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PROSE A PUBLICATION OF EPSILON PUBLISHERS

JUNE - JULY 2018 ǀ 11TH EDITION

MAGAZINE

GOVERNANCE ISSUE

THE FACE OF LEADERSHIP Mendi Njonjo

PUBLIC POLICY A special place in hell: a public procurement story

TRAVEL

Tour d'Afrique


Editorial | Translation | Publishing | Printing

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CO N T E N T S

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09 12 16

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CO N T E N T S

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Reading

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Child rights

34 36 38

The self help book Break the silence on violence against children

Book review

The Potter's Wheel By Chukwuemeka Ike

The diary of a budding writer In character

Brother Paul

PROSE M A G A Z I N E

MANAGING DIRECTOR R. Mumbi Gichuhi OPERATIONS MANAGER Mary Wagura EDITOR Mark Muthiora LEAD CREATIVE Patrick Waswani ACCOUNTANT Joyce Mbugu

EPSILON PUBLISHERS LIMITED Gemina Court George Padmore Road Kilimani, Nairobi P.O. Box 1175-00606 Nairobi Kenya Tel +254 (0) 733 333 600 publish@epsilon.co.ke www.epsilon.co.ke

@publisherkenya facebook.com/epsilonpublishers Epsilon Publishers

Prose is published six times a year by Epsilon Publishers Limited. The opinions expressed therein are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Epsilon Publishers Limited. Š 2018 Epsilon Publishers Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission from the publisher.

Epsilon Publishers Limited is proud of its commitment in embodying the spirit of the United Nations Global Compact whose fundamental pillars are to their strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. To this end, Epsilon Publishers has signed the letter of commitment to the United Nations Global Compact, pledging to align our efforts to operate responsibly and to advance societal goals in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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W E LCO M E

N OT E

Of city identity, good governance and Wanjiku, and touring Africa on two wheels.

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will begin this editorial piece with a confession. I have spent the last two weekends binge watching The Real Househelps of Kawangware. The show’s producer is an acquaintance of mine, and my friend on Facebook. So when I saw her post that there were new episodes airing on a local TV channel, I found myself on YouTube watching Season one Episode one. The Real Househelps of Kawangare ab initio as it were. Several episodes later, I began to get fascinated about how rich a social commentary the show was. It tackles the issues that we grapple with as a society; from corruption to our get-rich-quick schemes, to attempts at social climbing at whatever cost and so on. Yet there is also the soft underbelly side to our culture, a more forgiving and tolerant side. The characters on the show are from different ethnic communities who relate well to each other. Inasmuch as half the time they are up to all manner of ploys and shenanigans with and/ or against each other, in times of need, they rally together to give

whatever kind of assistance that they can. Notwithstanding that the show is set in Kawangare, which is considered to be a neighbourhood chiefly of Nairobi’s working class, it nevertheless is a portrayal of your typical Nairobian culture. Our main feature this month is Nai Ni Who? - a two month festival run by Nairobi’s The Godown Art Centre. The festival is conducted in the various estates and neighbourhoods of Nairobi where it gives city residents a platform to express themselves about their identity as denizens of Kenya’s capital city. It also includes a guided tour to various parts of the city where the city’s rich historical identity is unearthed as well as showcasing Nairobi’s diversity. In my view, Nai Ni Who? - is a rich cultural expression of who we are. Our leader this month is Mendi Njonjo, who takes us through the paces of what Hivos East Africa, where she is the director, is all about. In this edition, we also welcome two new contributors, Brenda Kariuki and Wangari Muikia. Brenda

is an advocacy specialist whose primary focus is on child rights. Her contribution to Prose is invaluable because if we don’t sort out the fundamental child rights, we leave a precarious future for our children, in terms of what being deliberate about what kind of leaders we shall have in the future. Her maiden article is fortuitous in that it coincides with the month (June) that we celebrate the Day of the African Child. Wangari is an economist whose area of expertise is public policy. Through her articles we shall strive to break down issues around public policy and governance and their implications at the grassroots level. In essence, how they affect ‘Wanjiku’, and conversely, how ‘Wanjiku’ can engage more effectively with policymakers. On travel, Alex Kirubi shares with us resplendent photography of a cycle tour dubbed “Tour d'Afrique”. This and much more in the June-July 2018 edition of Prose. Enjoy.

Mumbi Gichuhi

PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2018

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Obelisk (noun) –

A tapering stone pillar, typically having a square or rectangular cross section, set up as a monument or landmark

A little bit of trivia Mind your language Aphorism

Onomatopoeia

An aphorism is a concise saying intended to portray a general truth or principle. A classic example of an aphorism is from Oscar Wilde’s literature which states that, “Anyone can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend’s success.”

An onomatopoeia is a word that imitates, resembles or suggests the sound that it describes. As an uncountable noun, onomatopoeia refers to the property of such words. Examples include buzz, hiss, bang and tweet.

NGŨGĨ WA THIONG'O

Famous quotes 6

PAUL KAGAME

Language, any language, has a dual character: it is both a means of communication and a carrier of culture.”

