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Let’s stop misusing social media to vilify our national heroes

By Billy Williams | October 10th 2017
Former boxing iron lady Conjestina Achieng’

The recent disparagement of football star Denis Oliech by a section of the Kenyan public has underlined the major struggle that famous personalities sometimes have to endure in this country. Fame in Kenya is highly accommodated when a superstar is in the prime of his career but should anything unprecedented taint his or her image in the face of the public, then social media soldiers will come out armed with pictures and memes to ridicule a national hero.

Earlier this week we witnessed a case where a celebrated television anchor had to come out to appeal to her social media followers to assist former boxing iron lady Conjestina Achieng’. Ms Achieng’, 40, was once a major ambassador of the Kenyan flag any time she stepped into the boxing ring to represent the nation.

Ever since she got diagnosed with schizophrenia and even got admitted at Mathari hospital, her mental state has consistently deteriorated, bringing with it bouts of anguish and suffering to the family as her mother opined in her passionate appeal that caught the eye of Lulu Hassan who later fronted the appeal to reach the masses that subscribe to her social network channels.

Forgotten stars

The major question that arises from this is just how simply one can lose his or her legendary status in Kenya? Conjestina Achieng’ brought international glory to Kenya but that seems to be water under the bridge now as Kenyans seek new public figures and heroes in the status of githeriman, while those whose prime times are in the past can wallow in lost glory and provide scripts for books of history.

The Ministry of Sports has to take this bull by the horns and establish programmes that provide financial security platforms to secure some of our sports heroes from slipping into oblivion as soon as their stake in national pride starts dwindling, either due to I’ll health or retirement.

Oliech’s story, if sensibly viewed, should be a major lesson to the Kenyan population and sports personalities in the country too. Kenyans have always had profound appreciation for their sports heroes and it has been immensely rooted into the wellbeing of the nation, especially when Kenya shines in track events in Olympics making everyone swell with pride.

However, these heroes should remain just that; heroes, no matter what personal tribulations that may be facing them after their time in the limelight and hence sitting behind a keyboard trying to squeeze hate to fit into 140 characters and spewing venom calling people names that are unprintable should be frowned upon.

New deal

Sports personalities also have a simple task of remaining focused on dealing with personal betterment even past their glory days so as to keep something on the table as the current state of affairs in the county appears to majorly neglect heroes whose names should even appear on streets and roads in town.

The society that judges a picture of Oliech harshly and calls him names oblivious of his personal achievements and contribution to Kenyan football while hailing githeri man and giving him red carpet receptions in events clearly outlines misplaced priorities.

Oliech has now signed a new deal with his former club in France where he will be earning 250,000 Euros a month, this translates to  Sh30.4 million because in France that is exactly what happens, talent pays as opposed to some instances in Kenya where major talents are wasted due to underfunding of various platforms that should be embracing these ideas. This is not to have anything against ‘githeriman’ whose rise to fame occurred overnight simply because a camera captured his situation and the lucky star has shone over him since then.

The Kenyan youth are practically aware of the difficulties one has to endure to be socially relevant in a society where every detail of one’s life is available for public scrutiny necessitated by social media and hence it requires a thick skin to absorb the cyber bullying and find the solace necessary to remain sane and to rise above hate.

It is the traumatic experiences that the public figures have to endure at the end of their careers that would practically leave them in a bad state as they watch their legacies take a turn for the worst and I am personally glad Dennis Oliech took the criticism as a catapult to even greater heights in the back of his recent record deal with Nantes football club. It is the same society that cheered them in their impeccable form of their lives that should make life bearable for them at the end of an era.

The next time we log in to demonise our heroes just to get a few clicks of the like button we should remember we are cementing our place on top of the pile that is unjustifiably angry because our lives did not turn out the way we anticipated and hence we pick the next victim to bear the brunt of our spoiled brat tantrums. Give our legends a break.

 Mr Williams is a communications specialist.

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