Thursday, 29 June 2017

WHEN POLITICS MEET IGNORANCE

EDWIN KIPTANUI CHIRCHIR edchirchir@yahoo.com edchirchir85@gmail.com



Photo: UC BERKELEY GRADUATE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM

Making an attempt to become a leader can be a very daunting task. It is even worse if the process of becoming one is democratic. This means that people will have the right to scrutinize you and even question your character, while putting into practice their own philosophical views. That is when you will understand the concept of general philosophy, where everyone is believed to be a philosopher.
In the process, a lot of things you did in darkness, whether real or imagined will come to light. People, who know next to nothing about you, will claim to know you better than yourself.

In the process of political excitement, men will also find themselves gossiping, although under normal circumstances, they would want everyone to believe that gossiping is a reserve for women. How hypocritical!

Take the example of Samson, popularly known as Sam. During the previous election, he offered his candidature, to be considered for the post of Member of County Assembly for Umoja ward. He had recently graduated from the university with honours in Agriculture. You should have heard the dean, school of agriculture calling his name.

“First class honours, Samson Kokoto Samaki,” and he  rose up, erect like an electric pole, full of pride because of his sense of achievement.

He thereafter tried to look for white collar jobs, like any other University graduate. Even though his area of specialization involved making his hands dirty, he never wanted anything to do with dirt. I guess he was too proud or just considered working in the farm, as stooping too low for an honours graduate.

He had therefore been struck by a revelation, during the previous elections.

‘Why not lead the people of his ward?’ he thought.

This was his only shortcut to a white collar job. After all he was one of the most educated people in his village and having specialized in agriculture, he was sure that he was more appealing to the people, since most of them practiced agriculture, though at a smaller scale. He had been so proud of this new development, that he had forgotten he was out of campus and shouted, “Comrades Tibim!” while throwing his fist into the air, to the astonishment of some passersby, who thought he was losing his mind

He was very excited and he went out quickly to find some of his friends to share the good news.

“Hello Sam, you look so happy and excited today, what is the good news? Are you getting married or something?” one of his friends  asked.

“No, it is better than that.” Sam had replied.

“So, what is it?” his friend asked eagerly.

“I am contesting for a political seat. We as the youth also deserve our share of the national cake. Are you proud of me now?” Sam asked.

“All I can say is, I wish you good luck.” His friend  answered, in a disinterested manner, which left Sam puzzled. It was uncharacteristic of his friend. Did he know something he did not? Only time would tell.

Sam’s father was not flattered by the idea either. Instead of being happy for his son, he  tried to dismiss the idea. He never trusted the leadership of the youth, whom he called, ‘toddlers’

“Father, I am contesting for a political seat.” Sam announced excitedly.

His father was silent for a moment, then he asked, “What did you just say?” as if he had not heard him the first time.

“I am going for the MCA seat in the forth coming elections.” Sam repeated assertively.

This time, his father cleared his throat a sign that he was preparing to drive some sense into his son's brain, “Listen here my son, you are still very young, barely out of your teens and here you are,  pretending that you can lead a whole ward? Let me give you some words of advice. Give yourself another twenty to twenty five years before these people can elect you. Meanwhile, do something constructive with your life, like siring a few grandsons and daughters for your mother and I, if indeed you are the true son of your father."

“But father………………..” Sam began, in protest.

“No buts,” his father hissed with finality. “You will not make it in the elections; there are too many people on the waiting list. Take for example your friend’s father, David. He has been trying to clinch the councilor’s seat since he was thirty. Now he is sixty. Also think about Jeremiah, Obong’ o and Justus. They have all attempted the same for a total of twenty years, but have failed miserably each time.”

Seeing that he was not making any progress with his father, Sam left in a huff. But his father was not done yet.

“Don’t say I did not warn you. Politics is a very dirty game and nobody is ready to clean it yet.” His father shouted after him.

Instead of giving up, Sam gathered a number of youthful young men to support him in the campaigns. As usual it was easy to convince them, since most of them just needed a little liquor to oil their throats, which was cheaply available. They claimed that they wanted change and that it was time for the youth to steer the country into prosperity. They went as far as saying that the older generation was supposed to be taken to the ‘Archives’ never mind that they could not even tell the difference between an Archive and a Museum. Their popular slogan was,

“Out with the old, in with the new,” which they turned into a song and they cheerfully sang, under the influence of alcohol.

‘Out with the old’
‘In with the new’
‘Old people’s time is up”
‘Let the youth lead’

The old people just smiled and glanced at one another knowingly. They had been there before and they emerged wiser. Besides, many years of promises broken by politicians, had worn them down. The occasional campaigns were just like a persistent housefly, which was determined to lick their wounds.

“These young men think that they are very wise.” One old man remarked. “They fail to understand that we were once young.”

