That is what they say back in the village whenever I visit. I hear silent whispers at the stage that ‘mutongoria’ (the leader) has arrived. That is what they now call me having learnt during my graduation (which was heavily attended by the way), that I studied Political Science. I do not need to notify my mother of my arrival because word travels like wildfire in this village. It is hard to explain to these folks that you will be anything else in life other than a politician with that education background. It propagates hope, fear and respect in equal measure among the village political class that someone actually went to school to study politics. They all expect me to run for the highly coveted MCA seat in the next election and in that regard; they have started to groom me for the position by engaging me in endless political discussions, both at village and national level, to test my resilience and understanding of the same.
Them pestering me where I stood on various policies reminded me of Pablo and the boys. The five of us, Pablo, Kyle, Big Sam, Suleiman and I, seated at a table in a joint near Camp yard not so different from this one during our days in campus. When conversations got sour and it became evident that it had turned into a battle of the intellects, I remembered how Pablo would drop his weapon of mass intellectual destruction by asking where each one of us stood on the Anthropic principle. After his first massacre on us, I took upon myself to look it up, never wanting to be caught on the wrong side of that bomb twice. But I still remember the puzzled faces on Kyle and Sam; never did those faces ever hide their ignorance and the fact that they had no interest whatsoever to know what this principle was. I bet they thought Pablo had just made it up in his efforts to establish his intellectual dominance, to embody his alpha persona or just to remind everyone that he was indeed the de-facto leader of that infamous crew which I’ll tell you about soon. The philosopher from the east, Suleiman, on the other hand forever maintained his cool in the face such monstrous intellectual storms always orchestrated by Pablo. I think soon I might have to invite them for a meeting to strategize for my campaign.
If you come from a village that really embodies the spirit of ubuntuism, harambee and togetherness, then you must know that your education is not yours alone. That it belongs to all members of that community, worse if they held a Harambee to take you to school and it’s the kind of village where everyone knows everyone. When you are done with your studies and you graduate, it no longer matters whether a person contributed 50 bob or fifty thousand to your education; they will lay equal claims as your mother to have educated you. Your graduation is attended by the whole village commuting in a hired ‘Ngofofo Secondary School’ bus. Your mother or father no longer enjoys private privileges from you that comes with the knowledge of how things work. The whole village now counts on you to look for birth certificates for their children attending the local primary and secondary schools, source for bursaries of the said children, tutor those children whenever you are free and of course motivate those children. You immediately become the de-facto registrar of births and deaths, chief, assistant chief, village elder, nyumba kumi committee chairman, security committee chairman, village education officer in charge of bursaries, registrar of groups, motivational speaker, member of the school board and chairman of the cattle dip committee.
Now, a few days ago, I travelled to my village. That is to say the place other folks call ancestral land, which I just call home. My ancestral land lies somewhere near mukurwe wa nyagathanga. This was in response to the incessant calls and complains from my mother that I have abandoned them in lieu of city life. Not that I live in a big city but you know how mothers can be. When I get off the matatu at the stage, which is more or less anywhere by the roadside as long as it’s within the village’s geographical boundaries, my first stop is at a friend’s barber shop.
Its named Oxygen. The village’s executive barber shop. This is where the who’s who of the village get their haircuts; the chiefs, teachers, bar owners, chairpersons of various village committees and of course the young men who carry the torch of civilization and are conversant with latest hairstyles. These mostly include football fanatics who are mostly in it for the crazy haircuts they see on Pogba and company. I used to work here. And as you can imagine, now that I leave in ‘town’, I happen to be the conduit through which those styles reach the village through my craftsmanship; with the shaving machine of course- it’s good to clarify that. In return, I get free haircuts whenever at home. Oxygen also happens to be the English Premier League (EPL) transfer center rumor mill. We have all the latest EPL major teams’ wallpapers and most conversations in that shop are centered on football. I meet with Joni as they call him aka ‘Kachee’, Oxygen’s director of operations/ Proprietor.
“Haiya! Kari we dagitari!!” (So it’s you doctor!!). He exclaims.
That is his opening statement which also rounds up as greetings. And I should also make it clear at this point that I have many nicknames at home but Cooper or Jose are not one of them. We knock shoulders and proceed to our usual chitchat trying to catch up on the many months I haven’t been home. He offers to buy me a cup of tea as consolation for the long journey home while we catch up some more. He pulls back the glass doors of the enterprise and off we go headed to a nearby hotel. We make a pit stop at an agro-vet shop for more greetings and chitchat. I already mentioned that I am the chairman of the cattle dip committee despite not owning any livestock myself save for the two chicken I am saving for Christmas.