In Africa today, we recognise that trade and investment, and not aid, are pillars of development.”

- Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Kenyan writer

- Paul Kagame, Rwandan president

PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2018

Zenzizenzizenzic

The eighth power of a number

Cicatrise To heal a wound through scarring

Alamort Exhausted, half-dead

LUISA DIOGO

It is no country’s destiny to be poor.” - Luisa Diogo, former prime minister of Mozambique


Riddles A riddle, or enigma, is a question or statement intentionally phrased so as to require ingenuity in ascertaining its answer or meaning. One of the bestknown riddles is found in the bible, Samson’s riddle. Samson, the Nazirite, wagers a riddle with thirty Philistine men as thus, “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” The Philistines threaten his wife and she manages to extract the answer from Samson and which is, “What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?” This as Samson had slew a lion and later found honey in its carcass. Other riddles include: R: How many pigeons can you put in an empty drawer? A: One. After that, the drawer is not empty. R: What kind of coat is always wet when you put it on? A: A coat of paint. R: Why can’t someone who is living in Kenya not be buried in Tanzania? A: Because he is still living.

Etymology Salary

A salary is a fixed regular payment, typically paid on a monthly basis but often expressed as an annual sum, made by an employer to an employee, especially a professional or white-collar worker. Ever arrived home very late, take-away in tow (chicken and chips), only to discover that you have run out of salt? Time you appreciated this common food seasoning. And they did so in the ancient past when salt was a rare commodity hence the word salary being derived from the Latin word salarium, the portions of salt paid to Roman soldiers.

Babel

A babel is a confused noise made by a number of voices. Perhaps you have read the narrative of the Tower of Babel in the bible. Found in Genesis, the narrative had it that in the early days after creation, people spoke one language. They came together and decided to build a tower that reached into heaven. However, the Lord caused them to start speaking in different languages hence they were unable to build this tower in the ensuing confusion.

Religion

Religion is defined as the belief in and worship of a deity or a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion. Said Karl Marx, “Religion is the opium of the people.” Karl Marx’s teachings, and which criticised religion, were the foundation of communism. Consequently, many states that practiced communism suppressed religion; which is ironic in that Marxism ended up as the new religion in these states. Enough about Karl Marx. The word religion is thought to origin from the Latin word religare which means to ‘bind fast’, in the manner of ‘bond between humans and gods.’ PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2018

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P O E T RY

Transient Still and silent gliding by smoothly lending tranquillity to a mind at rest. Yet, on some days it falls violently taking rocks, huge for it to contain. Rage is a brother to serenity though the coupling be odd, at the hips the two join. So we ride them out knowing as seasons one follows the other and sense is made.

For they were brave How we sang their praises How we chanted their names How we named our children After them, these gods and goddesses of valour. They were to deliver us Free us from our bondage Chart a different way Fulfil our desires and respite in the shade. But they too tasted power and now we are ashamed of the names of our children for they have us in bondage now known by another name.

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R E A D I N G

The self-help book “I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, ‘Where’s the self-help section?’ She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.” - George Carlin

L

ife, like the sky, keeps changing. Today it is clear, sky blue, sunny; tomorrow it is grey, cold, hopeless. Yet, life goes on. And as this continuum unfolds, the constants are always there: we are born, we go to school, we date, we find work, we marry, we rise through the ranks at the work place, we raise children, we file taxes, we change jobs, we retire, we die… But most important, we learn continuously. From cave paintings to oral literature to paper to the printing press to computers to the internet, man has always hungered to communicate. This by way of expressing his thoughts and emotions, telling stories, passing down knowledge and keeping stock of his

possessions. Which need spawned the different mediums listed above. And what is the place of the self-help book in man’s life? To inspire, to motivate, to challenge, to showcase and to induce a paradigm shift in his thinking and doing. In this regard, self-help books are the distilled knowledge, experiences, and wisdom of others who have trodden life’s many paths and which paths we now find ourselves. And so, these books guide us through these paths such that our journeys are less weary, more manageable and more fulfilling. Moreover, self-help books are not tied down to a particular subject. Whether navigating married life, seeking the meaning of life, striving

to live a fulfilled life or making a career switch, the self-help book has got you covered. Think of them as a personal therapist or trainer, minus the outrageous fees they charge. That said, self-help books are only useful if you put into practice their lessons. For instance, if reading a self-help book on weight loss, it may require you to cut down on your carbs intake. However, should you ignore this, then the book won’t be of much help to you. Famous titles of this genre include How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2018

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P U B L I C

P O L I C Y

A special place in hell:

a public procurement story

WANGARI MUIKIA Director at Expertise Global Consulting Ltd – a public finance management advisory services firm.

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W

as there ever a time when there would have been an uproar if the person in charge of buying stuff for the government (the procurement officer) intentionally changed the orders to personally benefit financially? Or was there a time when news like this would hit the national headlines, and heads would roll? If there was, it is not even a vague memory at this point. In fact, in the Kenya I know, people are more likely to be shocked at clean procurement processes more than anything. That would be news. This is in most part an issue of sheer volume and frequency. Corruption is so rife that Kenyans have but seconds to start to be outraged at one thing before another is on the table. And we don’t have enough time in the day for seconds of outrage. Not because we don’t care. No, it’s because it’s exhausting, and the ordinary mwananchi wouldn’t even know where to begin to make a change. The dailies these days hardly ever report on the ravages of corruption. It’s not news.

