually asked why none of my biometric features had been used to identify me, I was casually dismissed with a smile. All the while getting chided by the queue behind me who thought I was unnecessarily holding up progress with this apparently infernal flirting. Forgive me for expressing sentiments of concern. Is the technology being insulated from failure?

The failures of the recently disbanded Ahmed Issack Hassan-led commission and the now-defunct Kivuitu-led  Electoral Commission of Kenya were mainly due to a glaring lack of independence. Among other obstacles this can only be a recipe for disaster when in the eyes of the electorate credibility is not apparent. The Kenyan populace is sufficiently high-tech to know when they are being taken for the beat about the bush. In the logical back drop of all this, will Kenyans believe and accept the outcome of this year’s presidential elections? Let us put to the death knell this ethnic colonialism/dictatorship that is glossed over as the much-vaunted ‘Tyranny of numbers’ by our current ruling class. Why does one want bloodshed in this great land of ours? No amount of intimidation will bludgeon Kenyans to accept the result of a tainted process and just move on. Frustration like a raw wound will continue to fester on the collective body of the citizenry. What conscience will the victor of such a flawed process have to celebrate a pre-doctored outcome? Will such a person ever have any legitimacy as a national leader?

Not one to complain, I will attempt to concoct a few remedies:

  1. Revolutionary as it may seem, it will be a wonderful idea to scrap the entire voter register and create a new list from scratch. It may seem a time consuming and soul-sapping venture but will ultimately be worthwhile in mending the torn credibility fabric. Kenyan peace is also on the line if this is not addressed.
  2. Visionary leadership from the current president. Call to order your Interior Cabinet secretary and inform him that voter registration and poking elbows on the ribs of the referee body is severely frowned and has no room in your administration. NIS should also be read the riot act and be made to know better and stick to their lane. Otherwise, we will view him as just another African despot complicit in this and keen to profit from the attendant lapse in autonomy, all the while abusing state resources.
  3. The IEBC secretariat and field staff should be reorganized as a matter of urgency. A renaissance is required in the human resource in the registration and Technical departments. The kits cannot be maintained by amateurs if the cataclysmic failure envisaged by our Attorney general is to be eschewed. Logistical support in technical and infrastructure is mandatory. They are many knowledgeable but unemployed youths. Gainfully engage them.
  4. Have an independent IEBC system server not breached by outside influence or co-hosting other things. This is too important a function to be co-hosted with some other cock-and-bull organization under the guise of cost-cutting. We all remember the events of last elections that one Dennis Itumbi had to labouriously yet unconvincingly justify. Also edify the polling clerks on the requisite passwords and PINs for the software to work the system. Also remember to carry to the polling stations spare batteries, chargers, solar charging systems, UPS and all that pertains.
  5. Rein in on politicians engaging in voter bribery, hate speech and violent posturing. You have the mechanisms to deem these unfortunate characters ineligible for the polls. Wield that axe now. This country is for us all and not just for somebody’s mum.
  6. No more ‘Chicken-gate’ type scandals in IEBC procurement.
  7. Voter Education is key. This should be your obligation and not a public service gimmick. Enlighten the citizenry both on the need to vote and facilitate the process.
  8. Take action on genuine complaints from all parties. Some may seem like perennial cry-babies but are raising reasonable qualms. Prevention is better than cure. This will be good for the non-partisan image.

Why should Kenya; previously viewed as a harbinger of democracy, be left to slip down to such a level as to have the likes of Nigeria, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal, Malawi, Tanzania and even backwater Gambia in front of us as more mature democracies where an incumbent can lose the elections and make no attempt to influence the poll? All of us must jealously guard our position as a constitution abiding democracy and one of the better students of good governance.

My parting shot to Mr. Chebukati, do not fall victim to compromise and blackmail. Jealously guard your independence and fiercely enforce it. The elephant in the room. A few attribute your rise to prominence to an attempt by the ruling coalition to eat into a major part of the constituency regarded as an opposition stronghold in Bungoma and Trans Nzoia by selecting you to hoodwink your community of government ‘favour’ together with Wabukhala and Chiloba. My advice; even if you got this position through patronage, I dare aver without fear of contrition and an unmatched conviction that Kenya is greater than the progenitor of your being in this position. As such even if favoured, show yourself as your own man and exercise an unbridled streak of independence in the execution of your mandate. You could have been set up to fail but shame the Devil. The ball is now in your court.

