The term Wabenzi never made it into the Sheng dictionary because the contemporary young generation may appreciate the sound engineering of a Mercedes Benz but it doesn’t hold the same sway it did in the 60s through to the 80s. Nonetheless it remains a status symbol. To prove that you are on your way up, drive a Merc and you will be amazed at how courteous policemen and watchmen become. In post colonial Africa, the Mercedes Benz was a must-have item among the emerging ruling class, the ultimate mark of success. Presidential convoys still consist of Mercs and riding in a sleek new model portrays an image of undeniable prestige. All the top government officials jostle for one. Seated in the back of a Merc with tinted windows and you immediately transform into someone of substance that people ought to know.
But if the 2013 elections have taught us anything, you won’t get too many heads turning and tongues wagging with a Benz.
To really make a last impression these days as a high flier, you may have to upgrade to a chopper for transport. I am forced to give Prezzo, the master of showbiz hype his due credit here. Ever since he flew over a fence from the Wilson airport to land in the adjacent Carnivore restaurant grounds for a music event, the standard was set. Nowadays, the only way to prove you have arrived is to descend from the sky in a cloud of dust like an extraterrestrial being.
Fortunately, Kenya has always had pragmatic leaders. When the roads gave way to craters, they started driving Prados and before long the attitude shifted to ‘why drive when you can fly’. The convenience is amazing. Imagine attending 5 public rallies in a day in different parts of the country and making it back to Nairobi, in time for a change of clothes and a live interview on prime time TV.
The amount of chopper traffic in the air during this electioneering period was unprecedented. Politicians hovered over the length and breadth of this country, landing in remote places, working up a storm and mesmerizing voters. Helicopters have set off extraordinary devotion and adulation among the masses. The whole act of descending from the sky holds almost mythical significance especially accompanied by a cacophony of noise enough to stir the dead. That is why arrivals are so important. They have to be grand, loud and disruptive. It is just not possible to make a silent entry with a chopper.
Helicopters are so far removed from the reality of the general populace that it almost insulting to talk of an affordable chopper. Hourly hire rates are in a different stratosphere and the earthbound motorist whining about rising fuel prices would suffer instant depression if they were told what it costs to fuel a chopper.
In this nation, when the high achievers talk of the country taking off, they conveniently forget to mention that they expect citizens to stay on the ground and wave. Future presidential candidates hoping to make a bleep in the opinion polls will have to commute by air. A serious leader has to be seen to hover above everyone and everything to quite literally seen to be on top of things. It might be lonely at the top they say but no one complains about the view.
Image source: Business Daily