News by definition, is something that is completely out of the ordinary. Corruption for us is only news when people find new and inventive ways to fleece us. But I’m talking more specifically about corruption that happens when procurement officers – the officers who buy stuff on behalf of the government – snub the specifications outlined by sectoral experts on the goods they need procured, in order for them to fulfil their service delivery obligations. Let’s take a moment to recall what happened three years ago when a report revealed that Bungoma County had purchased ten wheelbarrows for just about Ksh 1,100,000, putting each wheelbarrow at a cost of almost Ksh 110,000. Was this a clear-cut case of corruption? Well, the answer lies in the follow up questions. Were these the original wheelbarrows requested by the abattoir experts? If they were, why are specialised wheelbarrows needed for use at a chicken slaughterhouse? Who


ordered them? Who approved them? Is there a document justifying their purchase? A standard wheelbarrow bought at the local hardware store costs approximately Ksh 5,000; why aren’t these wheelbarrows sufficient for use? Was an investigation conducted? What were the findings? What did the county end up buying? Were the final purchases different from the original order? If they were, why? Now, I am far from a chicken slaughterhouse expert, but this story cannot be taken at face value. There are reasons why counties have to procure certain items, with the proper justification and approvals. But of course, there is also corruption and the wheelbarrows needed may have been the ordinary hardware store ones, and the whole saga a big masquerade for pieces of grand scale corruption. A few weeks ago, I went upcountry to one of the more remote regions of Kenya – to a marginalised county. Where there is one good road with one good city with one good supermarket – and the rest is just boundless tracks of untouched land. I was part of a team assessing the capacity of the health sector to effectively deliver public services. When we met the county health officers, we talked about procurement. We talked about the time when the health team placed an order for incubators including specific details on the brand, size, voltage and whatnot needed, to provide a basic standard of service. What they got was not what they ordered. They got incubators alright, but the specs were all wrong. The health team was caught between a rock and a hard place. Everyday babies were being born premature, and with complications. They needed these incubators. And they had these substandard incubators ready for use. So they used them. And one of the babies got badly burned.

So all of the incubators were packed up and stacked, one on top of the other, in a storage warehouse, rightfully never to be used again. Millions of taxpayer shillings sitting in a warehouse that could be housing other essentials like drugs. Millions of taxpayer shillings, now irretrievable. And a mother and baby went home scarred physically and emotionally. The county is now back to square one. No useable incubators, premature babies with complications being born regularly, preventable deaths, and the same procurement officers – their pockets fat with cash, waiting for the next procurement order to fall on their desk. There is a special place in hell for the agents of all corruption, but for this particular type? They will be first in line. Kenya has a very impressive piece of legislation called the Public Procurement and Disposal Act. It was developed in 2016 and is fondly known as the PPDA. The ink has barely dried on it and it already has innumerable infractions against it. The PPDA says that when engaging in a procurement activity, an ad hoc evaluation committee must be established to deal with the technical and financial aspects of procurement. The evaluation committee should include heads of the user departments. This way, the orders being placed are clear, and the bids are being evaluated by the departments who requested them in the first place. The committee is constituted per order so as to always have the right team in place – this is why it is ad hoc. There is also an ad hoc inspection and acceptance committee. Their role is to inspect and test the goods received, and ensure that they meet the technical standards defined in the request; and where they are found to be lacking, reject them. This committee also has representation from the user department that placed the order. Both committees are

constituted by the finance department at the county level. When the incubators and wheelbarrows were purchased, where was the evaluation committee? They told us that the committee was there but the head of the department was not a member. Where was the inspection and acceptance committee when the goods made it to the county doorstep? The accounting officer from the finance department said he had no record of who approved and accepted the goods. Was there a complaint made and follow up investigation by the internal audit department where the goods were accepted under duress? No on both fronts. So what is the use of having a beautiful law that cannot be enforced? The question, unfortunately, turned out to be rhetorical. So what is the recourse? Well the work lays partly with me and people like me, to read those scary budgets, and laws and accounting reports. I then tell you what they say your money is being spent on and if the correct procedures are being followed. But part of the work also lays with you. The money we are talking about is the money the government convinced us to pay them to provide us services. We should have very many questions when we see our millions of shillings in an unused warehouse in the form of useless incubators. We should be lining up outside the offices of our public officials if we learn that we bought a wheelbarrow for hundreds of thousands of shillings when there was no evidence of it needing to be specialised. We should give a damn in a tangible way that yields consequences in elections.

WANGARI MUIKIA info@expertise.co.ke

PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2018

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A DVO C AC Y

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Break the Silence on violence against children

PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2018

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C H I L D

R I G H T S

Break the Silence on violence against children BRENDA KARIUKI

“It only takes a spark To get a fire going And soon all those around Can warm up in its glowing That’s how it is with God’s love Once you’ve experienced it You spread His love to ev’ryone You want to pass it on.”