Political & Social Empowerment


In the Saturday Standard of 7th January 2017, veteran politician Koigi wa Wamwere had this interesting anecdote. A story is told of this mythical farm where there lived a farmer with his panoply of livestock. The serene and bucolic setting only belied the surreptitious mannerisms of each. The petrichor emanating from the fertile earth after the rains could not be surpassed by any other. All was not well in paradise as there was Mr. Mouse who wrecked havoc on the farmer’s produce. Piqued by the incessant loss of produce he set a trap to catch the mouse. The mouse got wind of this and tried to engage the cockerel for a solution to this problem. He hit a brick wall. He did not lose hope. He tried to touch base with the goat but with similar result. All was not lost, he thought. As the cow was seemingly closer to the farmer; the mouse tried some camaraderie with him in the hope that he may have some ideas but was flatly turned down and advised to look elsewhere as mouse’s troubles were none of his concern. The mouse could not risk it and had to sleep on an empty tummy. Come midnight there was a commotion in the silo which the farmer responded rapidly to. His haste tapered to a whimper when he was inadvertently confronted by a terribly aggravated snake that had been the unfortunate victim of the trap. It dug its fangs deep injecting copious amounts of venom into the farmer’s circulation. The farmer collapsed into sempiternal tranquility. The next day gloom and melancholy hung heavy as the cockerel was slaughtered to feed the bereaved. As numbers surged, the goat soon joined in as a protein source for the mourners. At the Funeral of the elder; no other animal could suffice for the collective appetites of the esteemed mourners but the cow. Eventually, it was woe unto the rest and bliss for the mouse who was virtually acquitted. The moral of the story is anyone’s problem can eventually balloon to everyone’s problem. But I seriously digress.

With the complexities in life, running a business, employment, farming, raising children and all the hullabaloo involved it is easy to get tangled up in a maze. One is vulnerable to losing sight of the most important things. Of vital importance are constitutional obligations, one being registration and making your voice heard through the ballot. The simple requirements to be registered as a voter in Kenya include:

  • You must be eighteen years of age and above.
  • You must be of sound mind which is facile enough if you are reading this post.
  • You must have an original National Identification card or valid Kenyan passport.
  • You must physically present yourself at the registration centre of your choice and fill in a requisition form to be a registered voter.

During his presidency; one of the most beloved and most greatly revered of American presidents and world statesmen, Abraham Lincoln preached the importance of the government being of, for, and by the people. He argued that voters played the most important role in making sure the government reflected their wishes and functioned according to the guidelines of the Constitution.

Despite Lincoln’s appeal to the public, it can be argued that many people today fail to appreciate or acknowledge their role in shaping the government. Equally, our forebearers fought viciously against colonialism with this as one of their aims in mind. The Right to Self rule and determination. As citizens, we should maintain our responsibilities as eligible voters. This statement aptly and succinctly applies to Kenya.

Registering to vote. Notably, people’s most important responsibility as citizens involves registering to vote. If you are legal citizens of the nation born or naturalized who are of legal age then you are eligible to vote in elections. The process of becoming a registered voter is simple and can be taken care of in a matter of minutes.

Voting in Elections. Once you are registered to vote, you should then make every effort to do so. Many people dismiss this responsibility by saying that they do not care about the issues on the ballot or that they are unfamiliar with the candidates up for election, voting won’t end their troubles or worse still the queue is too long and they may catch an airborne infection associating with so many people. Balderdash!

Additionally; here in our great land with its historical issues and with our electoral system a work in progress, there is always the fear of vote tally manipulation which disenfranchises many voters. If voting is amenable to manipulation, many see no need to engage in such a fruitless venture which appears to them as a predetermined bet. However, by failing to use their privilege to vote, people essentially allow other voters to make decisions for them, to let deviant voices be heard over them who make no effort go to the polls. With elections especially in Sub-Saharan Africa you only have to go with the wisdom espoused in the Serenity prayer by American Theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr. Have the serenity to accept things you cannot change while having the courage to change those you can all the while having the wisdom to know the difference. Come Elections day forget everything and only remember that this is your one and only chance to hold your leader by the scruff of the neck to account for how much he has achieved in 5 years. Any other time, their self declared ‘soldiers’ & ‘bouncers’ will make mincemeat out of you. If not, this is the opportune moment to throw out the obstinate child with the bathwater and bring in the person you want.

