Of Miguna And That Nairobi Debate

Political TV public debates are becoming standard fare in the election cycle. Kenyans want to know what their leaders sound like and whether they can stand up to personal scrutiny required of public office. Debates are a space to toot one’s horn for all to hear. They allow observers to look for signals of high status within the male group, and for the debaters to demonstrate strength, courage and competence.

So when the candidates for the governor position lined up last week for a debate organised by KTN news, Nairobi was watching. It was an all man panel, four candidates and moderated by KTN’s Joe Ageyo. On the stage were the incumbent Evans Kidero, Nairobi Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth and independent candidate Miguna Miguna.

Of Miguna And Our Basket Of Deplorables

In America, we trust and look up to, so it was not going to be long before Kenyans jumped the bandwagon from Barrack Obama’s good manners to Donald Trump’s chauvinism. Good values are great in private but out in public, running for high office, a touch of aggression, bullying, chauvinism, flamboyance and an air of superiority is how to get noticed as an outsider in politics. The person who speaks his mind, irrespective of how disparaging his remarks are, is still respected for voicing his truth.

Miguna Miguna seems to personify this Trump brand of politics. He takes no prisoners, abuses anyone who disagrees with his position and generally comes across as the kind of intellectual bully who could talk Tony Gachoka under a table.

Patriotic Mourners

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TeamKenya is out in London and the corporate and politicians are going hoarse trying outshout themselves to prove to whoever is watching that they love Kenya the most. The Olympic season is characterized by an overload of patriotic messages. Switch on the telly, buy a newspaper and out pops another timely reminder of why you should be proud to be Kenyan.

I remember fondly those gullible years as a child looking up longing to those kids who got to welcome the president from a trip abroad, flapping their mini flags. I was envious of those young patriots and admired their pride for the motherland. I wondered why I was not like them. Why did I mumble over the words of the second stanza of our national anthem and why had I never thought of using the flag as duvet?

I was reminded of that period recently when I read a tweet from none other than PM Raila Odinga urging patriotic Kenyans to come together in large numbers and vote for Prezzo. My patriotic antenna flickered to life. “ The Prezzo of what?”

Prezzo the musician of the chopper-over-fence fame continues to up the ante so much so that he has some big hitters shouting from his corner among them Nairobi governor aspirant Philip Kisia and media don Chris Kiribu all weighing in. Turns out Prezzo is the ‘it” factor in a reality show house filled with bored and sexually frustrated housemates from around Africa and is a hot favourite to win the cash prize and everyone loves a winner. I remember when Prezzo was chosen to represent Kenya in the Big Brother Africa Star Game. I wondered why the minister for foreign affairs offered no comment. I mourned about the would-be damage to the country’s image abroad. I was simply being patriotic.

As a true patriot I speak from experience. I have lived through recurring absurdities of Kenyan reality and turned into an optimistic pessimist. I have learnt to manage expectations. Things generally tend to get worse before they can become better. My brand of patriotism is laced with cynicism.

Attempt to perk me up with artistic impression of Vision 2030 and I sneer back, “Whatever happened to Water For All Before the Year 2000”. Make a big deal about the Thika Superhighway and I worry about maintenance. Try and cheer up the mood with Konza city and our Silicon Valley potential and I will complain about the dominance of western conglomerates turning us into mindless consumers. Switch topics to Team Kenya’s hopes at the London Olympics and I start mourning about the AK (Athletics Kenya) and why chairman Isaiah Kiplagat needs to step down to pave way for youthful leadership if Kenya does not top the Beijing tally of 6 gold medals. Bring up youthful leadership and the retort is that I would rather have Uncle Moody Awori out of retirement than re elect Mike Mbuvi aka “sehemu-nyeti” back to parliament.

The one characteristic shared by genuine patriots, is that they mourn about everything. Outsiders and politicians may insist on wearing rosy tinted glasses and keep gushing on about Kenya’s great potential now that we have a new constitution. True patriots know why the glass is half empty. Indeed, only those who care about Kenya would bother to mourn about it. Ask Miguna Miguna.

Another Classic We Won’t Buy

The latest tell-all book on coalition intrigues, “Peeling Back the Mask” by Miguna Miguna, a former aide to the Prime Minister Raila Odinga has the country buzzing with excitement because everyone relishes a good scandal. The Kibaki presidency has provided ample fodder for investigative journalists’ but interestingly nothing out the Moi ‘error’ seems to be rolling out from the publishers. As expected, one look at the price tag, pegged at kshs 3300 and most Kenyans decided there was really no point of buying a personal copy when one could glean extracts off Twitter, Facebook, random blogs and serialized pages. For the PM’s supporters who find Miguna’s abrasive’s nature annoying, the entire text will be dismissed based on a few choice lines. On the other hand, for Raila Odinga’s critics who have a score to settle, Miguna joins the league of John Githongo, uncelebrated whistle blowers putting their reputation and lives on the line to expose the filth of the political elite. In a country like Kenya where gossip is headline news, Miguna’s book ‘Peeling back the Mask” is positioned to become a classic. In Kenyan-speak, a classic, to paraphrase Mark Twain is a book everyone has an opinion about that very few have actually read.