By KIPKOECH TANUI
If you lived in a mud-walled hut, which in my days was called ‘parachute’ because of the roof’s spherical shape, you understand the meaning of “ termite democracy”.
To make our ‘parachutes’ homely and colourful, we boys used cuttings from old newspapers and magazines. Most times it would be Madonna, the queen of True Blue, Holiday, and Who’s that girl, or Michael Jackson in his leather suit and hand glove doing a breakdance, inarguably of Will you be there for me, The way you make me feel, and Bad, which truly was never bad.
You would not miss cuttings of Bob Marley, Donna Summer, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Rush, Kenny Rogers, Don Williams...let us stop here, the list was as long as the pictures needed to go round the mud walls.
Also not to be left out on our walls, which, though crude, were no different from the modern-day Facebook walls, were Mzee Moi and Kenyatta —inspecting the guard of honour. We boys liked the colourful military pictures because we wished to grow up and join the parade.
But as some of us rudely found out at National Youth Service pre-university training the fitness and training required is no fun, especially with something called kumea, or simply put, forced press-ups with bare-knuckles on burning tarmac as afande shouts obscenities like whether you think you came to Gilgil with your mother!
You can imagine therefore how it felt at night to wake up and find the termites at work, noisily feeding not only on your priceless paper collection from butcheries, relatives you visited in town, school rubbish-pits, or simply stolen and folded away in libraries, but also the hovel itself!
You see it did not matter where the paper pictures came from, you simply needed to make your simba stand out. For the outer wall you will have made sure it was well smeared with the reddest of soil and decorated with flowers, greeting and welcome signs drawn using multi-coloured natural chalk.
But much as we worked hard, the termites would destroy that beauty overnight. How? They fed not just on the pictures, but they started off by drilling holes, and curiously the favourite spot seemed to be around the eyes and that place a writer, to avoid obscenities, called “the junction of wonders”.
The biggest hurt was also in the fact that the termites, once they found their way into your hovel, would also go for the wood, grass and doors making up your home. To kill it, the cheapest cure was used engine oil and tick-control pest, which we dangerously scooped from the edges of the cattle dips, complete with the messy mix of cow-dung spewed by cows scared they were drowning!
You see termites, like our thieving leaders, let us work hard and then come nibbling the fruit of our sweat. They are also shameless — they eat day and night — even when asleep and not surprisingly have a way of creating more space for the loot when the stomach is distended.
Just like termites first spit on paper and wood to soften it for eating, a process that includes ferrying food for the Queen whose only work is to procreate, our politicians too bribe us so as to allow them get to the position where they can eat in silence, and reserve a little for their queens, princes and princesses.
Both termites and our politicians suddenly stop eating when you make noise, but once things settle, they resume.
Sadly, we never stop to ask ourselves how they plan to recoup their campaign funds when elected. Take the case of a President where the monthly salary is slightly over Sh2 million, meaning Sh24 million a year, and Sh120 million in five years, yet those seeking it spend over Sh3 billion each in campaigns.
You need not be Aristotle or Einstein to know how they plan to get their ‘investment’ back. It is through termite’s “liberal democracy”, meaning the system of leadership that steals from the poor, the dying, and the helpless! Termites too are, after all, liberal democrats!
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