People outside their home counties. Will Kenya ever evolve electorally to the level where we can vote electronically? For now if you pose this query, the answer is an emphatic NO! So it is imperative for one to just bite the bullet, get off his couch and go out and brave it out on the ‘foleni.’ Some people will claim that because they work far away from where they were born, they will be inconvenienced by the hustle of travelling ‘upcountry’ to vote. Besides, most people save so as to only appear on the other side only in the Christmas season before hurrying back. Let no one downplay your significance as seeming unimportance. One ant may not seem much but in unity many can bring down a colossal mansion. In the newly enacted Kenyan constitution  Chapter 7, Article 81 furnishes every citizen with the right to live, work, register as a voter and have his voice heard electorally anywhere in this august nation. Your vote is vital. Your side needs it. By ‘side’ I mean people who are congenial, sharing similar needs, ideals, principles, beliefs and visions. In Kenya it has an ethnic connotation to it. We hear of the phrase ‘Tyranny of numbers.’ This is one awkward term which has no manifestation whatsoever with regards to the population census. By and large a consequence of members of what would have been one huge ‘vote-bloc’ shunning their obligation to vote. The very essence of democracy is for the minority to have their say while the majority has their way. By not voting you even lose the moral authority to complain about morally inept and inadequate leadership of the person who sailed through as a result of you failing to cast your vote for the most preferred leader. This is one of the primary reasons why you need to vote!

The outcomes of elections can impact voters’ personal freedoms, taxes, general destiny and fate of the nation even with regards to her neighbours and other aspects of daily life that they take for granted. Because of the far-reaching impact that an election can have, people have the duty to cast their vote if they want a say in how their futures play out.

You should also stay up-to-date about the location of your respective polling station. The locations of polling stations change regularly. A school, church, or business that was utilized as a polling place during the last election may not be used again for the next. Voters can find out their polling places online by visiting the IEBC website or your nearest regional offices. Even Huduma Centre I suppose. What are they for anyway?

Remember that your Vote is the only weapon you have against that corrupt, inept, failed, ‘60-million shillings in sack clueless’, perverted, bigot, ego-maniac, selfish and all-round moribund politician. Voters play a major role in shaping the government and their very own futures. They can satisfy their duty as voters by observing this noble responsibility.

Any government of the day worth their salt has the responsibility of developing an electoral system that is simple, credible and efficient with minimal margin for error. As with all systems, there is none that is perfect. It is always in a constant need for improvement. Invariably, the election being a matter of grave national importance and especially bitterly contested in Kenya, it needs to be safeguarded from all shock. As one wise albeit subtle man once put it, ‘any election worth contesting is worth rigging.’ Systems should be developed with the hindsight of this axiom in mind.

‘Kenyans on Twitter’ and the lovers of the tipple. For the ‘Justin-Bieber generation’ and newly-minted middle-class Kenyans who spend 90% of their time on social media, my advice will be to carry your phone, tablet, iPad and whatnot to the polling station. While at the queue waiting your turn you can enjoy the serendipity to tweet, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and take ‘selfie’ to your heart’s fill! You will kill two birds with one stone; exercising your God-provided constitutional obligation while still keeping up with the “Joneses, Bobos and Shishes” on social media. I must also take this opportunity to lampoon those adults who discuss in ebullient seemingly passionate voices of their afflictions in public discourses yet on elections day inexplicably become too drunk to even stand on the line let alone walk a straight line! Refrain from alcohol or other drugs one day before the polls. Even if free, keep the drinks in a fridge as you will have 5 years of having one for the road any day after the polls. Your side will desperately need every vote it can get. So stay sober.

Have no fear of retribution. This is a secret ballot vote. Come out to vote for the leader of your conscience not just for your own sake but for the sake of that seventeen-year-old who cannot wait to be old enough to take the onus, for the unborn child who needs a reasonable leader with the presence of mind to safeguard their interests for the future though they are not there yet. Choose the one who shies away from both opportunistic and chameleon-like tendencies. We are ON come Tuesday, the 8th day of August 2017. Cast a vote for posterity and national prosperity. The future will judge you harshly if you do not!

Political & Social Empowerment


    hat on earth is this nebulous notion? Edgar Cayce; an American Christian mystic cum author even thought of as a troubled man who nevertheless answered many questions on varied subjects once quipped from the top of his head that, “Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions.” This assertion was made almost a century ago but still rings ever so true with unquestionable veracity even today. On this train of thought, tomorrow’s questions have already been asked by the dreams we have today. That is why I pose this question. –  What constitutes the Kenyan dream? What destiny do we aspire to as a people? I hear someone say a six-figure salary, a 5-acre plot, 4-wheel drive vehicle, 3 bed-roomed house, 2 children and one wife. We all know Kenya as a land wrapped up in great potential. As a matter of fact our very own national anthem names our country as a ‘heritage of splendour.’ Why then is it that according to some Gaussian curve I once chanced upon, forty years later for every 100 people who get into employment five still work but are broke, 36 are dead, 54 are dead broke, 4 are surviving and only one is actually wealthy?