E

very year, on June 16, we celebrate the Day of the African Child in honour of the ten thousand Soweto children who marched in a column more than a half mile long, protesting the poor education in their schools during the apartheid era in South Africa. This year, I can’t help but think about the many children – over 1 billion – who will experience some form of violence. Yes, that is at least half of the 2.2 billion children in the world! Statistics can numb our spirit, so let me bring the number closer to your own home or community, and it is a scary reality. One in every 3 children

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will experience violence this year. Let that number sink in as you ask yourself; Have I had a conversation with my son or daughter about violence, abuse, rape, sexual exploitation online, child marriage or female genital mutilation (FGM)? These are the many forms of violence that children experience every day. You are probably wondering why you need to speak to your child about this. Here’s why. As much as we assume that these things will happen to those people out there, it is happening in our own homes, from the leafy suburbs to the posh schools in the cities and in the streets, and in our homes. It is the silence that perpetuates the vice, we don’t talk about child abuse, incest, rape in the family, because it is shameful, and the victim is often threatened with dire consequences if they speak out, so we keep quiet. It only takes a spark - the words of this old hymn come to my mind every time I think of the number of children who will experience one or more forms of violence. When does it start? When we have failed to talk to our young children about it from an early age. In most cases, the

perpetrator is a trusted member of the child’s close circle of influence – the watchman, the house-help, the cousin or uncle who visits often and the child adores them. It could be the teacher who the child trusts and looks up to, it could be the older child in the neighbourhood, it could be you or me. And because we don’t have this conversation with our children to prepare them as early as possible to know what inappropriate touch is, we risk leaving them with no vocabulary to verbalise what and when abuse is happening to them in the hands of the care-givers we have entrusted our children to… break the silence, have the conversation! Speak to your child about inappropriate touch by an adult or an older sibling/friend, it will empower them to stop the abuse, and have the language to tell you, as a parent or guardian, if someone tries to abuse them when they are still young.

Children on the move Children are also on the move, due to conflict, war, hunger and violence at home. I have often


wondered whether the person(s) that trigger a conflict or escalates tensions in the home, estate, community or country – has any idea how destructive that spark would be as it uproots families and children from their day to day routines, altering their futures forever. “Just one child victim of violence is one too many. Yet, the most recent global estimate shows that 1.7 billion children – over half of all children in the world – experience some form of violence each year.” - Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the SecretaryGeneral on Violence against Children (SRSG)

Children on the move are among those experiencing violence in various forms – child marriage, sexual exploitation and abuse, rape, abduction, slavery, forced recruitment into armed groups, among other atrocities. It only takes a spark – that can trigger the movement of children and communities in search of safety and peace, fleeing from conflicts, drought, famine, political tensions, disease or a combination of these factors. Yet, this could be me, or you – on the move. Uprooted from a comfortable life without warning, driven to abject poverty and destitution in the blink of an eye. Children on the move – are not distant, unknowns to be pitied, and forgotten once the cameras leave the scene. These children face so many unknowns that require our attention, and support, and affirmative action to make every effort to protect them. Children on the move face hunger, abduction, sexual abuse and exploitation, trafficking among other dangers. They are often unaccompanied, and girls on the move often take on the role of being

a parent to their younger siblings at a time when they too need parental love and protection. “The human dignity of children and their right to protection from violence is not just common sense and basic morality; it is an international legal obligation, as defined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.’ - Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (SRSG)

When you think of the statistics – the number of children experiencing violence every year - they can be daunting, and overwhelming! Sometimes I am paralysed by the fear that there is nothing we can do to change the situation, and I quickly banish the thought. We have to take action, today! And every day, to bring an end to violence against children. As individuals, we can take a stand and speak out. Break the silence, empower children by having the conversation, and then be the voice of the voiceless, speak out and demand that a child abuser is brought to justice. As a community, we can create and support systems and structures that provide safety and protection for the children in our community. We have a duty to protect our own children, and we have a moral obligation to protect the children in our midst from all forms of violence. The old African adage - it takes a village to raise a child – still rings true, yet how many times have we looked the other way when we know a child is experiencing abuse? As voters, we can demand that our policy makers take action – increase the capacity of our law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to deal with cases of child abuse and violence with dignity and professionalism, and ensure

The Day of the African Child (DAC) is commemorated on June 16 of each year. The day is meant to create awareness and advocate for the rights of children in Africa, key among these being education. The day has its origins in the Soweto uprising of 1976. Then, children in Soweto demonstrated to have quality education as well as to be taught in their own languages. The apartheid regime responded by massacring them. Later, the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor to the African Union, instituted this day to remember those killed and maimed in the Soweto uprising and which occurred on the same date. The 2018 theme is “Leave no child behind for Africa’s development.”