“You are right.” Another one joined in. “Are these not the same toddlers, who were recently walking around the village, with bare buttocks, while holding on to their mothers’ skirts?”

A third old man dismissed them with a wave of his fly-whisk, “Don’t mind them, let them shout themselves hoarse and at the end of the day, they will go back to sleep.”

Sam stepped up his campaigns. He wanted to do things differently. He was not going to campaign in the usual way of mounting speakers on vehicles and shouting like a mad person. Someone calls this, ‘sour grape syndrome” because the main reason why he was deviating from the common method of campaigning was because he did not have the resources.

All the same, Sam went from house to house, seeking for votes and also taking the privilege to invite those people to a major rally which was to be held, on the coming Saturday, at the shopping center. There was a lot of excitement especially among the young voters.

“We shall come.” A few people from the older generation had promised.

“Yes! Let us attend the meeting, so that we can put these young men in their right place. Who do they think they are? NKT!” a village elder fumed.

Saturday finally came. As usual with campaigns, the audience was there. People who had nothing else to do at home and thus, decided to pass time, attending the rallies. Everyone, from the young to the old was well represented. Even those, who were not yet old enough to vote, were there. Their main purpose being,  to entertain themselves. Children also came around, to play near the venue of the rally.

‘Oringo, bayoyo’

‘Oringo, bayoyo.’ The children sang and danced happily.

Sam arrived just on time. There was no wasting of words in his speech. He also kept time, as they say time is money.

His salutation was brief, “Elders of our land, our fathers and mothers, the youth, ladies and gentlemen. Today we are gathered here for a reason---------------“

He blamed the current leadership for stagnation of development in the ward. He quoted one or two great scholars such as ‘Plato’ and ‘Aristotle.’ He spoke of a man called Karl Marx and his Marxist ideologies. Many people were puzzled, “who were these people? What business did they have in their ward?” they reasoned.

He also touched on agriculture, which he called the backbone of the country’s economy and the heart beat of the nation. Many people found it difficult to establish the relationship between heartbeat, backbone and agriculture. They kept asking one another, “What is economy?”

He emphasized on how he was going to lead people in keeping few but good breeds of animals and growing a variety of crops. He even urged people to start growing mushrooms and promised to teach them how to do it. People just shouted excitedly and urged him on.

“Go on.” One shouted.

“Yes, say it.” Another added.

“Tell them.” A young man shouted from the back of the crowd.

“Halililililiiiiii” went an ululation from some excited lady.

Samson was happy. A broad smile crossed his face, but as with any campaign never trust the audience, until you win. After all, they will still attend anybody’s rally and still clap for any idea on the face of the earth.

After the speech, it was now time for question and answer session. Mzee Kazi Kwisha was the first one.

He cleared his throat, then began, “Young man” –a sign of disrespect- “Are you suggesting that we turn our farms into termite hills?” he asked, paused a little then continued, “As far as I am concerned, the termites are the ones who grow the mushrooms.”

There was laughter. He went further to ask why he (Sam) was not leading by example in growing the mushrooms. People nodded with approval. He then sat down, having made his point.

“You have spoken well.” An old man told Kazi Kwisha as he sat down and they both nodded with a lot of pride, with Kazi Kwisha displaying a wicked smile on his deeply wrinkled face.

The second question came from Mzee Mali.

“Why do you want us to keep fewer cows, when it is a well known fact that a large number of livestock is wealth?” he asked, sarcastically.

There was a round of applause, and then he added, “Keeping many cows is our way of life inherited from our own ancestors. We have always kept our current breeds and this has enabled us educate you young people, who are now pretending to know more than us. Besides, which sane man will marry off his daughter, to a miserable suitor who only has two cows and a paper called a certificate?”There was more laughter.

Someone from the crowd shouted, “Tell them old man. Educate this lost generation.”

Mzee Mali continued, “Fellow countrymen, don’t you just agree with me that there are some people who are sick up here?” he asked while pointing at his head. Senior people in the crowd nodded with approval.

“He! He! He! He! This is getting hot.” A woman shouted.

“You mean this young man wants me to sell nineteen out of my twenty cows and remain with just one cow? Wonders will never end He! He!” a wealthy villager added.

Sam was shocked beyond words. He had not expected his own words to be used against him. It was like an enemy, using your own bullets to kill you. He thought deeply about these issues. According to him, these people were just backward in their thinking. They smelled of ignorance, only that he had not anticipated that their ignorance would be of the magnitude ha had witnessed.

‘These are the kind of people, who would stick to an island, even if it was literally sinking. How could one even think of leading such kind of people?’ he thought.

The bitter part was that even the youth he had hired had joined the crowd in laughing at him and clapping for those who mocked his ideas. He could hear them saying, “That point was heavy” whenever one of the mockers finished speaking, then they would laugh loudly as if their very existence depended on that particular laughter.