But I digress. Once upon a time our forebearers fought hard to guarantee we had Peace, Love and Unity. Back then they only had to eschew the jaws of illiteracy, poverty and disease to deem themselves to have made it in life. We voted for an auspicious, glossy-looking, seemingly progressive and beautifully crafted document of a constitution more than 6 years ago but how much do we gain from it? We enshrined in it freedoms and tried to address oversights from the previous editions that had been greatly injurious to our collective causes while elevating our former presidents and their sycophants to demigod status. Who remembers the Act 7 section 2A (1982) that our second president almost clobbered the entire assembly while being forced to repeal back in 91’ that had this great land as a ‘de Jure’ one-party state, him as head honcho almost an emperor who was head of state, government, commander in chief of the armed forces, chancellor of all public universities, farmer #1 et al… He menacingly warned of dire consequences if we were to allow multiparty democracy while admonishing all and sundry that the aforementioned move will not add to the saucepans of ‘ugali’ in the citizenry’s collective pantries.

Maybe he was right. It is clear that the enabling environment for the attainment of such lofty ambitions is not available. I dare ask this question. What is the use of catalysts in the ambit of a myriad of limiting factors? I have a few reasons attainment these lofty reverie is proving a pipe dream. Encouragement of mediocrity by our leadership cadre, run away corruption, believing in the illusion of riches without trade and innovation, peace without truth and justice, preaching unity while practicing tribalism & parochialism, economic disenfranchisement of regions perceived to be in the opposition, environmental degradation in the guise of industrialization & enterprise, general ineptitude, impunity & high-handedness by the three arms of government, insufficient support for the county government among many other ills.

Let me delve into these issues. Our leadership has ignored our collective intellect and endeavours to make us worship at the altar of mediocrity. They expect us to give them great credit for executing the very mandate we elected them to perform. For building hospitals, schools, rural electrification, water projects, roads, airstrips they now want us to kiss the ground they tread.

Corruption has been widely accepted as a norm in this country. You will be castigated and heavily riled in your home county if you ever walked the corridors of public office but did not take the opportunity to engage in self-aggrandizement and dip your fingers in the cookie jar. The people will ask why you did not in Chinua Achebe’s words, ‘take down all the wood you could when you had the chance to climb the great Iroko tree.’ You will be reminded that you were not born alone and if you do not care about yourself at least do it for your kith and kin. Stories of engagement in corruption have become like the standard-bearer at exclusive ‘big boy’ clubs and parlours. Working in procurement once frowned upon by many of the intellectually apt candidates after school has become even more lucrative than engineering, medicine and law. Guys are literally going back to school to do post-graduate courses on the same after initially pre determining to trace other career paths. Why? To take advantage of the largesse and good fortune that may meet them in this new career preferably in government service.

A new culture is arising among the populace propagated by companies owned by people high up in the chain of power. It is also brooked from our despondency and despair of a fair chance to ever make something of ourselves from hard work and enterprise. It is the belief that you can make money from literally nothing with minimal work. You only have to buy a ticket or play a third rate clairvoyant and predict a set of numbers, some event or other and voila! If it comes to pass then you make a windfall! This totally goes against the grain of the basic law of economics, ‘no money for nothing’ but who am I to talk about that?

Real Peace can only brook from Truth and Justice. Empirical wisdom has always found a way to show that there is a lull before a great storm. You cannot just tell people to accept their predicament, move on and expect that such is enough to make them live as brothers and sisters. As proven by science you cannot have two immiscible liquids being forced to mix with each other without having one as a colloid. The same can be stated of human interaction. When one party is perceived to have propagated an injustice against the other there should be no need to make them live together before reconciliation and redress.

Preaching unity while practicing tribalism and parochialism. There is this old age adage about preaching water and drinking wine. A perilous trend is emerging. We thought it had died with the past but apparently is being propagated by the scions of the previous regimes. It has become a prevalent rallying call especially in this time prior to the election. Senior members of government are on record making it known as clear as day that if you do not vote for them, then when they win they will make certain your region is totally omitted from government and suffers all the disadvantages that come with that. They literally promise a doomsday event if you do not unite with them to apparently ‘form the government.’ In a democratic culture where the winners are to have their way and losers their say this is not meant to happen. As they say, choices have consequences. That is what we get for voting in men not worth their salt. Men not even fit to herd a flock of sheep. Such threats to disenfranchisement against the opposition have no place in today’s democratic society guided by the rule of law. Some of these fellows even purport to be Christians, please!

Environmental degradation in the guise of industrialization and enterprise should be discouraged at every twist and turn. Any complainants are accused of jealousy and sabotaging the country’s development agenda. There is cause for alarm when infrastructural development projects are built at the expense of the environment and the circle of life. This is the only Kenya we have. Destroying it by defying nature will ultimately cause grief much worse than the devil can ever wreck. And this time round he will not be to blame for our asinine and repugnant ineptitude. Remember the words of our very own homegrown heroine Wangari Maathai.kenya-flag-hd-wallpaper

Insufficient support for the regional governments is also a cause for concern. However, this is a double-edged sword like the one hanging over Damocles.  The counties also shoot themselves on the foot. This is by disoriented financial spending and in a way least beneficial to the interests of the people.