justice is served. Children on the move – girls on the move, can seem like a far-off phenomenon that affects those other children, in those other countries with conflict and hunger and famine, not mine. Yet, it only takes a spark, to set my cushy comfortable life in flames and my children and I will be the ones on the move, if we are even lucky to survive and stay alive. May you pause for a moment today, to speak to your child about violence that they might experience or might see other children experiencing. Embolden our children with the right information so they can protect themselves and their friends from experiencing. It Takes YOU and ME, to end violence against children. Remember, it only takes a spark… PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2018

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L E A D E R S H I P

Leadership

in crisis


I

received my secondary education in a convent school and one of the things I remember the nuns harping about was being in school to pursue our vocations. It was harping to my teenage ears at the time because my adolescent horns had grown to unprecedented levels. Finding our vocation, as the nuns explained was discerning what work we would want to pursue as adults that would help us to serve our community while living to our highest purpose. I now understand vocation to be two-fold. One is about service to God and the other is service to community. I journeyed through university and into my first job, and now in retrospect, I heard the word vocation less and less, and the word career more and more. My 20s and 30s thus were spent in pursuit of this elusive career. I read every book about career development and attended every course and seminar under the sun on career progression and all that jazz. As I approached my 40s, I began to ask myself whether this was it or whether there was more to it than what I had spent the last fifteen years in relentless pursuit of. I wondered over and over again why I was not happy, yet I had ticked every box of what was expected of me. I had climbed the said career ladder at near demon speed. I thought each rung I climbed would bring me closer to nirvana yet what I got was more exhaustion and less satisfaction. As I began what I like to call my mid-life reflections, I began to see how self-serving my career progression was; what to do to get ahead; how to get ahead; how to get noticed to get ahead; how to show up early and leave late to get ahead… the sheer thought of it is exhausting. The bottom line was me, me and more of me, and

less and less of what mattered in life, relationships; taking time to smell the roses as it were. I remember taking a few days off to go to Mombasa. The hotel at which we were staying had a few beach boys who spent their days surfing in between trying to sell their wares to tourists. It would suffice to say that surfing was the staple du jour, the selling of wares was merely incidental! One of them introduced himself to me as Danze. He’d been selling curios to tourists, he said, for the last 15 or so years. He showed up every morning at around ten when the tide was coming in and left at around five. Some days were better than others he said to me in a carefree and nonchalant voice. As I continued talking to him, I found myself becoming increasingly resentful of him. For all my weaknesses, I have frequently told my friends, envy is not one of them. Yet here I was growing increasingly envious of him each day I saw him. His only care in the world was whether the weather would allow him to surf (which on most days it would), and whether he would sell some carving at an overpriced cost to a hapless tourist. I, on the other hand, was here on the verge of a burnout. Worried sick if I would be able to meet my various financial obligations at the end of that month, mostly basic but most of them self-imposed! I also began to have a deep respect for those executives who sold all their worldly possessions to go to some obscure place in the boondocks where they spent the rest of their lives living barefoot in a shack, à la the monk who sold his Ferrari. My career was good. It had been illustrious and eventful. It accorded me certain comforts, it opened certain doors for me. But

it wasn’t enough. I wanted more. I wanted something deeper. Something more intrinsic. Something more intangible. I wanted fulfilment. To turn in at the end of the day, no matter how long or how tedious it was, knowing that I made a difference. That I was of service to others. That I empowered someone. That I inspired someone. Thus began my leadership journey. As a theatric aside, the spate of corruption cases that have been reported in the press over the last several weeks have perhaps put into sharp focus whether or not as a society we have completely departed from the notion of vocation, a noble pursuit of yesteryear. So revered were teachers, for example, that they got the honorary title of “Mwalimu” because everyone knew that they were entrusted with the honourable task of imparting knowledge to young scholars. Corruption in Kenya is probably the most telling sign of how far off we are in terms of the vocation versus career narrative. Ours is a reflection of the depth of our desperation to “climb” the ladder of prosperity. Is leadership innate or is it something that can be taught? I reckon that it’s a bit of both. It starts with a deep desire for transformation; first of self, then of others. The deep desire to make a difference is what spurred me to take a class on leadership, where I was surprised to see that the first module of the programme was self-leadership because there can be no transformation of others without transformation of self. I didn’t take off to the Himalayas, and I was fortunate enough not to have had to change my chosen field of work. But what did change was my outlook towards the work that I do. It is no longer about how bright my star shines but whose path I light. PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2018

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T H E

FAC E

O F

L E A D E R S H I P

M

Mendi

endi Njonjo describes herself as a feminist, believer in Kenya and Pan African. She works in the development and philanthropy sector. She has over 20 years experience supporting non-profit organisations and funding organisations in fund management, strategy development and policy formulation. Mendi has primarily worked in programmes using technology to support good governance and prevent conflict; promoting women’s right to bodily autonomy and economic justice; supporting human rights and lately, working on promoting sustainable agriculture and renewable energy. While she has worked in various global programmes, most of her work has centred on programming in East Africa, where she is currently the Regional Director for Hivos Foundation East Africa. How has her upbringing and exposure to different cultures influenced her as a person? Mendi says that she grew up in a family of four children in Thika. Through her mum, she learned perseverance and the importance of sticking to a goal. She adds that her dad taught her how to stick to her guns and not back down from fights. She is also friends with her siblings and she has learned the importance of family through them. Concerning Hivos East Africa where she is the director, Mendi states that Hivos is an environmental and

