Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A blog post about Shambolic times

I imagine the number of eyeballs transfixed on Julie Gichuru’s Sunday Live show on Citizen TV was in the millions. Peter Kenneth had been scheduled to be on the show, and had tweeted about it earlier. I was looking forward to that interview.
At the beginning of the bulletin however, Ms. Gichuru announced that Nairobi’s Biggest boys (for now) Ferdinand Clifford Waititu and Evans Kidero, both running for Nairobi’s Governor Seat were on the popular show. Together.

(P.S I refuse to use the word gubernatorial in my blog, as well as the word shambolic- the title of this blog doesn't count :-) .

I was too tired and didn't catch the interview, but next day I managed to catch it online. It was quite the show. On one hand you had Baba Yao talking about his plan for Nairobi in his regular street smart way, and the other hand, Kidero, the man famed for Mumias Sugar’s turnaround, who I would like to call Nairobi’s middle class choice.

This blog however, isn't about that debate, or how Waititu managed to sway some more votes his way or what was largely perceived as Kidero’s arrogance judging by my twitter timeline. It also isn't about the middle class that was accused of “tweeting” votes from the comfort of their desks instead of moving their backsides to the primaries poll stations.

I’d like to engage with you about the lack of information, ownership in primaries or party nominations and lagging interest in politics in general.

That is not a middle class problem. It is a Kenyan problem.

I remember way back then when party nominations were a day when people were transported in hired heavily branded buses, wearing colorful T-shirts headed to Kasarani. Many of the party members attending, apart from those with political ambitions and had something at stake; were incentivized. That is an open secret. A number however attended because they understood their role in the voting system, while others were true supporters of their parties, with loyalty only seen during KANU days.

But last week’s primaries got me thinking, what really happened? Why didn’t the middle class largely participate? Or is the grassroots the politicians’ playground?
A random survey in my office, home and circle of friends showed that very few people actually knew that they were, as registered voters to attend the primaries and vote in a candidate of their choice who would then stand at the main polls on March 4th.

Some thought only registered members of political parties were to attend, some thought the only time they needed to vote was on March 4th, and others had no idea what the primaries were all about. Many are not registered in any party, and most are not even sure which party they want to vote for.

Martin, my hair dresser said he knew about the primaries, because of the activation that should have had NEMA arrest the event organizers, which were too loud to be ignored. Why did he not attend? His answer, “because I had to work.”
For all we know, it has been standard that one has to be a member of a political party to vote in the primaries, but under the current law, political parties create their own nomination rules.

For party primaries, each party’s election board created rules over who should vote in the primaries. ODM aligns itself to Universal suffrage, meaning anyone with a national ID card, over 18 could vote for the primaries, whether or not you registered as a party member. This means, if ODM is your party of choice, then you failed your party if you did not vote in the primaries.

My argument is; Most Kenyans do not really know what party nominations were all about and why it was pertinent that they put their vote in.

I spoke with “Boss”, Citizen TV’s Managing editor Peter Opondo who argued that the argument should be about where politics actually ranks on the priority list of Kenyans.

I agree.

It is in retrospect, a combination of both.

In the words of Kofi Annan; Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.

I believe that information seekers in Kenya’s political scene are driven by a hunger for knowledge, liberation, self-education, and ultimately, inclusion.
I believe that a number of the middle class who voted last week went out of their way to find out their rights and roles as citizens and most important, as voters.
Civic education was basically at ground zero.

But, when the system fails, we don’t have to go down with it. Sometimes the system will plan to fail so voters are locked out of a process that would be transformational. If more people knew that primaries are in fact a mini election, and in some places, an outright ticket, we would have seen a lot more involvement.

Kenyans (and not only the middle class) will need to get off their comfort zones and place politics higher up their priority gradient.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Too late to the Party?

In many ways that friend could be Ronald Osumba.

When I first heard the news about him taking up a position as running mate in Peter Kenneth's Eagle Alliance on Monday, just 46 days to elections, what went through my mind was “perfect, but is this is a perfect Johnny come lately moment!
Ronald Osumba is an admirable man, at 33 years of age.

