TOM MBOYA: WHAT MANNER OF A MAN
Updated: Jan 15, 2021
HE WAS JUST A KID
We are killing an easy Sunday at a pub fashionably nicknamed Sarit Centre with Wakwitu the bar manager who was keeping me company after my appointment failed to show up. Wakwitu reached to stoke the jiko fire place when Edwin Moses the great American hurdler passed by. We stared at Edwin Moses in awe. Then he said, “Such people are miracles of our lives. To get a chance to sight them is a fate”.
I nodded in a subconscious agreement. Then he narrated to me how he chanced to meet the great Tom Mboya. ”They killed a kid. Tom Mboya was just a kid. He was mature beyond his age but a kid all the same. He was crisscrossing the world at 25 years of age. How many people do you know who have the world at their feet at such an age? They killed a kid!’
Then he went on to explain to me how he chanced to meet Tom Mboya.
Wakwitu and his friend were on a walkabout at Muthruwa railways staff quarters on the higher gound facing the country bus station when they saw Tom Mboya vehicle approaching. The the three amigos raced down by the aluminum fencing to wait for Tom Mboya vehicle to level them.
Their mission was not to catch sight of the VIP and cabinet minister. The three amigos were peeved because in the jostle of Kenyan federation versus a republic, Tom Mboya had maligned the Akamba community political party fondly known as APP.
The APP acronym officially means Akamba Peoples Party. There were other political parties as well such as Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) and of course the trench fighter, swashbuckling and domineering Kenya African National Union (KANU). KADU was toe to toe with KANU but KANU could mix it. If KANU missed votes they could physically fight back. And where they could not do either like the Lancaster Conference talks or Bahati Constituency then they rigged. And if all that failed, then they gerrymandered like at Limuru Conference Centre. And when push came to shove, then I can give you Pio Gama Pinto’s mobile phone number.
So Tom Mboya maligning APP acronym as Akamba Pick Pocket was to make them feel that they are of no consequence and was basically trying to pick KANU pickpockets for vote counts to move over to majimbo federalism camp.
But it was a double edged slur because it was cutting both ways. The few urban Akamba delinquent youths specialized in pick-pocketing. Which to me was a better crime because it was based on stealth without causing harm to the victim. Strategically it was up there with the best. It reminds me of the American general’s strategic management that is often quoted in management classes as an anecdote.
The US general had suffered a foot injury on the war front and walked with a limp. So this time he came face to face with a fortified resistance. He told his troops. “The enemy is strong. We cannot win here and we cannot retreat without making them think twice before pursuing us. We will be slaughtered if we do that. So in 6 hours’ time we will open a salvo of gun fire and as they take cover we will retreat very fast. Just run as fast as you can. As I am disabled I will start running away now”. And just like that, the US general took off. That is the Akamba strategy that is often quoted in management schools all over the world.
Anyway following the Tom Mboya abuse, the Akamba were amazed but not amused their own home grown boy could do that. Apologies, they were more than amazed. The youth were seething. It is in this heat that the then Wakwitu went to lay ambush for Tom Mboya on his way from Tom Mboya COTU offices near Buru Buru, Jogoo road, Nairobi.
Wakwitu and his friend waited for what seemed an eternity to inflict some pain on the great Tom Mboya and run away very first. Nobody is going to catch 10 years on a sprint. If Akamba elders cannot take on Tom Mboya, they will exert some damage on his pride.
So as soon as Tom Mboya vehicle leveled, they all opened a salvo ready to run fast when the vehicle stopped to return fire like the American general had planned. Then vehicle just leveled about two meters away and the tirade
Wakwetu goes first, “WEWE TOM MBOYA, *U*A YA MAMA YAKO’
Then second Amigo sequentially follows immediately, “WE’ TOM MBOYA, KINO KYA NYUKWA!”
And the third partner in crime now in a hurry synchronizes a shortened version, “KINO KE!”
Wakwitu and his friend knew that Tom Mboya spoke fluent Akamba language that is why they wanted some damage inflicted in local dialect.
The young men had grossly underestimated Tom Mboya. You don’t get to be a Pan Africanist in mid 20s unless you have developed a thick skin. You don’t get to lead a 60 year old to the presidency unless you are the special one. You don’t get to addressing continental gatherings in Accra, New York if you cannot anticipate youthful barbs. And you don’t lead a mammoth Trade Union in mid 20s if you have not prepared for your mothers private part being called to question in public.
As soon as the last salvo arrived, Tom Mboya in his sharp brains always in alert shifted the gears from gear 2 to over-drive in mini seconds. He turned his upper body half way with the speed of a lightning bolt and with his left hand pointing, conducting and distributing the salvo to the three amigos he unleashed, “NA HATA WEWE’ to the first boy. Then another “NA HATA WEWE!” to the second boy. Then equally, “NA HATA WEWE” to the third boy. And without the vehicle stopping he continued with chatting as if nothing had happened.
It was a masterpiece in timing. It was an impeccable response. The t's and i's of the eventuality had been taken care of. It was unparalleled in equitable distribution. It obeyed the fundamental accounting principles of FIFO (First In First Out). It was democratic. It was fair and just. In strategic planning it was up there with Don Corleone's of Mario Puzzo in the Godfather epic novel. None of the three amigos was left better off than the other. Most of all Tom Mboya had remained respectful to three little boys’ dignity.
To Wakwitu narrating the story to me. All these did not matter at that moment. They were completely overtaken by Tom Mboya’s response. What he recalls is that the three of them fell on the grass caving with laughter. They were vanquished. They had been completely disarmed.
The great Tom Mboya trading insults with them as if they were in a playground. That Tom Mboya humbled himself to be their age mates. Was this the humility that Jesus talked about in the bible? What manner of a man was Tom Mboya?
When I had a break through Wakwitu’s laughter of decades after the incident I asked Wakwitu, “Did Tom Mboya look back to see if he had disarmed you enough?”
Wakwitu answered, “No! He was so assured of his work. He just continued with Omeraaa, eeee, Ondiekk, eee, Rateng’, eeee as if nothing had happened…. Tu Tu Tu. …They killed that kid for no reason”.
What manner of a man was Tom Mboya?