NJONJO

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social justice organisation that works to promote fair and just societies globally. They work to promote economic and social rights including good governance and human rights. They also work to promote women’s economic empowerment in the East Africa region. In addition, they also support the rights of sexual minorities to live their lives free of fear and discrimination. Mendi says that on matters environment, Hivos works to promote sustainable agriculture where they seek to have healthy and nutritious food produced in ways that do not harm the environment, or the farmers that grow our food. They also promote the uptake of renewable energy in the region primarily through supporting the development of national clean cooking solutions. Hivos work is anchored in human rights conventions and treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as well as applicable national laws in the countries they work in. Mendi states that the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) provide a way for actors like Hivos to measure and track their contributions to global well-being. Hivos broadly works on all SGDs with, perhaps, the exception of SDG4 and 14. Some of the things that they are proudest of in Hivos include building viable biogas market sectors in five countries in Africa; their work in keeping seeds ‘free’ and treated as the cultural heritage and gift from the ancestors that seeds are. They have also been instrumental in supporting many of the social technology products in the region (including Hubs) that have been able to develop tech tools that are used in good governance in the region. Hivos has also been a large supporter of many of the cultural hubs and artist collectives in the region and which has contributed to a vibrant arts and cultural scene in the

region (including support for festivals). As to whether there is adequate female representation at the board level in East African organisations, Mendi says that less than 20% of corporate board members are female. She adds that though the number has been growing, more still needs to be done. Remedying this requires a mix of various things - from asking companies and organisations to be proactive in recruiting and retaining female leaders; to mentoring and sponsoring of women to become board members; to working with girls and young women in schools to show them that is it possible to become a board member. Mendi states that while some things are already codified in law (for example, maternity and paternity leave; and facility requirements such as a lactation room), organisations can also work towards being as pro-family as possible through the enabling of policies that don’t make parents choose between being a parent and being an employee. This, however, includes making sure that fathers also have the same opportunities to provide child care as mothers do in order to ensure that we don’t end up making child care a female job as opposed to a ‘parent job’. As to the recent furore over claims that a nursing mother had been ejected from a city restaurant over this, Mendi says that this is an unfortunate move and that it is encouraging that this got the attention from society that the situation warrants. She adds that beyond this one incident, mothers report having to breastfeed in toilets or in cloak roomswhich is against the well-being of the mother and the breastfeeding child. On matters corruption, Mendi states that corruption kills. That it is not a victimless crime that makes tenderpreneurs and waheshimiwa rich with zero consequence and effect on society. Essentially, this is killing people in hospitals when there are no drugs, where criminals are left to roam free,

where substandard materials are used to construct the roads and buildings we use. She does not think that we are beyond redemption - but she does think that we are at the point where we need to take serious and concerted efforts to uproot this vice everywhere it manifests in society. It calls for Kenyans to not give bribes - and also not take bribes. It calls for us to invest in the institutions that we need to keep the system working. Her life’s mantra? Live your most authentic and abundant life. None of us is coming out of this alive. Mendi Njonjo is the Director, Hivos East Africa CURRENTLY READING

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LU C A S

O N

L I F E

Passing on the baton

LUCAS MARANGA Mentorpreneur, Public servant and Storyteller.

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M

y memories growing up were of a boy living a life that was handed to him by his surroundings without questioning. Or maybe my questioning and consequent disagreement (which was rare) was exhibited in my naughtiness. Every boy is required to cause a certain amount of disruption in his young life and I spent my quota fully. In fact I almost borrowed my brother’s quota in the process after exhausting mine. I was responsible for my mum’s tears on several occasions and subsequent assaults from her. Today we call it discipline. Now that I have a son of my own I get terrified when I’m told he will take after his father. Well, I think his father is a good man and if he will be a better man then it may be worth the tears. Every boy needs an older man to guide him as he is growing up. It’s funny the figure that comes to my mind is my grandfather. Maybe it’s because he lived with us as he sought treatment in his old age. I would take him for his doctor’s appointments and thereafter we would go for lunch at Steers. He loved the crusty chicken in particular. He would advise me on various topics from girls to investments and life in general. This was in the Moi era when kids in primary school got

free milk and were often told that they were the leaders of tomorrow. I can still hear former president Moi’s hoarse voice saying it on radio. Now that I’m older I think that message did not serve us well. Many of us grew fat and lazy (at least in our minds) waiting for this so called tomorrow to arrive. We were not taught how to recognise its arrival, prepare for it and what to do when it arrived. It was like a closely guarded secret known only by the wazees. I believe this is partly to blame for the lethargy that seems to be among many middle-aged people today. I admire the zeal and courage of millennials today who jump off the cliff and figure out how to get wings on their way down. Curiosity is their appetiser and taking risks is their main course. Their appetite for it just keeps increasing. Moi’s mind set seemed to move on to our old men. Our fathers who were at their prime then in their 30s and 40s also believed we were the leaders of tomorrow which seemed very far away. Hence, they saw themselves as having a very long shelf life, maybe even being indispensable to some degree. Most of them also did not know how to recognise when tomorrow arrived and how to hand over the present tomorrow facing


