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Musings of a piqued ‘Mwenyenchi’

It is the renowned football columnist Roy Gachuhi, who in rhapsodizing the great yesteryear exploits of Kenya’s greatest club sides Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, wrote thus in Chapter Five of his yet to be published book “Kenya Football is Dead”:

Today, these two teams are moribund. If all the factors responsible for bringing them to this state of affairs could be synthesized into two words, they would be this: poor governance. A national culture that exulted mediocrity and derided merit took root in Kenya and permeated all sectors of society. In the process, the country attempted to commit cultural suicide. An entire generation of fans only knows Zidane, Beckham, Henry, Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Roberto Carlos – Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid. As our stadiums terraces go empty, so do our bars become full when European clubs are playing.

Kenya Football is dead! The future is behind us. The present drains away in bar toilets during the English Premiership.

What an incriminating self-indictment! A denunciation that one Nicholas Musonye sadly came to learn a couple of weeks ago as a low key footballing event christened Orange CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup – making a return to Kenya after a 15 year hiatus- tinkered to  a close. Upon realizing what a huge flop his pet-project had been, a clearly agitated Musonye hurriedly convened a press conference on a Friday morning to vent out his frustration and admonish the indifferent Kenyan football fans.

“Kenyans don’t love football! They just like gossiping and drinking beer in bars during football matches!” an enraged Musonye blurted out. Needless to say, there would no reprieve for good old Musonye, whose reaction only served as welcome comic relief to members of the fourth estate. In jest, the footage was played over and over during Prime Time News. What apathy!

On the converse, however,  it’s a shame that it took so long for a seasoned sports administrator of Musonye’s stature to realize that we - the citizens of Kenya - are a people with a lost sense of nationhood. A fact that has not been helped tad by the weird lexicon of our national language, Kiswahili. [Please refer to Chapter 2 Article 9(1) of the already demonized Harmonized ‘Daft’ Constitution]  

Yes, Kiswahili is our national language; one whose vocabulary we’ve systematically corrupted with wanton abandon. Amazingly, we’ve achieved the almost unimaginable in our destructive dissection of the language – today every single Swahili word has been replaced with an alternative word from its hip uptown slang variations - Sheng and Esheng.

I recently read a very scholarly piece of article in which the writer brought to the fore one pertinent fact that has for years escaped even the most profound self-proclaimed patriots amongst us. And it’s all got to do with one Kiswahili word. The writer, Martin Mbugua Kimani, (the founding fellow of Practice Ideas and Expression - PIE -; a Nairobi-based boutique consulting firm) has one big beef with the word Wananchi, which loosely translates to “children of the nation.”

“Childhood is a state of dependency and helplessness”, he writes. “Very often we have called our leaders ‘baba’ [Remember the infamous KANU baba na mama catchphrase?] and regarded the government as a tit on which we suckle. Children cannot own property; they live on the forbearance of their parents. Adults guide their destiny”, Mbugua Kimani continues and argues that this word should be abolished and replaced with a more apt one.  

He submits that ‘Wenyenchi’ (owners of the land) would fit the bill for Kiswahili translation of the word citizens. According to Mbugua Kimani, this simple yet profound re-orientation of our mindset would only be the beginning of a journey we must undertake to become active citizens. “It is the task our generation must take up, similar in scale and hardship to those who came before us and fought the paternalism and injustice of colonialism. The colonialists termed the African a child; their successors, our present day leaders, want to be our eternal parents” he concludes. I couldn’t agree more.

Which brings me to my second point, the aforementioned - Harmonized ‘Daft’ Constitution, which is rousing so much rubble on issues that are neither here nor there. I, like, Political Analyst Mutahi Ngunyi, feel that this ‘daft’ document has really nothing new to offer. To put it in Ngunyi’s very own words, “It’s a handiwork of intellectual laziness, political naiveté, and downright incompetence”. From the little matter of shared executive powers, devolved government to the hot potato issue of Kadhi’s courts, the so called ‘contentious issues’ are really non-issues.

