Of Overcoming Failure And Hills I know.

I am in a love-hate relationship with a hill.  We are only recently acquainted and I dread the things it could do to me. But first, some background. I moved to a new apartment block that sat at the bottom of a steep driveway. A hill so unreasonable, my taxi man Morris, in his trusted Corolla, with a cranky gear box, had one look at it and asked whether there were any stones to anchor on, in case he did not pick up momentum. It is a hill that is begging to be conquered. I know it will kill me before I can get fit enough to brag about my accomplishments. If I could overcome the psychological barrier of sprinting up 100m without any suicidal thoughts, the benefits would be real.

Getting fit comes at a price that I am less willing to fork out. It helps that the peer pressure is muted. My mates are not losing any sleep over their expanding midriffs. Having a terminal disease counts as a status symbol these days. It can only mean one is highly stressed which is proof of making more money than one can keep track of. Then there is the ever-ready excuse of ageing. I am not a spring chicken anymore and my health insurance is for emergencies.  There is never any time for exercise that could actually be beneficial to my health. Any spare time outside of work and sleep is reserved for clogging arteries and punishing my liver over endless banter sessions with potential business associates. They are all wages of sin that a hill run every other morning would put in check.

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The Upright Man. Ten Lessons From Thomas Sankara

 Where did all the genuine African revolutionaries go? They were either assassinated; Patrice Lumumba, Eduardo Mondlane, Samora Machel, Amilcar Cabral, Steve Biko, John Garang, Muammar Gadaffi  or went under siege from their own legacies. Nelson Mandela here. It has been decades since we saw a visionary leader who inspired the Pan African idealism of the revolutionary 60s. Look around. Africa is facing a leadership crisis. From South Africa to Egypt, Kenya to Senegal, there is a clear sense of ‘we deserve better’. As African men, stifling under the stereotype of rogue males in power, there are not many examples around to deliver a much needed inspirational leadership wake up call. The only standard for leadership presently is wealth and influence. Simple men with solid characters, sincere intentions and grand visions are consigned to the pages of African history.

Therefore, it is with deep nostalgia that I remember an iconic African revolutionary, a pragmatic visionary and an upright man, Thomas Isidore Sankara, the former president of Burkina Faso. It is 28 years, since his brutal assassination on October 15 1987. As far as African leadership goes, Thomas Sankara was cut from a different piece of cloth. In his short life, the charismatic military leader set about creating an enduring legacy for conscious African citizens that is more relevant today than ever before. Progressive forces fighting economic domination and ideological slavery of Africa can draw inspiration from Sankara’s life journey.

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How I Lost The Man Box

When I was starting out in the writing business in the late 90s, my business savvy friends advised me to get a card. I had a popular column, called Mantalk, which focused on a male point of view in contemporary urban relationships.  Within the first three years, the column started to generate countrywide interest and it seemed smart to seize the moment and milk my popularity for what it was worth. Had I considered a TV show, a speaking circuit or at the very least a cookbook? Anything to leverage my five minutes of fame. I was big on resolve and psyche but low on resources and the advisers told me to run lean. Start with a business card. People will take you more seriously.

Since I was shaping up as the go-to guy as far African masculinity challenges were concerned, I had to choose a card that reflected a manly profile that was not too cheesy nor too flimflam. I chose the color blue because I had read in some astrological profile that it symbolised strength and power, a tad bit more original than plain white. I grappled with some fancy titles. “Journalist” was not accurate because I was not formally trained in the craft. “Columnist” seemed a bit boxed. I did more than write columns. “Media practitioner” had all the undertones of a PR overload. “Anthropologist” sounded stiff and academic. “Wordsmith” gave the impression of self-aggrandizement. Eventually I ended up with no title under my name because my advisers added that, if I was any good at my craft, my name would be able to carry its own weight. At the back of the card, I decided, to add a little witty touch and wrote, “Lose the box”.

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The League Of Ordinary Gentlemen

Fela Kuti’s song, “ I No Be Gentleman At All” was the title track of the album Gentleman released in 1973. Fela at his radical best was challenging the colonial mentality that had seen Africans turn their backs on anything indigenous for European customs. Fela’s refrain to men who wore woolen suits and top hats in Lagos sweltering heat was “ I no be gentleman, like that. I be Africa man Original”.  Fela was preaching against blinding aping Victorian romanticism but I guess not enough people were listening.

The immaculately dressed, ballroom dancing African gentleman of the 50s and 60s sired a new class of African gentlemen easily distinguished either by their American or English accents and impressive knowledge of American brand trivia. Gentlemen had a foreign connotation, sometimes used interchangeably with well-educated and associated with returning scholars from overseas. They returned home with academic honours and a weakness for fine scotch on the rocks.

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Of Jail Birds And Freedom

While I was away from social media, 6 MPs accused of hate-mongering had emerged from a remand holding sparkling and reformed as the Pangani 6. The 3 days in holding appeared to have been such an enlightening experience, they had all turned into motivational speakers. 3 days was all it took to get hostilities straightened out. It was noted by keen observers that Pangani police station should be elevated to a rehab centre.

Jail therapy has shown remarkable results with the hate speech detainees. I was hearing such flowery statements about former bad boy Moses Kuria’s newfound maturity. Ferdinand Waititu smile had broadened and he seemed so at peace with himself. Junet Muhammad was thinking of leading prison reforms. Johnstone Muthama was making capital of 3 days of imprisonment drawing parallels to the Kapenguria 6.  Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri who had fainted in court had a Saul to Paul transformation and gave such a touching confession about his rogue past, I almost reached for the tissue box.

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