All is not lost. We can still recapture the Kenyan dream which has a close correlation with vision 2030. Here are the steps to take:

  • Always exercise your right to vote. It is your prerogative anyway. If you do not take that chance, you will lose the moral authority to complain about any leader that will be chosen. This is the only way to get the leader you need.
  • Focus more on factors that unite us more than what creates rifts among us. We should share stories of virtue with all who care.
  • The Government must expeditiously address social inequalities and historical injustices.
  • Our Government should go on a campaign of ensuring social cohesion by economic empowerment of the youth. It should also promote the entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Proportionate distribution of national resources.
  • Electoral reform to improve credibility of the ‘referee’ body.
  • As Kenyans we have an onerous task to define the parameters of this dream and with vitality pursue it in earnest.
  • Civic education to create a critical mass of individuals with a deeper insight on the destiny they want for their nation.
  • Environmental protection by tree planting and other measures.
  • Hold our leaders to greater scrutiny of their role, manifestos and if they hold any vision for their jurisdiction.
  • Ensure the newly enacted constitution is implemented in both letter and spirit to make us a nation that adheres to the rule of law we in great zeal voted for.
  • Put an end to impunity for all arms of government. Nobody should ever be deemed above the law.

If we do this we will keep the national fabric of our great nation intact and have a country we can truly be proud and happy to be citizens of. This will ultimately yield a prosperous nation.

Political & Social Empowerment

A Tribute To All Road Carnage Victims– A Call To Action

In the Friday Nation of 23rd September 2016 there was an article by a similar title authored by the deputy managing editor, Mr. Ng’ang’a Mbugua about road safety. In his article he gave an anecdote about his uncle Joseph who at the ripe age of 27 decided to marry. Having identified the love of his life; he went to see his father-in-law, a staunch mukorino from Naivasha. When he came out from the meeting he was a little unsettled. For dowry the gentleman had asked for a lorry load of stuff, inclusive of a saucepan big enough to cook a whole goat in. Joseph, a barber realized for him to ever afford the dowry he had to diversify his revenue portfolio. So he started a small business venture purchasing clippers with a view to sell to other barbers in Nakuru. He certainly would have raised enough money to make dowry in due course. Painfully, on his third trip; the matatu he was travelling in crashed at Mirera, not far from Naivasha. All the passengers died, the police retrieving over a million shillings strewn among the decapitated victims. Coldest story ever told.IMG-20160926-WA0001

But why would I recount such a tale this late in the night in such gory detail? On Monday 19th September 2016 Ugandan media was inundated with news reports of a cataclysmic road accident that had claimed the lives of two ‘foreigners’ and left three others in critical condition {href=}. This may have been just ordinary melancholic accident news but the shock waves generated by this tragedy were felt far and wide. The epicentre was the Masinde Muliro University Engineering fraternity, sorority and his fledgling family. We had just lost one of the most brilliant, enterprising, altruistic, energetic and a staunch adherent of the Catholic faith; a devout young soul, Eng. John Obonyo. During our student days, Obonyo was a vital cog of the MMUST Engineering Students Association. Not just that. The altruistic nature aforementioned ensured that John drew on his raw academic genius and both the gift of wit and gab to try to explain to some of us the more complex and intricate mathematical, electronic and telecommunication engineering concepts. While the mention of the name ‘JAVA’ only evoked images of expensive coffee whose refusal to buy has seen some of us dumped by our erstwhile non-gold digging lasses, to him this was a tool of the trade to program robotic equipment for industrial work. Among other programming languages which he fluently ‘spoke’ to breathe life to electronic systems included C & Python. To us he was a virtuoso and a wizard at work who literally spoke Greek. How many of us can multiply three-digit numbers off head, the digits being non-zero integral values all the while keenly following the lecture? Try ‘Ja-mbita wuod suba’.  Despite operating at the equivalent of the academic stratosphere he still found time to inquisitively and incisively probe lecturers for responses even after the lecture. He even severally spotted and elected to correct an oversight in quantum physics equations by one hubrical character of a lecturer who took it in jest.

His prowess did not stop there. He was a classroom striker always boning up academically and never winging it. However, on the extra-curricular front; more so during the annual Inter-department Tamasha cup, he was a goalkeeper of no mean repute. He produced save after save, some of Gigi Buffon proportion to help Engineering win many iterations of that cup.

To others, he is just a statistic, one of more than 3000 people who die in road crashes each year in Kenya. But to us he is an inspiration, a friend, confidant, brother, husband, son and a true technocrat of this land.