But what I find most irksome is the calculated effort by the two wings of the grand coalition government (PNU and ODM) bridge-building efforts on this useless piece of document. When the Committee of Experts sat down to write the document, did they merely draft something to satiate the whims of our power-hungry leaders in PNU and ODM or was it done in an effort to realize Wanjiku’s long quest for good governance? It is for this reason that come March 2010 I purpose to abstain altogether from the impending Referendum (unlike my columnist Ngunyi who say he will vote “NO”). As for as am concerned, it will all be an exercise in futility. Period!

Then there is the grisly Mau Forest ghost that is threatening to rip apart the Orange party.  I'm not a Mutahi Ngunyi by any standards but my take on this is that the average chap off the streets is really not interested in this charade pitting ODM supremo Agwambo vs his erstwhile bosom friends Ruto & Co. But, obviously, there is more than meets the eye is this Orange/KKK fiasco. It’s all a smokescreen that will inevitably crystallize into the 2012 panorama.

Now, the tragedy is that just when there seemed to be a lull in this big men’s game, then another government scandal of colossal proportion was dropped from hell on our laps. But then am not surprised. Aren’t the two the same unscrupulous Professors who two or so years ago messed up students’ KCSE grades (O-level Exams) and went ahead to blame it on lifeless contraptions in the name of computers? If you ask me, the Ongeris and Karegas of this world deserve nothing better than being shipped off far away to the distant Robben Island or Guantanamo Bay, with heavy yokes hanging on their frail necks.

Unfortunately, Kibaki being Kibaki, the two gentlemen won’t get the sack. In couple of weeks the FPE storm will wane as suddenly as it was exposed and quickly be forgotten by the short-sighted citizens of Kenya. With this degree of impunity, am darn sure that by the end of the ‘Kibaki-Raila’ tenure there is bound to be another big government scandal.  Infact, am so sure about this that, to use Mutahi Ngunyi’s analogy, am considering going to borrow a loan from Equity Bank using this prediction as security.

As if all this is not enough, the ‘rattlesnake’ has struck again; it now a crime to make noise in Nairobi! What nonsense! One question I keep asking is how one measure or even quantify noise in the endless din of a crowded metropolis that Nairobi is? My hunch is that this is yet another scheme by NEMA working in cohorts with these corrupt ‘kanjo’ people to fleece Nairobians of their hard-earned income.

My simple advice to Hon Muchiki – its a waste of time trying to implementing bogus policies that with time will die natural deaths like the once dreaded ‘Sheria za Michuki – Phase I’. It would be by far more significant to expend your energies on improving Nairobi’s clogged waterways and sewer system that literally left me and other poor commuters ‘swimming’ to town from the flooded Landhies Road when the heavens opened on 23rd  December. Just food for thought! 

By De’Stefano

Add Comment | Recommend This

Good 'musings'. About football, indeed Kenya football is dead. Its a puzzle as to how to wake it up again. Wont be a two day project though!

anasazi | Monday, January 04, 2010
You know the Kenyan animal well. But how to tame it, that is the real question.

muganda | Tuesday, January 05, 2010
@ De'Stefano, excellent musings and a great article. IMHO, the government should disband the bodies that purport to run football in Kenya. We will get banned by IFA but that will be a good thing, then we will have the opportunity to get rid of guys like Hatimi et al. Personally still watch Kenyan ball, but until we get our house in order we will never be where we are supposed to be. Witness; firing Kimanzi because he refused to go for a trip that was of no benefit, that is just one example. On the 'daft' document, I will be voting No. I would rather live with the one we have now than subject myself to the rubbish that is being given to us. I would prefer the word 'Citizen' because that gives a sense of belonging and responsibility, which too many Kenyans do not have, and not only in the public sector.

albertross | Monday, January 18, 2010

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