By PETER KIMANI
In this season of giving, politicians are busy dispensing something they call ‘tosha’ and it’s supposed to wash their records clean like the Toss detergent.
‘Tosha’ is an expression firmly entrenched in our political discourse, used to convey Prime Minister Tinga’s altruism, when he endorsed Prezzo for president in 2002.
The ‘Kibaki tosha’ exhortation has been used by legion politicians over the past two years to pressurise Prezzo to endorse Tinga, a demand that has been met, quite predictably, with stony silence.
“Kwani sikusema Kibaki tosha?” (Did I not say, Kibaki is enough), Raila said while touring Prezzo’s Nyeri a few moons ago.
This week, it was Veep Kalonzo’s turn to declare “Raila tosha,” which he did by explaining he had stepped down in Tinga’s favour as CORD’s presidential candidate.
This brought into sharp focus Prezzo’s alleged reluctance to endorse a successor.
The “Kibaki tosha” proclamation, like many popular quotes in circulation today, is a fabrication that confirms how inaccuracies filter into history books, usually undetected.
What Tinga actually said on the October 14, 2002, rally at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park was: Si hata Kibaki anatosha?” (isn’t Kibaki enough?) He threw the onus to the multitude, and their response – beyond semantics – cannot in any way be construed to mean Tinga said “Kibaki tosha.”
That’s not the only fabrication. Heritage Minister William ole Ntimama is famous for his memorable “lie low like an envelope” – an order that was directed at perceived “outsiders”. They were expected to submit if they were to be allowed to continue living in Narok, but Ntimama’s quote was distorted to “lie low like an antelope.”
And the departed Ngonya wa Gakonya, who emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a curious mix of traditional worship and urban political resistance, had to live with a misleading interpretation of his sect, He Ma Ngai wi Muoyo (There is Truth in the Living God), was erroneously named Tent of the Living God by scribes writing in January 1990.
While debunking the “Kibaki tosha” myth, some will find comfort in the fact that such distortions are hardly unique to Kenya. Many expressions that have been used to describe major events in recent world history – from the first man setting foot on the moon, to Isaac Newton’s unalloyed joy at making discovery, or even religious quotes often attributed to holy scripts, have been distorted adequately over time to bear little credibility, or accurate attribution.
These are some of the myths that Paul F Boller, Jnr and John George explore in They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions.
As one reviewer wrote on the book, the authors “examine hundreds of misquotations, incorrect attributions, and blatant fabrications, outlining the origins of the quotes and revealing why we should consign them to the historical trashcan.
“Many of the misquotes are quite harmless. Some are inadvertent misquotes that have become popular... others, the inventions of reporters embellishing a story... falsify the historical record with their blatant dishonesty.”
There is no evidence for such.