According to Mbugua; accidents sadly claim the most enterprising people in our economy. Many perish on the path to success and culmination of their toil. All the while chasing their dreams.  Reading about dearly departed souls on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway, Salgaa or Ntulele; these places sound like far off lands let alone Uganda. According to NTSA, the number of people who have died between January 1 and September 20 has reached 2180. This is 55 more than those who died within the same period last year. Yet, in retrospect NTSA have carried out more crackdowns this year than it did the whole of last year. Prima facie about 3000 people die on the road each year, but according to World Health Organization the toll could be as high as 8000. Traffic police only enumerate those who die on the spot or declared ‘dead on arrival’ at the hospital. The others who die a week, month or year after an accident are hardly ever accounted for as part of the growing number of road accident victims.

Isn’t it ironic that despite the high number of road accident victims, Kenyans have not been outraged enough to demand a ‘roll of the heads.’ Doesn’t Chapter 4, Article 26, Clause 1 of the newly enacted Kenyan Constitution on the right to life which we overwhelmingly voted for mean anything? With many a world-class business college in this supposed heritage of splendour, Kiganjo Police Training College still produces the highest number of millionaires per capita! News reports about Police vetting read like a fiction novel. Landlords in the force paying their tenants? What balderdash!  In jest, a story has emerged that a young farmer took the initiative to enroll at Kiganjo to brush-up on his entrepreneurship skills. On a serious note, this is blood money. When motorists and drivers of PSVs routinely bribe police officers, are they not only auctioning their collective but also others’ souls?

Authorities definitely know how to stem this tide. True, we do not have enough officers to enforce sanity on all our roads. But as one Mr. Eric Kiniti, a road safety campaigner and member of the Safe Way Right Way board once stated, “if we changed the design of the road in a place like Salgaa we would significantly reduce the number of fatalities occurring there. So why are we not appropriating money on the budget to achieve this end? Additionally, we know that if we increased the number of safe crossing points on Airport North Road and the Thika Superhighway in Nairobi, the number of pedestrians who die crossing the road would be drastically reduced. Why do we have unmarked speed bumps on highways? We could go on and on. Driver fatigue especially for the vehicles charting long courses is also to blame. There is no system in place to ensure drivers work in monitored and regulated shifts. In Britain such a system has been implemented not by the government but by employers. Talk of forward-thinking and not our pecuniary gain motivated business clique.

Shunning over speeding has been overstated. Repairing access roads to hospitals can save lives not just of road accident survivors. Yet, roads like the one leading to Kijabe Mission hospital have remained in disrepair for years; notwithstanding, the institution receiving an inordinately high number of road crash survivors.

Over to you our president, declare road carnage a national disaster and name it a crime against humanity just like one that until recently bedeviled you. Consoling young widows and attending funerals is way too heart-rending and should not be our only preoccupation!  For how long will we sit back and wallow in inactivity, despondency and self pity condoning this asinine & repugnant ineptitude? We must stand up in force to be counted for our friends and brothers. We will not achieve vision 2030 if such amazing and compelling characters are lost from the face of this Earth. Till we meet again Engineer and all others who have fallen by the same sword. We need another John Njoroge Michuki to enforce sanity on our thoroughfares.



Political & Social Empowerment

The year of the Underdog spices up football

As the sage once put it, the only constants in life are change and taxes.leicester1 The spectre of the upset by the underdog has never hang ever so close as to spook out the big guns as it has this year. Indeed, bigger teams have been forced to constantly look over their shoulders more this year than any other year. Still, upset galores have been the order of the day. It is as if both the god of football and goddess of luck have contrived to team up to embarrass the bigger sides. The ball has been having a more awkward bounce than the famed ‘Jabulani’ used to play the world cup in South Africa in the year 2010. It is rumoured that the Jabulani was not the creation of traditional sports ball makers Adidas, Nike or Puma but the handiwork of a famed South African ‘Sangoma’ to facilitate their cause. As such the apparent metaphysical impact of its bounce left many goal keepers in a fix trying to explain how the ball went in. The opening goal scored for that tournament by one Siphiwe Tshabalala occasioning one of the most passionate celebratory dances in football history was revered as work of art by African media but in foreign tabloids particularly Mexican castigated as the product of a dark art. Many a goal keeper received an equivalent of the famed ‘hairdryer’ treatment popularized by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United during the half time pause or post-match for acts that were beyond their control according to them, or so they said.