What a pity! ‘How can anyone manage to save these people from the dumpsite of ignorance?’ All these thoughts raced through his mind. All he could do was shaking his head sadly.

The questions were endless. One woman asked him how he could even think of becoming a leader, when he could not even tame a woman.

“Get yourself a wife first.” She said sarcastically.

‘Now, why should I tame a woman? Is she a wild animal who has to be tamed?’ Sam thought, but the woman was not yet finished.

“All you do is throwing stones at other hard working people.” She said, referring to his days at the University, where there had been a riot and some motorists were stoned and their vehicles burnt. Well! I guess that was the biblical idea of past sins, haunting one to the third and fourth generation.

“Yes indeed, the young man should get himself a wife to tame his stone throwing habits.” A local shopkeeper shouted, somewhere in the middle of the crowd.

“My daughter is ready to marry a graduate. We shall arrange everything.” An unknown woman added to the applause of everyone.

“If you want my vote my vote, you should marry from the village. Don’t bring us those foreign and corrupt women from the city” an elderly man, standing close to him hinted, but his voice was soon drowned in the sea of voices, yearning for attention. It was unbelievable that fully grown men and women could behave like kindergarten children.

Mzee Moto was not left behind. He complained of how Sam, together with other boys had broken the leg of his goat, who had strayed into their farm, a few years back.

“That was cruelty to animals,” he added, shaking his head bitterly.

Sam recalled the incident. It had been about ten years earlier. A time,  when there was too much adrenaline in his body. You must understand that this is the time your body is yearning for adventure and excitement. In fact, the stoning of the goat was basically a case of seeking for adventure and was not even related to the crime committed by the goat.

Out of excitement, another woman added, “He also broke the leg of a girl in the next village (read impregnate) and he denied responsibility. That is very unforgivable for a man who wants to become a leader.

Sam cringed with pain, remembering the girl he had slept with once, only for the girl to give birth six months later. Sam had done quick calculations and concluded that the baby was not his, unless it was a miracle baby. Even though the girl claimed it was Sam’s baby, those who had seen it claimed that the ears were too big to be Sam’s.

At that point, two adults rose and moved away from the crowd, a man and a woman. They were Sam’s parents and his father looked disappointed.

“I had told him that nothing good would come out of this, but the boy remained as stubborn as an untamed donkey.” Sam’s father was saying, while throwing his hands about.

“But is he not just being brave?” his mother asked.

“No! No! No!” Sam’s father objected, almost shouting. “The boy listens to no one. I wonder where he got his stubbornness from. It is not in our family.”

“Are you suggesting that he inherited the so called stubbornness from me? You ungrateful husband. Wait until we get home. I will teach you a lesson.” Sam’s mother replied angrily and left in a huff.

“Women……………………………………………” Sam’s father began, but he did not finish the sentence.

In the course of the heated debate, a man popularly known as ‘lunatic’ because of his near abnormal behaviour staggered into the centre of the crowd. He was totally drunk and it was even miraculous that he had managed to carry himself to the rally. Because of excessive consumption of illicit brew, his speech was slurred, but he somehow managed to drive the point home.

 He said, “Enh………eer…….my good friend, you should be----- ashamed of--of-- yourself--Hic. How --Hic--c--c--can you l--l--lecture oo---old men and women on empty stomachs?” There was cheering from the crowd. This served to encourage the ‘lunatic’. He went ahead and gave biblical evidence, that Jesus had fed his audience, after teaching them. He claimed that since empty hands cannot be licked, Sam should borrow a leaf from Jesus Christ and give them something small (bribe).

This brought the crowd down, with laughter and cheering.

“May God curse this generation.” Sam murmured, but it was not audible enough, hence did not arouse the curiosity of the crowd.

After all these, poor Sam was tongue tied. He just stood rooted to the spot. He could neither believe his eyes nor ears. These fellow villagers were just an impossible lot to govern. He wondered how one can create an ‘ideal state’ as Plato had suggested, if these were the kind of people to reason with. But did the villagers know who Plato was, or even understand any of his ideologies? To tell you the truth, they could not even tell whether the name Plato was a kind of fruit or a human being.

“Why don’t you answer the questions you have been asked?” an old man asked, but Sam had nothing to say.

His silence meant that the meeting was over and this was emphasized by a man who said, “The boy has been defeated, he has nothing to say.” That having been said, people started leaving at their own pleasure.

“I thought people who have gone to University were very bright. How comes Sam could not even answer a single question?” someone asked, but no answer was given unto him.

By the end of the meeting, Samson was a confused man. He kept on murmuring some words to himself and throwing his hands about. He was so discouraged by the day’s events, to the extent that he was not even sure whether to continue with the campaigns or call off the whole idea.

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