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Kenya will never afford all our greed

By BY KIPKOECH TANUI | February 28th 2014


I have never met someone who does not like to have more money than he or she already has. Long ago, I learnt the stereotype that if you want to know if a Kikuyu man or woman is dead, just juggle coins in a tin and throw them on the floor. If the eyelid moves, finger twitches or toe curls up, then he or she hasn’t slipped through the doorway to the life hereafter.

We all love money and what it buys. We have no choice for it is what feeds, clothes and houses us. It is what takes us, and our children to or out of school. The more you have of it, the more respect you command in this capitalistic society.

Even if you go to a burial, the more money you are perceived to have, will take you not just to the white tent, but will see you escorted and even given a seat in the front row. Even in church, the pastor will acknowledge your presence, and in his or her prayer, you will be remembered.

Money also decides what you eat and where, as well as how you dress. The money chase severely tests the strength of our moral fibre. That is how robbers, prostitutes and the corrupt are made. In their own way they are engaged in a “smart career move”. Yes, the rich I am told work harder than the rest of us because the fear of poverty, and thereby loss of privilege and respect that come with wealth, keep nudging them to leave their beds of gold and go make or even steal more as the case may be, earlier than all of us. Money also determines where you sleep and what you eat. I read the story of this haughty, fabulously rich Kenyan describing how, because we lack a specific kind of laundry machine in Kenya, his suits would be sent by DHL to Rome, Italy for cleaning. His tailor, he proudly said, is in in Italy, the material for his suits is to be found only in the US, and he gives out ‘digital’ measures, by wiring the money to the separate places, and then waiting for his consignment. Ten years ago his cheapest suit cost Sh90, 000!

We  need  not venture into why some marriages were only possible because of money, not love, because this is Friday and it isn’t right to make you look at your spouse with suspicion while the weekend beckons. I won’t also dwell on how some guys hold jobs that they or their parents ‘bought’. Let us not even go to the fellows who drive sleek cars and readily get free parking from City Council askaris, while the superrich farmer from Kiambu is scorned at. What the askari does not know is that looks, like in beauty, can be deceptive.

Friends, there is much to say about money, including how it patterns your appetite and sense of fashion, with the majority flocking to Inama Boutiques where you literally stoop to pick up second-hand socks, undergarment, shirts, trousers and jackets, as the rich guy waits for his consignment of suits to land at the airport.

As you try to fit on the clothes by holding the jacket, blouse and shirt to your bust, and the trousers and skirts, to your waist, he is trawling through his e-mails for the tracking alert from the clearing agent!

The worst thing to happen is when the river of money forms a confluence with that of power, at which point it matters not how you got it, but that you have it. As a country we are at this confluence and the two bubbling forces may drown our nation!

Yes, our collective love for money is what is fueling the current political upheaval between Parliament and governors. The governors, hopefully not all, are stealing and at the high table with them are their coterie of office colleagues, friends and clan members.

Remember the Auditor General told us that in one case, a governor had at his disposal Sh30 million as petty cash. This is the kind of money that is supposed to take care of little expenditures in the offices such as sodas, toilet paper, tea leaves and sugar.

Hand in the till

The sad stories from the counties seemingly have left some senators and MPs drooling, regretting why they didn’t run for the regional seats. So what is their response? They say they want to have a hand in the till, or rather mouth in the trough, but not in those direct words.

They want to sit on county development boards where money matters are decided, as well as channel some funds into the Constituency Development Fund.

If you remember CDF and how it worked, then you will know why they refused to kill this ogre.  To ward off the finger of culpability that would point at them while at the trough, they are intimidating the Judiciary with all manner of claims and accusations.

Today we are torn between two sets of thieves; the ones ravaging our taxes at the counties, and the ones who want to force their way into the feeding trough whilst claiming they are our saviours.

At this point may I sincerely apologise to the MPs, governors and senators who are not corrupt. It is hard to pick you out of the cesspool but you deserve my apologies. 

But remember there is only one thing that will happen if we all remain on this crazy path; those creating our national wealth will grow fewer and the consumers more. Then the cake will get smaller and, like cattle rustlers, we will start stealing from each other because we have emptied the kraals of the enemy tribe.

Today,  as we strangle our counties and country let us remember what the late JM Kariuki told us: Kenya is rich, but she will never afford the greed of all of us! And he said Kenya is a country of 10 million beggars and 10 millionaires, I doubt if he was suggesting we all get on the thieving lane so that we have a country of 10 beggars and 40 million millionaires.

The writer is Group Managing Editor (Print) at The Standard.

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