Fast forward 2016 and similar bounces are creating casualties left right and centre. The slip by Captain Fantastic Stevie G and eventual capitulation by Liverpool in 2014 had been put down as one of the most cataclysmic occurrences by a team on course to a title. However, horror shows requiring the intervention of ICC may have been enacted on the football pitch this year; albeit, for the big teams compared to their less illustrious and more shoe-string funded rivals. Fairytales have been interspersed by horror tales but this depends on which side of the pool you stand. Much as a gentleman in Usenge may celebrate catching a giant Nile perch but on the flipside, the relatives of that colossus of a fish at the bottom of the lake will be in great mourning, shock and consternation ruing their loss.

The first in this sequence is Leicester City. A team that seemed more at home fighting relegation produced the ultimate ‘Cinderella clinches prince charming’ headline after winning the English Premier League. Regarded as the backwater of the EPL, a team that had never lifted the title and whose closest dance with fortune was when they finished 2nd in the Old First Division way back in 1929. The victory was in no small part to the tinker-man; Claudio Ranieri whose best performance was with Chelsea in 2004 when he led them to second behind ‘Les Invincibles’ of Arsene Wenger. This was a man who had seemingly been consigned to the garbage bin of football folklore after an ill-fated Euro 16 qualification campaign with Greece that brought performances not limited to but inclusive of a defeat by Faroe Islands a team composed mainly of College boys and recreational footballers. When he left that post and Leicester seemed to be clasping to him many may have felt this was just going to be the usual below-par season under the tutelage of a failure. His first victories seemed to be flukes but when big guns begun failing in his wake many sat up to take notice. When the first round of 19 matches ended with only one defeat many began dreaming. Not just Ranieri but most of the team was composed of journey men from the more illustrious sides, lower division hustlers and a few novices. In this era of Petro dollars, super-rich club owners bank rolling incredibly loaded teams that are run as conglomerates, lubricated by lucrative TV deals, a story like impecunious Leicester’s seemed most unlikely. It was like the biblical story of the Maccabee Israelites who against all odds and guided by an unseen commander defeated the powerful King Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria and his colossal army. Who would have said that by mid-April Leicester city and Tottenham Hotspurs would’ve confirmed their positions in next season’s Champions League with matches in hand? Tottenham’s equal meteoric rise is cruelly only marred by the fact that they missed out on the league title thanks to the brilliance of the aforementioned opponents. Encomia trickled in from far and wide. Installed at 5000/1 by the bookies to win the league at the start of last season, guess who the joke is on now?

Atletico Madrid making the Finals of Uefa Champions League for the 2nd time in 3 years is an equally heartwarming tale. Giants were slayed enroute to the Holy grail. The only heart-rending anticlimax is the loss to the Great Real Madrid, by far the richest football club and individual sporting entity on earth. Uni-decima achieved. Ideally, the Derby of Madrid is expected to be a lopsided affair. In no uncertain terms Real boasts a squad depth that even superpower armies in the world would be proud of if they had similar fire power. A team assembled at the prize of 560 million pounds plus add-ons, has in the same squad two of the most expensive footballers in the world on the pitch at the same time, one has arguably been either the best or second-best player in the world for the last eight seasons. This Titan comes up against a local rival whose entire squad has been assembled at a cost no less than that of the second most expensive player at Real. Much as they say derbies are most hard-fought, in recent years this one has been the most closely contested. It is a notable surprise that despite the gulf in financial fortunes between the clubs, only a hair line difference has been the margin in contests between these two. It is not to say that Real were ripped off in the purchase of their stars, No! What Zinedine Zidane, a former World Cup & Ballon d’or winner himself has in squad quality is matched by tactical acumen, defensive grit and all-round fighting spirit from the Diego Simeone coached side of town. Nothing like being coached by a former player who encompasses your team’s philosophy mirrored by personal ethos and work ethic. Despite one side being 7 times more expensive than the other, they were tightly poised at 1-1 at the end of both normal time and extra time. Only the lottery of penalties produced the sucker punch that decided the contest. Pretty much like the big bully almost being defeated in a brawl but capitalizing on the slip of the smaller boy to throw sand into his eyes and then land the deciding blow.

Portugal winning Euro 16 has baffled not just many a soccer pundit but also the big guns that expected to win the tournament outright. Not less are Belgium, Germany and the hosts who were the losing finalists France. You tell that to Cristiano Ronaldo. Irreparably injured 25 minutes into the contest and seemingly inconsolable, he went to the touch line to play the role of assistant coach to great effect. At the end of 120 minutes of football you would have been forgiven for thinking Cristiano was a Kindergarten boy who had been mugged off his lunch at the bus station. The unmistakable yell and tears of joy was clear for all to see. Unfortunately, for the opposite No.7 Antoine Griezemann, the lightning of a finals’ loss has struck twice in a month and a half but this time round with the more illustrious side. All the same pat on the back for a veritable performance. For the analysis, how do you reach the Semi finals of a major tournament by drawing all your matches in normal time? Then still have enough in the tank to pip the tournament favourites to the trophy. Defensive strength, excellent counter-attack, tactical acumen, team spirit and Fernando Santos. But after many years of toil, heart break, pain and loss your karma has to turn sooner rather than later. However, the ‘Belo Guttman’ curse for Benfica may take longer to exorcise.

