By Edward Indakwa
We won’t pray incompetence away
In case you have not noticed, TV and radio stations in Kenya open business with prayer. On radio, they have a pastor yelling and fuming about hell – barely minutes after you’ve woken up.
On TV, they begin with a video recording of a gospel artist who keeps darting behind a bush to change into a new outfit. The background is always someplace scenic: a lake, ocean, river, lush garden or forest.
It is supposed to make you ache for heaven. I guess that makes a lot of sense when you are watching the video from a hovel in a slum and the only greenery within miles are three sukumawiki stems growing in a sack filled with soil next to your door.
Those early hours of the morning are also the time when children head to school and bow their heads in prayer at the morning assembly.
A little later, in Parliament, the Speaker of the National Assembly leads 10 or so early risers in the chamber to prayer.
The prayers are so solemn you would never believe members would be out of order if they referred to another honourable member, who is anything but honourable, as the corrupt, lying, bandit that he or she is.
The ritual is repeated in many homes and offices: Mothers praying for those going to school or travelling to distant towns; directors praying before a meeting to sweep corruption beneath the carpet commence; farmers praying for a good harvest. Everyone exhales, “Thank you Jesus!”
Over lunch break, pastors set up office on every available piece of free space in public parks where broke workers pretend to be asleep yet they are dreaming about the humongous lunch they will have on payday. At bus stops, pastors board buses, not only to curse the devil, but also to pray so that passengers get to wherever they are headed in one piece.
Come evening and pastors start prancing up and down, cursing the devil, denouncing sin and sinners.
At night, makeshift churches come alive with violent song and dance. And in most homes, families bow down in prayer at the dinner table.
The excuse is that they are praying for the meal but the truth is they are praying that gangsters should spare them, at least for one more night.
The devil must be deaf. He never listens because if he did, he would have been shamed into leaving town years ago.
But the devil is merely an excuse for our ineptitude. Instead of fixing the police force and ensuring prosecutors lock criminals away and throw away the keys, we pray for security.
Instead of arresting war mongers and election cheats, we pray for a peaceful election. Instead of disciplining drivers, we pray for passengers.
And instead of tending our crops and following advice from meteorologists, we pray for good harvests – after sowing counterfeit seed and selling the fertilizer.
If I were God, I would look down upon Kenya and say, “Go to hell.”
Nairobians must never carry arms
Days before matatu crews went on strike – apparently against their boss’ direct orders – I had an encounter with one. Stuck in a traffic jam, I started reading a newspaper, catching up on the latest shenanigans on the political scene.
My focus was, however, shattered minutes later when someone banged a fist on the boot of my car. Turning back, I saw a matatu driver attempting to wedge his battered contraction in the tiny space between my car and the one right behind. His intention was to snake through and ‘overlap’ – an illegal practice they are rioting to uphold.
“Kwani utalala hapa? Songa! Hii barabara si yako (do you intend to sleep here? Move! The road doesn’t belong to you!)” he snarled.
He was wagging a finger in my direction. He wanted me to risk banging the next guy, so he could squeeze his contraption through and break the law. He was also calling me an idle idiot.
I ruminated on it and chose to ignore him. My mind is trained to argue while his is conditioned to shout. There was no way we would reach a consensus unless the discussions were held using crude weapons.
I remembered another time, many years back, when a matatu crew pulled similar antics on motorists who just happened to be officers from the President’s Escort. One of the officers alighted, drew a pistol from a shoulder holster and shot the foul-mouthed fellow at point blank range.
Another, who tried the same on a senior citizen got the shock of his life when the motorist, a renowned scientist, pulled out a shotgun and let go. Matatu crews should be thankful that most Nairobians are not licensed to carry firearms.
Bits and pieces
Of doers and talkers
Three events happened last week. One, Kenya Commercial Bank Chief Martin Odour Otieno declined to renew his contract. He declined to renew his contract? What had he smoked? The norm in these parts is that they announce a new MD. You refuse to vacate office. The new boss brings his supporters. You bring yours. The two enjoy a noisy clash tempered with hard fisticuffs. Office locks are changed. And Mr Oduor refused to renew his contract? Second is the shocking news that KenGen Managing Director Eddie Njoroge (cool old man, this Eddie!) announced he is tired of being an MD. Love or hate him, Njoroge is a far cry from the parastatal chiefs of yore who were only good at stealing and clogging the payroll with illiterate relatives. Between them, Njoroge and Odour have accomplished more in 10 years than many politicians ever will in a lifetime, which brings me to the third event of the week. An MP complained in Parliament that honourable members were discriminated upon when it came to dishing out State awards like Moran of the Burning Spear. That MP will not be declining to renew his contract.
Police should pirate database
No one seems to have noticed that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is putting together a comprehensive database of Kenyans’ mug shots and fingerprints through the voter registration exercise. The first order of business for the new Inspector General of Police should be to pirate that thing. With that, and a little ingenuity, the scoundrels whose forte is breaking and entry and robbery with violence are cooked — that is if they continue strangling their victims without wearing gloves and leaving fingerprints all over. Unfortunately, criminals are too busy stealing to register.
Windy coalitions and alliances
In polygamous homes, coalitions form and break up faster than one can blink: children against children, women against husband and senior wives against junior wives. But a coalition between the house mouse and the family cat wouldn’t scare a polygamist who owns a walking stick. Point is, there are certain parties and politicians that are of zero political value. It does not make sense to hold talks with an individual who cannot muster 2,000 votes in a presidential poll and whose political party is one that starving youth wingers would give a wide berth.
Intrigues of a half-loaf State
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya stands up in Garissa and announces that the Government will compensate those whose property was destroyed when the army ‘went on the rampage’. Days later, the Minister for Special Programmes (only Kenya can concoct such a Ministry) retorts that there is no money to compensate victims and that in any case, she doesn’t implement instructions issued at funerals and roadside meetings. Her boss (the PM) can’t fire her because he didn’t appoint her. Politicians holding coalition talks should, therefore, take heed that in a half-loaf Government, you only bark at the baggage you bring into the coalition.
All work and no play
Several years ago, a disaster, whose nature I can’t recall, struck in Mombasa and a Cabinet Minister duly dispatched himself to “assess the situation”. As fate would have it, I happened to be staying at the hotel where he wound up. But that evening, watching him waltz a beauty that I suspect he smuggled from Nairobi to the beach resort, you would never believe he was in town to assess a disaster. Yet Harambee Stars sent two lads packing from the Cecafa championship in Uganda because they went partying after a winning match. Life is not fair!