Here’s how part of resume looks like:

Chairman at Old Stareheian Society

Senior Manager - Public Sector Sales at Safaricom Limited

Managing Committee Member at Starehe Boys Centre and School

Board Chairman at Youth Employment Systems

Honorary Patron at Gem Youth Network

Television Talk show Host at Hatua Show

Many 33 year old Kenyans will not have similar Curriculum Vitae. It strongly mirrors a man who is passionate about his society, strategically or not; a man who’s got his hands deep in the issues facing young Kenyans.

But, why was he so late to the party?

“Who is Ronnie Osumba” could as well have been a trending topic on twitter for most of Monday.

What many do not know was that he has been the chairman of Peter Kenneth’s campaign team, which begs the question, why did PK take so long to unveil his running mate.

45 days to go, and Ronnie has just that to convince young people why he should be VP.

Imagine this, a young man would meet a girl today, and will have to wait for 90 days, (The 90 day Rule) you know the story about the birds and the bees? Well, Ronnie, as he is referred to by friends, has only half of that period

Peter Kenneth’s team and ambitions offer Kenyans a professional almost sophisticated leadership that the middle class would have their ears pinned back for. It is a team that will have no problem with eloquence and articulation of matters, and perhaps, as Old boys of Starehe School, symbolize and promise some level of morality that this country lacks in numerous ways.

I imagine that If Ronald’s candidacy was announced mid last year, and he had been vocal right from the beginning; many young people would be backing PK just because of his running mate, and Ronald would have had a solid plate on his table.

Ronald was born and raised in Nairobi’s Kibera. That easily translates to a connection with the youth, in a style and language that the big boys can only dream of. Even Raphael Tuju’s acquired sheng campaign will never connect in the same way. However, that the PK team may not have enough time to grow these numbers, something Waititu and Sonko, have (unfortunately) done extremely well

The Starehe Boys (PK, Tuju and Osumba) tag will also have to wear off fast as Kenyans online continue to roll their eyes saying a disadvantaged background does not necessarily beget leadership.

Young Kenyans need to believe in someone of a different strain; a young, professional, aspirational brand that Kenya’s young so badly need to emulate.

I would have loved to see Osumba mature in politics before being unveiled yesterday. To see him speak to masses and blast away on the campaign trail, build a confidence and charisma that only comes with being a politician.

To PK and Osumba, all the very best, I would love to see people like you lead this country, if it isn't a little too late, but keep running! Or Soar; you know what they say about Eagles!

"May the road rise up to meet you; May the wind be always at your back."
-Irish Proverb

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


It's been a few tight lipped days on my blog, so let's have a laugh shall we?

This weekend, the amazing Liquid Deep band was in town, and, my daughter and I were among the thousands of Nairobians (and Summer Bunnies) who turned up. It was full to the rafters, it just felt hot and musky, even though the weather wasn’t that warm; like someone dropped me right in the middle of buzzy market place somewhere in Nigeria. Ok, I digress, but you get the point? Thanks.

When Imani, my daughter asked “Mummy, what’s a summer bunny?” We had quite a laugh trying to explain it to her.

December is official Summer Bunny month, and my diaspora holiday started off at Sankara, a friend had pals come over for the holidays, and I went with her to have a night cap by the rooftop.

I sat next to a gentleman with rather big hair, “(we no longer wear our hair long, dear diaspora boys, especially if you’re over 19.) Let’s call him Alan. I’m not good at making friends, but I managed to start a conversation with Alan. I asked him about his stay here and where he was from. “I’m from Baltimore” he said with a heavy American accent. He has been away for 8 years. He loves the new roads; he only wishes public transport was functional. He continued “you know in Baltimore….” I threw up a little.

About a week later I went to K1 after work with Maggie, our beautiful make-up artist. It was a summer bunny assembly.

They have an accent; mostly it’s a mix of accents. A healthy mix of Kenyaneese and Americanese.