At the hotel, Kachee orders tea. Lest you forget, the venue is one of those village outfits which locals refer to as hoteri, nestled in between similar joints, mostly wooden. But this particular joint is the closest we can come to executive standards because you can catch up with the news on the small television placed at the corner on a wooden stand. A little transformation has occurred at the eatery since I was last there, I noticed. Cushioned seats made from fake leather have replaced the old and creaking wooden benches, and the stiff-legged tables are covered by brightly colored PVC. The menu is still on the wall, done in chalk (local teachers know where old broken pieces end up). In fact, calling them eateries is a sort of misnomer, since villagers hardly eat there (save for the bachelors’ mix ya chapo), unless you are talking about mandazi to go with tea or other locally made snacks such as the famous thufu, samosas or mutura, whose contents and cultural background we shall discuss another day. But on second thought, I’ll just mention it in passing. I presume you have all heard the recent story of a man butchering cats in Nakuru. I’m afraid that might have already infiltrated into our neighborhood. Being in close proximity with the cat slayer and the repeated streaming of news about that slayer, the political elites of Ngofofo village cannot rule out the possibility that we are being fed on cats. This mutura is too sweet and that raises questions. But until we catch our own slayer we will not stop enjoying the delicacy.
It was while we were sipping our tea that we were joined by some old folks, who are rather exposed as you will see shortly (the Tv at the corner is not for naught after all). One apologized that I may not get city stuff such as what he referred to as kafuthino (cappuccino) in an effort to start a conversation and as an excuse to join our table. I explained that I was comfortable with the normal tea, served in an ordinary cup. You know those mabati cups they use in ushago. The tea is served from a tin kettle which is kept on a jiko, so it is boiling hot anytime a customer asks for it. If halfway you reckon that the tea has grown cold, your host will top it up with the hot stuff at no extra cost. This service is referred to as choma.
Some other elderly folks join us while the conversation jumps from topic to another while they try to engage their self-proclaimed Professor of politics. They joke that someday they want to have a Prof Ngugi wa Njoroge from their own village. Those are the names I go by at home in case anyone of you decides to come looking for me. They are also my real names. The conversation moves form the NYS scandal, to the world cup, to mercury in sugar, to how the local MCA has been sluggish in implementing his campaign promises and back to the NYS scandal. Our table is now full and the entire populace in the hotel is interested in what I have to say. Presently, the discussion has centered on fish fingers, you know the stuff they told us Youth Affairs PS Lilian Omolo was being fed on while in remand custody at the Kenyatta National Hospital. “You city folk will show us stories,” one old man says. Translating directly from my mother tongue, trying to say what the Swahili would mouth as “Nyinyi watu wa mjini mtatuonyesha mambo.” “Tell me,” he goes on. “Since when did fish get to have fingers?” I was at a loss about that one, but explained that it was fillet done in strips that resembles fingers. I thought of explaining that the fingers are normally dipped in tartar sauce, but decided otherwise, knowing that would be another debate entirely. But they were not done with me yet.
“Tell us, and explain slowly, why a person who should have been in remand was eating fish fingers and enjoying four-course meals,” said another. Before I could answer, another chimed in, asking me why courts should labor to put suspects in remand only for the latter to end up in executive wings of hospitals where they are treated as if on holiday. I explained that the suspect in question was unwell, and that she was under guard. The cynical looks I got were enough to tell me I was not making sense at all.
“If I was the one charged with such an offence, and with my low station in life, would I be treated the same way?” asked the first one. To tell you the truth, I started feeling as if I was under cross-examination but kept a straight face. I got away with telling them that the question was hypothetical and that courts deal with cases depending on facts. Just when I thought we could discuss local politics again, or the usual village talk about what happened since my last visit, I was asked why the government had been stopped from vetting its workers by a bloke called Matata (I thought it was Omtata, I was right).
Please tell us why a court would listen to an individual most likely paid by unseen forces, and proceed to stop the government vetting people who handle money,” came the request. I told my folks that although courts are the last port of call for aggrieved parties, at times individual interest could override public interest, based on the Bill of Rights in the constitution. I was compelled to admit that it sounded like turning justice upside down, at least in terms of perception by the public. “Although you went to the Unifasity (University) and studied politics, you have not convinced us that our courts are acting in our best interests. Is the law not clear on some of these things?” asked one uncle. I said the law was tricky because it was subject to many interpretations which could create the impression that it was not clear. I had just made a deliberate attempt to do what lawyers call obfuscate, meaning to explain a point in such a way it sounded correct without being so. My tea had grown cold and I asked for another glassful, which at the insistence of my hosts came with a mandazi big enough to obscure my face as I took a generous bite. Mandazi on the house. From their looks, the discussion was far from over and they looked far from convinced.
I guess this is where Pablo’s weapon of mass destruction would have come in handy. And knowing very well that we always thought along similar lines, I can’t help but think that he only dropped the Anthropic principle punch because he felt cornered. Now I am forced to mentally review all the conversations that preceded it (the bomb) just to be sure. I imagine the looks on these old men’s faces if I asked whether anyone knew what the anthropic principle was.
We finish our tea and head for the door but not without me expressing my regards for their hospitality. As we walk out I hear one of them exclaim, “Hee!! Na kiu kimwana ni twathomithirie.” Translating to, “Wow!! We really did educate that child.” I can’t help but feel good that I made them proud in the end.