Papa Was A Rolling Stone

“Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance”.

Ruth Runkel

I do not have kids of my own…none that I know of at least. On that score alone, I am the most ill suited to give advice on fatherhood. What do I know about midnight runs to the chemist and the pressure of paying school fees or the agony of a teacher’s strike?

But this article is about transitioning into manhood and why it is important for boys to be mentored into mature men. In Drivers of Violence- a study on Male Disempowerment in The African Context, Kenyan author Anzetse Were makes a strong appeal for concerted Male empowerment.

“African men in particular must make a deliberate point to acquire knowledge and actively seek mentors to help them transition into manhood. Once those in our generation evolve into men, the future generations will be better off. For their children will have mature men to guide and encourage their transition into manhood.”

Even though my own father passed on when I was in my puberty years I have never lacked fathers. Traditionally, I was brought up to understand that anyone who was of my father’s generation was a father.

Many assigned themselves to me, many others I adopted along the way. I quickly learnt that fatherhood is not limited to a biological link. Fathers come in all shapes and sizes. All one has to do is pay attention.

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 fell 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.

Ask For Help Before Digging Your Own Grave

Amidst all the drama and explosions, that characterized the better part of last week news out of Nairobi and Mombasa, you might have missed this piece of bizarre news. Out in the counties, in Trans Nzoia, a man dug his own grave and tried to bury himself alive in a little village called Tivani.

The man who was only identified as a tout in the news broadcast was captured standing in freshly dug grave. He was lanky with a scrawny frame, baggy trousers fastened crudely around his waist and was bare-chested. The reporter kept calling him a young man but he looked like had aged overnight to easily pass for a stressed out alcoholic in his fifties. Residents stated that he dug the grave overnight and was found in the morning laboring to bury himself alive. The cause this great distress was ‘marital problems’ which in this country is a euphemism for troublesome spouse.

Fortunately, the offending wife got a chance to share her side of her story. She expressed resignation. She had tried everything in her power to lift a brother up, cover the sorry excuse he was for man to no avail. The man had simply dropped his responsibilities and stopped caring about the consequences. His wife had turned into his mother and she had gotten tired of saving her spineless man. Fortunate for him, he had compassionate neighbors and the services of elders and pastors. In some parts of this country, he would have been probably labeled a social misfit and flogged back to his senses. Or buried.

The story illustrates a brand of thoughtlessness that is quite prevalent in the country. It is generally accepted that the potential for male idiocy knows no bounds.

There was a famous trending story about a decade ago of a Kenyan male who tried to milk an elephant. Cases of randy men going rogue and assaulting farm animals do feature in this realm. Suicide incidents as result of heart break after a football game are predominantly composed of male victims. We frequently see university students going wild at the slightest provocation.  Or political hirelings courting death for causes they have no understanding of.

Men tend to act in this manner when dealing with acute anxiety. They go paranoid with the dread that something beyond their control will cause harm, rendering them helpless in their roles as protectors. Paranoia over one’s economic position, the overbearing influence of politics on personal lives, a growing distrust for immigrant communities and crackling religious tension can give way to recklessness. It is easier to surrender to escapism and exist in a suspended fantasy than deal with the waking reality.

A culture of individualism is also eroding our coping mechanism.  Whenever there are limited outlets to exhale outside of a drinking den, small marital issues that would have been easily resolved by counsel, escalate into irreconcilable differences and lead to desperate action. Once communication channel between partners is blocked, mistrust grows. The susceptibility for distrust increases and the conversation moves from, “I don’t understand him” to “he does not listen” and eventually, “he despises me”. Something eventually gives and the fall out never augurs well for the children caught in the squabble.

Women cope better with stress because they reach out and share pain. There is a lesson in the grave incident. Men should learn that there is no shame in asking for help when you are drowning.