them. This has now led to a clash in boardrooms between us in our 30s and 40s and our folks in their 60s and 70s. I have witnessed this disconnect playing out in a few boards that I have been part of. I am very curious about manoeuvring this situation because I have a keen interest to serve on boards of growing organisations. I believe I am ready and it’s a good space for me to share my wisdom learnt over the years in entrepreneurship. I am currently the youngest member in two boards that I serve in. And will soon chair a third board. Most of my colleagues qualify to be my fathers. We have had clashes of opinions sometimes and this is due to the view we have on a matter. I have observed to my surprise that older men are not as secure in themselves as they appear to be. Guys in these boards are not in it for the money. They are quite comfortable financially. At least I haven’t seen that as a key motivator yet. Being called chairman or director is like a shot of their favourite poison. It gets them high on ego. I’m in agreement that we need the wisdom and foresight that comes with age but I have a problem with the sense of excessive respect that is lavished on these guys, especially chairmen. I believe they

demand it because they feel insecure in some way. Like they will lose their sense of identity and being needed. I feel some board decisions are chairman decisions dressed as one from the entire board. I have raised my objections in meetings sometimes and I can feel their displeasure. This tends to make me think twice before I speak again because it comes across as lack of respect for my elders when I voice a dissenting opinion. We were brought up being told to respect our elders which often included not arguing with them. This need not be the case especially if we are tackling issues and not personalities. Separating the two is difficult for many, both young and old, but we need to find a middle ground somehow. I believe it’s time we had leadership through influence and not dictatorship. Some of these wazees are such smooth operators that when they perceive you as a threat to their position they work the system to eject you silently. Before you know it you’re out in the cold by yourself. At the risk of sounding like I’m campaigning for myself and my age mates, I strongly believe many boards and organisations by extension are in dire need of the voice of youth. It is time to mix the old and not so

old outlooks for the benefit of our organisations whether public or private. A picture that best describes this scenario was when Mwai Kibaki handed over power to Uhuru Kenyatta. It was such a breath of fresh air to have the youngest president in State House since Kenya’s independence. In return I have always admired how President Uhuru respects our past presidents and consults them for advice when the going gets tough. Our fathers should be busy handholding us to take over their positions as they take a back seat and offer guidance. We, the younger guys, should in turn watch out not to get drunk with power. We should constantly seek counsel from the older folks on how to move forward. We have to prove to our seniors that we have what it takes to take over the mantle from them and earn their confidence and trust. This can be achieved in an environment of mutual respect and understanding. I believe that is a winning combination for effective leadership. The coolest leader to me is one who acts like he has the authority without having to reach for the power.

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A RT A N D

C U LT U R E

Nai Ni Who

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N

airobi. The place of cool waters. The Green City under the Sun. Nairoberry. A little heaven, a little sunshine, a little sin… Nairobi is many things to many people. Founded in 1899 as a rail depot by the British colonialists, it soon came to be the country’s capital city. And with colonialism, there was segregation of the city where the different races – Europeans, Indians and African – were zoned into different quarters. Affluent Westlands for the Europeans and Indians, a little less affluence for the Africans in Eastlands. Fast forward to April 12, 2013 Nai Ni Who? is founded. Taking cognisance of the shifting dynamics that is Nairobi in terms of identity, developments and the like, the forum sought to give the city residents a platform to define what Nairobi means to them. Essentially, Nai Ni Who? is an exploration of Nairobi. It seeks to celebrate the good, the bad and the possibilities. This as the Nairobi communities and ‘hoods’ each have a unique aspect about them; an identity that stands out while at the same time contributing to the character of Kenya’s major city, Nairobi. It is a celebration and conversation about our beloved city.

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The forum is organised as an annual festival packed with various activities and events celebrating Nairobi and its neighbourhoods in the months of July and August each year. The neighbourhoods include Kibera, Buruburu, Mukuru, Kamukunji, South B and Kilimani among others. For buyin, the community leaders are involved. Feedback from city residents is both negative and positive. For instance, some have embraced the city and feel as they belong while others live in fear. Moreover, many people have negative attitudes about slums. That said, we have experienced some challenges during our festivals. These include inadequate resources and political factors. For example, during last year’s festival, we did not have enough promotional items such as t-shirts. In addition, the general elections affected the festival as the country was on political mode. Communication is also a challenge at times. Maureen Auma is the Nai Ni Who? coordinator for Kibera programming

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T R AV E L

Mwarv photography


TOUR

d'Afrique!