When Iceland stunned world football super power and the progenitors of total football, Netherlands to qualify for Euro 2016 nobody thought much of it at the time. Coming to this tournament as underdogs many thought them the whipping boys of their group. However, the smallest of the countries there by population drew two matches to within an inch of a win before finally putting Austria, a favourite in their group to the sword to against all odds finish 2nd in their group. If you had thought that was a gargantuan feat then your jaws had to be collected from the floor in the last 16 where they stunned perennial contenders – also-rans, England. Unfortunately, their run was brought to a screeching halt in the Quarter finals by a mauling by tournament hosts France. Wales stunned many others but not themselves when they qualified for their first tournament ever since Saint George I was slaying dragons with unfathomable moxie. Unfancied but still gave a good account of themselves qualifying ahead of tournament favourites, the old rival England and Russia. They tore apart surprise package Hungary before putting pre-tournament favourites Belgium to the same sword. Their charge was curtailed only by the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo and the good fortune for Luis Nani. They put up a veritable run nonetheless.

The Qualification of Guinea Bissau for Afcon 2017. This occurred majorly to the same effect as a lightning bolt out of clear skies. Prequalification expectation of being the whipping boys rang all around when the draw was made. African giants Zambia, improving Congo and deluded giants Kenya were the other opponents. When they held Zambia to a draw in Ndola, nobody thought much of that. They were next whipped by Congo Brazzaville and everyone thought the writing was on the wall. They then made capital against a disoriented Kenya in March in similar solitary margin home and away wins and a few sat up to take notice. Thanks to a favourable mix of results; when they whipped Zambia 3-2 in Bissau, a miniature tremor was occasioned by the ensuing celebrations. They had against all odds been among the first teams to qualify for African Cup of Nations to be held in 2017 causing a ‘rumble in the jungle’ only similar in magnitude to Mohammed Ali and George Foreman’s gig in DRC back in ‘74.

The name is Jamie. Jamie Vardy. This is not the quintessential line many of you are used to from watching super hero British spy agent movies for many a year. Fast forward, August 2015 and this unassuming 29-year-old was given a similar introduction into our living rooms starring for Leicester City. For 11 straight matches running he scored, many being winning goals. Of course it was not always like this while immured in non-league obscurity at Stockbridge Park Steels, FC Halifax and Fleetwood Town. Here among other pre-match rituals included milking cows, chasing livestock and the ceremonial stray cat/dog off the pitch, the Shirts Vs Skins toss, collecting the referee from the local, convincing Paddy Sluttery, the in-house jester who is also your holding mid that another Gordon Brown tenure is unlikely, posting bail for Jamie Gill, the undefeated brawling champion and weekend jail-bird who despite an electronic tag on the ankle doubles up as your striker, boozing up the community college lasses to convince them to come to watch your match and last but not least the last minute pee in the bush. At 29 and seemingly in the twilight of his nondescript career found himself the spear head at the tip of the Leicester juggernaut that rode roughshod on all and sundry to the league title. Get the job done he did, so much so that he received a maiden call up to the English fold where he continued his stellar form. On the other side of the spectrum but similarly remarkable is Marcus Rashford who was virtually unknown until errors in judgement and preseason departures left Louis van Gaal strikerless after injury to Wayne Rooney. With only Antony Martial around, Rashford was called up to the plate and seize the chance he did. Goals against no less Arsenal, Man City and a few other scalps in FA Cup established Rashford as indispensible upfront. His purple patch in front of goal, poise and speed earned him a call up to the final squad for Euro 16 ahead of seasoned Jermaine Defoe.

The Re-emergence of mother Italia and USA reaching the semis of Copa America Centenario make up the rest of the seemingly improbable footballing feats. USA reaching this point was not exactly a major achievement but when put in the perspective of giants like Brazil and Uruguay going home first round it stands out.

In this era of fairy tales making a re-emergence, nobody is immune to capitulation. The stellar players could tumble at any time. The guys closer to the acme should be prepared to capitalize on such events. I write this as incentive for guys like ‘super Mario’ Ballotelli who aspires to win Balon d’or one day. Pull up your socks son and all the best. Also hoping the chest-thumping ‘ze god of football’ Zlatan Ibrahimovic wins the gong to crown his stellar career.


Dennis Mukoya is a soccer enthusiast and consummate thinker of new solutions