No one really talks normally once the cameras start rolling. It is even worse if the person talking is a politician, harbours political ambition or intends to placate a politician.
This was evident when Deputy President William Ruto, barely recovered from the affront by the State on his political activities, hosted a delegation at his Sugoi home on Monday. Among the visitors was the effervescent His Holiness Father John Pesa.
Fr Pesa kept his introduction as godly as possible. He started off with a medical anecdote. After all, the host has the coveted ‘Dr’ prefix before his name.
“Tumeona daktari mbele yetu,” Fr Pesa said, perhaps oblivious of the fact that DP Ruto is another kind of doctor. “Daktari wetu tibu watu wako kwa kipooole. Weka sindano na uweke kwa upole.”
At that point, the audience was getting jittery. There was something about the way His Holiness talked and lengthened the ‘sindano’ analogy for quite some time. But the best was yet to come.
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Being a man of the cloth, he let go of the medicine analogy to retreat into the safety of Bible trivia. What better story would fit the occasion than the story of the young man who killed a giant with one stone?
Basic, right? Not really.
“Nani anakumbuka mawe ya King Suleiman? King Suleiman alikua na mawe moja. Ilikua mawe moja na akagonga Goliath twa!”
Unfortunately, no one was brave enough to correct the man of God. He spoke to the end of his address without interruption.
And a day after his King Suleiman slip, he hastily called another press conference to make public alleged threats to his life. Again, he went into the language he is least comfortable with to express his innermost feelings.
“Kuna maneno moja yatageuka ati Suleman ndio alipiga Goliath… sasa mimi ni mzee nazeeka…tangu naanza kusoma bibilia nimezeeka. Daudi ndio alipiga Goliath na mawe moja. Mimi sikusema nani Goliath. Maombi ni kama mawe nduguzanguni. Nina husuniso sana kwa watu wetu kugeuza maneno.”
Politicians, however, take the day in these missteps.
After a brutal court process to challenge the election of Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, aspirant Wavinya Ndeti cut a jubilant figure as the courts ruled in her favour, finding issue with Mutua’s re-election in the 2017 polls.
In the heat of the moment, Wavinya went into a prolonged vote of thanks. Thanking the courts, her supporters and the almighty. Sometimes in politics, it pays to be the bigger person.
And on that day, Wavinya clearly had made up her mind to be humble in victory. She was ready to forgive Mutua, the IEBC and everyone else who was part of what she believed was a conspiracy to deny her victory in the polls.
She was ready to forgive all and move on. “Yaliyo ndwele sipite,” she said. “Kenya is bigger than Chebukati. Kenya is bigger than Wavinya,” she added amid cheers by the people around her.
Perhaps later, when they watched their aspirant on TV or heard her on radio, they realised that she had invented a new Swahili saying.
Her victory though did not last. The Court of Appeal upheld Mutua’s victory.
Backed into a corner
Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa has had a couple of rough years since her election to Parliament in 2017. But, like a wounded cat, she always fights back even when backed into a corner.
Last year, her party, ODM, started the process of ejecting her. This would effectively mean her losing the MP seat. So she went into overdrive, holding numerous political rallies in her constituency and hosting DP Ruto who had, it was thought, jumped the gun in his ambition to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta and whose bid Jumwa supported.
In one such rally, and after a week of trading jabs with ODM party honchos, Jumwa went into self-defence mode, her punching bag at the time was Edwin Sifuna, the ODM secretary general.
“Nataka nikwambie Sifuna siri ya wanawake,” she started off. Already, those in attendance knew that what would follow would most likely be PG rated. “Mwanamke ukiona ameoleka na mume fulani na hatulii jua huyo mwanaume ana kasoro. Mume ana kasoro… ana matatizo. Aidha halishi watoto wake vizuri ama mambo mengine… no doing!”
Across the borders is the indefatigable Tanzanian MP who is now immortalised in a meme. Seleman Bungara, the Kilwa South MP, already famous for his theatrics in the Tanzania Parliament, almost broke the internet with what has quickly made it to the region’s urban dictionaries.
“Olisikia wapi?” is a phrase that has been appropriated across cultures for its sheer ingenuity.
The life and times of Ferdinand Waititu also make for interesting record. A string of incitement charges have previously got him in the soup. But, as always, he had something to say in his defence on these occasions:
“Kila mtu anasemanga mahali vibaya na inakua a strip of the tongue,” he said in a press conference at Parliament buildings.
That was not it.
A champion of the downtrodden, Waititu as Kiambu governor firmly opposed the demolition of buildings that were on riparian lands. As a governor and an investor he had a simple solution.
“Kama kuna nyumba yako inakaribiana na mto ni gharama yako kuhatikisha mto imesonga kidogo,” he said.
He was much later outed by the equally unpredictable Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko who spoke about a less glamourous past that he and Governor Waititu shared.
“We used to smoke a lot of bhang with this guy. We used to go to a toilet somewhere in Parliament and smoke,” Sonko said. Of course Waititu is yet to give his side of the story, and was never found guilty on any charges of incitement.
Before retiring, Kenya’s third President Mwai Kibaki had perhaps perfected the art of speaking his mind. Often, he addressed some of the most urgent problems facing the nation in his own quirky way.
For example, on a visit to the Rift Valley, Kibaki attempted to address cattle rustling as a vice among the local communities.
“Unakua na maana gani duniani ikiwa wewe kazi yako ni kuiba ngombe. Unakua mavi ya kuku,” he said.
At another event addressing dwindling education standards in the country, Kibaki had some choice words for the Teachers Service Commission (TSC). “You are letting standards go down by allowing some teachers to drink too much. When we see so many drunkard teachers in so many schools you are educating our own nation by mistake,” he said.
A year after the 2009 census, Kibaki again had some advice for Kenyans on the importance of family planning.
“Sio lazima wewe kila siku ya pili ya tatu ati lazma uproduce mtoto. What the hell? Hapana, hio ni kukosa adabu,” he said.