They wear shades at night. I’ll never get over that.

I’m in Nairobi on a windy night, it might even rain, but little Miss thing walks into K1 with boob tube and leggings, she is on a beach in Saint Pete, Florida. ( I googled that, I have never been to Florida) I’m just hating because she had such an amazing little waist.

LL Cool J aint that cool anymore, drop the cap, especially in the club. And don’t lick your lips.

Buy a belt, Lil Wayne can pass without one, you can’t, really. Sagging pants is so 2002.

They wish MacDonald’s was here and KFC doesn’t “gerrit” , I told him they import potatoes from Egypt.

They complain about the roads, traffic jams and customer care, that’s ok, but when they add “ If this was an American restaurant”….good night, I can only handle so much on one night!

Feel Free to share your own diaspora holidays in the comment box underneath!

and, dear diaspora Don’t hate me, I love you too much!

Bring me a gift from America next time? :-)

Monday, January 7, 2013


All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.
--William Bernbach, DDB Needham Worldwide, 1989.

Saturday afternoon was perhaps the best beginning of the new year for me. I spent it at what was to be a cozy meet up of minds at the Serena, called by IMG PR’s Charles Gacheru. (Charles, Thank you for an amazing meet up).

It was great catching up with journalists and media players who I have worked with in different capacities over the last few years, and as over time we have changed employers, we have all become each other’s competition, it was amazing just to listen to stories of how and what makes us journalists, but what made my evening was a discussion on Thought leadership (or lack of thereof) in our media circles today.

Jebet Amdany brought the challenge to the slab, and asked us, if we as journalists are really interested in shaping the perceptions, views and opinions that the country will carry, or if we are standing by, watching as others take that role.
She talked of Jaindi Kisero, Wachira Waruru (who’s writing I would kill to read) Macharia Gaitho and other veteran journalists who for years shaped and without fear became the watchdogs of the country.

Let me back track and define Thought Leadership before we delve further into it.
A thought leader is an authority in a certain matter. He or She is considered the go to person on certain issues. He is an opinion shaper, he is respected, and his judgment is trusted. He provides clarity on concerns; he is a teacher, a leader.

According to Forbes:

A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.

The current crop of thought leaders has guided us through the years. Creating opinions on which to vote for and why, delving deep into topical matters and raising concerns that stir within the populace a need to react, or respond to national issues. They have been for years the reason why we buy the Sunday newspapers that are laced with opinion pages.

But what happens when Macharia Gaitho stops writing? Who, in the younger generation of scribes will fit into the shoes of those who we now address with reverence? Unfortunately, I cannot name one young journalist.

The issue of mentor-ship did arise, with most saying diving into the deep end without a coach has created a crop that’s too busy trying to get it right first, as individuals. It would be then difficult to begin to grow yourself as a brand that becomes the voice of clarity on topical national matters.

When Christian Amanpour pushes her guests between a rock and a hard place, she jolts the rest of us to begin to believe that even we can question leadership in high places. That is the kind of thought leadership that must be cultivated among journalists.

The ability to question not only stems from mentor-ship, but also from passion and a deep seated dedication to your country. That, evidenced from the meet up, may actually be the first step to deal with because the question “why should I care” did pop up more than once.

I beg to ask my generation of journalists:

What did those that set the pace for us does that took them to another level of respect with their readers and viewers?

What drives us? Is it the 50 thousand shillings extra by the next employer or a need to do something for the country?

Who will you want to be remembered as when you die? The hottest anchor in town, or the scribe that lived for his country?

The line between activism and journalism was pretty thin then, now we have a whole rift valley between the two, what drove the crater that deep?

We need to go back to the drawing board and begin to question what being a journalist really means. Perhaps then, we can begin to appreciate the pedestal we are on and use if for what it is rightfully intended for.

News Corporation, today, reaches people at home and at work... when they're thinking... when they're laughing... and when they are making choices that have enormous impact. The unique potential.. and duty.. of a media company are to help its audiences connect to the issues that define our time.
--Rupert Murdoch