Propaganda on Rigathi Gachagua will not slow him down

 Kenya Kwanza's presidential running mate Rigathi Gachagua visit in Meru County. [George Kaimenyi, Standard]

Sometimes in politics, you learn your impact not by the chorus of approval, but by the intensity of the actions taken against you. Take the case of Kenya Kwanza presidential running mate Rigathi Gachagua, for example.

From the day his running mate position was announced, it appeared as though the whole world had been lined up to bring him down, or in any case to distract him from the business of canvassing votes for his presidential ticket.

I have known Mr Gachagua ever since I was a boy growing up in the slopes of Mt Kenya, in a village called Hiriga in Mathira’s Ruguru Ward where he was already towering as a community sports organiser during the school holidays in the 1980s.

Yet the person who is constantly talked about today, particularly in social media, is a total stranger to me. Is he the brutal District Officer who led the displacement and brutalisation of Kikuyus in Molo at the start of multiparty politics?

Is he the person being denounced by Second Liberation heroes such as Njeru wa Gathangu and Njenga Mungai for his brutality and torture of those involved in the agitation for greater political space in this country? Was he specifically mentioned in the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission report as the leading perpetrator of brutality against the people or Kenya? Is he the little boy in Mzee Daniel arap Moi’s family picture, taken in 1966, meaning that he is in fact a son of the former president masquerading as a Kikuyu?

Flurry of falsehoods

You can imagine my relief when the other day I saw newspaper reports about the extensive use of propaganda in the current campaigns. The report, carried as the lead story in a local daily, said that politicians “were financing a flurry of falsehoods and distortions aimed at winning them backing in the August elections,” and that Mr Gachagua was by far the biggest victim of the falsehood campaigns.

In one instance, a false claim about him had been shared more than 5,000 times on Twitter. As a result, many Kenyans cannot believe that he’s never worked in Nakuru County, leave alone Molo, in any capacity, and therefore could never have been involved in any of the atrocities for which he has been trending. I must admit that the quality of the propaganda is high.

Take the fake TJRC report, for example. The extract looked so genuine that I had to find the original report and go to Page 103 to confirm that the page doing the rounds in social media was fake.

My question is, how much better would it be if, rather than spending so much time and other resources creating and peddling lies, the politicians applied themselves to designing and selling plans for the betterment of our country? 

What if, rather than setting up the Propaganda Division as one of the biggest units at the campaign secretariat, the efforts were directed to interpreting their manifestos to highlight the special programs and initiatives being promised by the respective coalitions?

But the worst thing about the propaganda is the almost permanent damage it inflicts on the public perception of the victims. When people receive information about you, they do not give you the benefit of doubt, they assume that’s the truth. Erasing it becomes a Herculean task even when proof is paraded there for all to see. Imagine the contrast between the Gachagua I know, and the man presented to Kenyans in these campaigns.

I first encountered him during the ball games that he would organise during end of year celebrations where different villages would compete against each other.

He was a gifted volleyballer playing in the booster (centre) position and invariably lead our village to victory year in year out. He soon became the talk of the whole of Ruguru Ward due to his ability to organise the games and above all, his public speaking acumen, the excellent command of the English language and his debating prowess. 

At the time, he was a student at Kianyaga High School. The competitions went on until he completed his studies at the University of Nairobi. Thereafter, his concern turned to supporting the constituency in many development initiatives and mobilising the people to accomplish whatever they set out to do – whether it was tapping water from the mountains, building health centres or completing church projects.

From his successes here and his unmatched ability to mobilise and organise people, you can understand why his political opponents have found it necessary to spend so much effort in trying slow him down. 

I have no doubt that it will take more than just propaganda, no matter how virulent and skillfully done it may be, to slow down Mr Gachagua considering the incredible skill and energy he puts into whatever he does. Watch this space.