Isaiah is one of Nairobi’s ubiquitous boda boda riders; motorcyclists for hire as couriers. He has been at it for over 15 years now and has a rolodex of well-heeled clients. He appreciates the symbiotic relationship they share and does not in the least bit feel exploited by them.
Rather, he recognises that they are essential to his survival in the city. Occasionally, thugs on motorbikes will attempt to snatch purses or cellphones from unsuspecting pedestrians. But Isaiah and his colleagues always apprehend them before they get away. And this, not without some painful form of instant justice before they are handed over to the police.
Isaiah and his friends value their reputation as honest riders. They refuse to be drawn by politicians into contestations of the haves versus the have-nots. They know the pathway to wealth lies in sheer grit and determination and not through instant gratification on the altar of thuggery.
Which is why reports being peddled in some quarters are worrying. A woman was allegedly harassed by riders after a mishap involving one of them. It is said the riders branded her “dynasty.”
In another report, a crowd set a lorry full of cattle ablaze allegedly saying they belonged to 'dynasties'. For sure, the Dynasty versus Hustler brand of politics has been the preoccupation of the last two years. Coined by Deputy President (DP) William, Dynasty refers to scions of the country’s founding fathers who are themselves presently in leadership positions.
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Hustlers are those who have made a name pulling themselves from poverty by their bootstraps.
Because Kenya’s economy has been mismanaged over the past seven years, life has been increasingly difficult for majority of its citizens.
Further, the DP finds himself isolated from his own government even as opposition party leader Raila Odinga endears himself to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The DP has his sights set on the presidency in 2022. To that end, he has extracted himself from the financial woes of the government and blamed them on the “Dynasties” to which allegedly, Kenyatta and Odinga belong.
Perhaps to counter the Hustler Nation narrative, which the DP propagates as the viable people-driven successor of the current elitist administration, there has been an insidious campaign to cast it as a 'rich versus poor' movement.
Some have alleged the attack of ordinary citizens by people calling themselves hustlers is an orchestrated effort to vilify the Hustler Nation and to create despondency among the middle-class.
Those who find agency in spreading misinformation over the Hustler-Dynasty dichotomy forget one thing; that, according to author David Mugun, “Africa is quickly becoming a knowledge economy thanks to technology. The same media used to spread propaganda is the same one used to enlighten the masses. Everyone belongs to a WhatsApp group of sorts and opinion leaders in them decipher content and advise accordingly.”
Mugun gives an example of how, at the height of the Covid-19 crisis, some unknown people distributed poisoned foodstuff and tried to blame the DP for it. They were unearthed by social media detectives.
Economist David Ndii on Twitter repudiates the haves versus the have-nots narrative saying, “the Hustler-Dynasty debate is about oppressors versus oppressed. It is not about rich versus poor and no amount of scaremongering will make it so.”
The real hustler is no longer some clueless illiterate in some godforsaken village depending on the local politician or shortwave radio for news from the rest of the world. Even in the deepest recess of mashinani, grassroots, people are enlightened enough to differentiate between illicit Covid-19 billionaires, and those whose assets are obtained by hard work and industry.
Isaiah the motorcyclist is as enlightened as the CEO of a blue-chip company who gets the leading dailies delivered to his desk every morning. Connected to the internet using data bundles, he has access to news at the touch of a button. He will not be duped by Cambridge Analytica-type scams.
Seven years of declining incomes added to brazen corruption make a combustible mix. Whoever runs the counter-Hustler Nation narrative should not be keen to add a spark by pitting the wealthy against the indigent.
-Khafafa is a public policy analyst