THE DAY MRS NYONG'O FAILED TO RECOGNISE MR NYONG’O
Updated: Jul 17, 2021
I recount this incident with anger at the expense of being branded the outsider who wept more than the bereaved because I am still seething since the day after the speech in London following the 2013 Kenyan General Election fiasco.
Long before '12 years a slave' was captured on film a serial campaigner lived a life worth putting on the screen.
The academic opposition campaigner walked out of the Kenyan devils house, Nyayo torture chambers in the afternoon after being locked in the basement dungeons for weeks.
Disorientated he started walking towards city centre. Then turned at Law courts to walk towards Nairobi West. He had not a single cent in his pocket. He was so dishevelled even a Nairobi lunatic would not want to associate with him. In the words of singer Bruce Springsten in Philadelphia song, "not even an angel is gonna come near me" if I am so emaciated that I look like the devil. And not even an angel will come near you after you are released from Nyayo torture chambers purely on your looks. And true, that in the reign of terror in Kenya all men of God scampered to Moi's side apart from Bishop Okullu and Bishop Some Muge.
After working the professor over they released him minus even his own shoes. All he had on were clothes dripping wet. He was stinking of urine and stale water. He had not shaved for days. His hair was worse than unkempt. At Uhuru/Nyayo stadium roundabout he suddenly realised he was going the opposite way.
So he turned 180 degrees and started walking westwards. Nairobi can be a lonely place. When you are down Nairobi is a deserted soulless place. You can meet your closest friends who 5 hours ago you were having banter with but now everything they are saying seems to come from a hollow place.
Everything becomes a dream just flying past you. You don't even see the pick pockets. And they also seem not to see you. Pickpockets don't care about losers. In fact, you are an invisible man. Nobody seems to ask how you are doing or where you are going. Nobody wants to lose. And you don't care either. When you lose a dearest you walk in such a dungeon. Nothing seems to matter. I am sure you all have lived it.
It's in that state that the professor started walking towards his house. After being in such a fearful place he decided to take the main road. He did not care for himself now.
So he doubled up on Uhuru highway towards the sunset. And he could easily have been tempted to walk all the way to Kisumu. The whole world appeared to have parted like the Red Sea. Nairobi had decided to move on without him. That is how the world works. Forget what they write in books or retell by the fireplace. The world has moved on before without greater heroes and will continue to move on.
He walked by Parliament buildings then... intercontinental hotel... then levelled past GPO but did not even look right. They say when you know what's in the letter you never bother to read it. So he continued past University grounds. None of his students could recognise him in this state. He passed Club 1900 to Westlands. Always walking on the side of the road facing on-coming traffic. In that way, whoever wants to kill him will worry about his attempts to evade the attack.
He manoeuvred the Westlands roundabout and walked in front of Agip Motel and Pizza Garden. The strange thing is he could recognise most of the patrons of the Pizza Garden but he had been left in such a state nobody could recognise him.
He walked past Aga Khan high school, then Kenyatta "Magego" with ABC plaza on the left. He avoided turning towards Lavington lest he meets police officers from Muthangari police stations because he had no identification to prove who he was. He walked as if going to Nairobi school gate B then crossed the road towards Ewaso Nyiro road. He then walked towards Apostolic Nunciature then took the path by the rear compound of Muthangari police station... then St Bernard's Primary school, past Mzima springs on Strathmore College.
As he turned on the next road on the right, he saw his wife driving towards him but she did not recognise him despite his acknowledging smile. Maybe because the sun threw a shadow in the left side of his face. Any way he turned right and walked the short 200 metres towards his house.
Interestingly his wife had forgotten to take the milk she bought at the Kiosk. So she drove back. But with the Nairobi sunset fully lighting his face still she could not recognise him.
He got home first. Then saw her driving back, so waited to open the gate for her. She drove in wondering what shaggy stand-in watchman they had brought.
She got out of the car. Picked the groceries and locked the car. And was surprised the gatekeeper was following her to the door. Startled She turned around looked in his eyes to assess the intention and lurking danger of the stand in gate man.
Instead her eyes met the twinkling eyes she had fallen in love with years in the past. Only this time they had tears. She did not care whether they were tears of joy or pain. She dropped everything and fell in his arms for comfort. Then she slipped into a hollow darkness of comfort that she was in the arms of the love she has been seeking from police station to police station.
As he lifted her fainted body into the house the professor resolved to protect her from this pain. Never again. He had to flee just to protect her. The abominable had just happened. A woman does not forget her hubby. The hand never misses the mouth. Guok ok Ka ga migogo. Tragedy was knocking at their door. This was not home anymore. One person had to leave the other. They knew they had to vacate their home or tragedy will come to live in with them.
When she regained consciousness they both had shed all sorts of tears. Joy... pain.. Anger.. relief.. And they shed home as well. It was now just a house until they relocate out of the country. A house is a house even if there is no life or joy in it
This is an anecdote after a speech the professor gave in London, almost 40 years after this brush with the Moi regime. On this evening in central London professor gave a moving talk on why Africa should remove winner takes it all elections after observing the positive Kenyan experience in 1964 and in 2007. It was a speech lauded by all tribes in Diaspora. At this time Moi was over 10 years in retirement. President Kibaki also had been and gone into retirement.
Yet a civil servant had the effing nerve to call me in my private house to ask me why I shook the professors hand in a congratulatory manner. That the professor is not worth congratulating. And that the speech the professor had given was not welcome by Kikuyu community. Yet the Kikuyus at the function concurred with professor, that the greatest strides Kenya has made have been when Kikuyus and Luos work together. Ironically the professor was being tortured for speaking for Kenyans and mostly Kikuyu community whose throat President Moi had his boots on. So why would Kikuyus be upset ?
In any case, all I was telling the professor is that European guilt is pricking them for the lives of Luos in WW1- A war that had nothing to do with Africa and yet hundreds of thousands of able bodied Luos died serving. In fact Africans were so removed from the war that when the war ended they were not even told that the war had ended. Currently the conservatives in Westminster are now pushing for reparation for the WW1 vets. So my efforts to get to the professors ears was to initiate a preparedness dissemination so that descendants and relatives of WW1 should locate details of WW1 vets was not misplaced. It is happening. What was misplaced is the arrogance of this pencil pushing bureaucrat.
I honestly cannot arrogate that arrogance to Moi. That Kenyan Bureaucratic culture is a new Kenyan tribe. They are the biggest workforce and therefore influence so much whether its corruption, freedom of information or bad electoral process. Any perceivable equity in legislation must strike at the psyche of that culture.
It is the colonial version of public service community that ripped into Kenyan community after the Mzungu arrived. They dictate the economics unlike western communities which has a big and influential private sector. They created a new class order and are daily reading the unethical corruption playbook unperturbed.
Maybe the mess in Africa is because the colonial master cultivated a powerful tribe called bureaucratic civil servants that is more influential than the president with no ombudsman outlets. In the anecdote above the chief tormentors of professor Anyang’ Nyong’o and other Kenyans never resigned, were never called to account and are living lavishly into easy retirement. In fact, one is even a notorious son of the lake just like the bureaucrat who telephoned me to scold me for shaking the professor's hand.
Now this African concoction of bureaucratic culture is very foreign to Luo culture and the two should never be confused with each other.
Like all anecdotes it is inspired by a factual account by Professor; but prof did not live in Lavington but was unrecognizable by the madam. Any hyperbole to underscore the vile injustice is mine and mine alone. I hope you felt the pain we all felt during that speech.
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