I

’ve always considered motorised transport the best way to explore new places. Get in, gas up, pick a destination, go! The downside is that a car cocoons you from the environment, making you more a tourist and outsider, almost snobbishly telling those you pass on the road ‘Look at me looking at you feeling pity for you out there’. My thoughts on touring were changed a few weeks ago when covering the Tour d’Afrique, a 12,000km, Cairo to Cape Town, 120-day cycling expedition run by TDA Global Cycling. We were asked to join the cyclists over two of their 7-day Moyale to Namanga crossKenya expedition. The first thing I did was put together a team featuring one of Kenya’s top sports photographers Kevin Midigo and Brian Mule whom I work with at Click. Since I’d frequented the Isiolo – Nanyuki section of the A2 which is where our coverage was to be focussed on, I prepared a map with indicative shots of the environments we’d be shooting the cyclists in. We prepared, left Nairobi and got to Isiolo where we found the cyclists camped at Rangelands Hotel. The cyclists bussed between Laisamis and Isiolo because of insecurity concerns. The following morning, we left camp early heading back towards Nanyuki. Since we’d picked the photography spots the day before, and we had the Google Map to consult, there was no guesswork as to where we needed to stop and shoot, and distances between the different shoot locations. This was our first location, somewhere between Maili Tano and Isiolo. Mt Kenya had pushed all the clouds away and proudly displayed her peaks for all to marvel at. And so we did. Since the cyclists left camp at different intervals, we had to stake out at photo spots for up to an hour to get as many shots as possible. After that, we got into Silvester and drove to the next location, occasionally finding the first group of cyclists had already gone past. The Isiolo–Nanyuki route is about 72kms, with an 800m rise in altitude. That had to take its toll on some cyclists. One of the main features on the Isiolo– Nanyuki route are the wheat fields in Timau. Shooting here was a beautiful joy.

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The Isiolo–Nanyuki route is about 72kms, with an 800m rise in altitude. That had to take its toll on some cyclists.


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Just before Timau town, the TDA Crew set up an early lunch stop where cyclists stopped to replenish their energies and perform quick adjustments to their bicycles. From Timau it was a quick dash to Sportsman’s Arms Hotel in Nanyuki for the night and celebrations to mark the expedition’s last night in the northern hemisphere. The following day, our first location was at the signature Equator sign just outside Nanyuki. We then drove ahead of the cyclists and waited for them outside Bantu Lodge. Then at Naro Moru town to give the feel of riding through a roadside urban centre in Kenya. We concluded our coverage at one of the climbs between Marua and Karatina. So, would you take a tour of Kenya on a bicycle instead? Read the full story at http://mwarv.click. co.ke/2018/03/13/tour-dafrique/#more-8178 You can also watch a video about Mwangi Kirubi’s experience here: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=IiAbxSuMMW0&feature=you tu.be Mwangi Kirubi’s work can be found at: http:// mwarv.click.co.ke/ and https://www.instagram. com/mwarv/?hl=en .

Mwarv photography

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B O O K

R E V I E W

The Potter’s Wheel by Chukwuemeka Ike “Obuechina was the only boy out of seven children born to Mazi Lazarus Maduabuchi and his wife. The names of the five girls who preceded him – Uzoamaka (the road is excellent), Nkiru (that which is yet to come is greater), Njideka (hold what you have), Nkechi (whatever God gives), and 34

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Ogechukwu (God’s time is the best) – showed with how much anxiety and faith his parents had awaited his coming.” A potter’s wheel is a device used in pottery to shape pots into round shapes. Alternatively, it is used to trim excess body from dried earthenware or when decorating them. Perhaps, this aptly captures the gist of the book which goes by the same name in that, the novel narrates the story of a boy who is set to be shaped into a man.

In chapter one we meet our star, Obuechina Maduabuchi, Obu being his short form. The headmaster has just read out his name for topping Standard 1 in the end of year examinations. Excited, Obu jumps off the creaking bench where he is seated and dashes out of the school building. Topping his stream comes with such privileges as being exempted from fetching firewood for teachers all through the first term of the ensuing school year and an excited Obu can hardly wait to get home to pass this news to his parents. As an only boy, Obu’s parents literally worship him, at least, going by all the names they have showered on


him; names they had been saving for boys who never came. They include; Obuechina (the compound must not revert to bush), Ezenwa (infant King), Nwokenagu (a male issue is desirable), Onyibo (to his father, a companion) and Obiano (to his mother as his arrival brought solace to her soul). After Obu came another girl, Amuche (no one knows God’s mind). Consequently, Obu is a pampered child. Obu’s physique: a large head which his parents believed carried a giant-size brain for outstanding scholarship, a diminutive nose which seemed to have been stuck to his face as an afterthought, a thin torso and bow-legs. That notwithstanding, his mother dotes on him. In chapter two, we encounter Obu’s father, Mazi Lazarus Maduabuchi. A cloth dealer, he is humorous, light-hearted, tall, handsome and had been a great dancer who was sought out by many girls to his mother’s dismay. He carries his cloth from one large market to the next on his bicycle with inefficient brakes. This very fact makes his entry into any market grandiose as he has to jump from the bicycle and run for several yards before he can bring it to a complete stop. When he returns home, Obu runs to greet him. He catches Obu and throws him into the air a couple of times and asks him to name a gift for topping his class besides the flute he had brought him. Obu wants a goat, which Lazarus promises him for Christmas, as well as to be taught how to ride a bicycle. At this, Mazi Lazarus is hesitant as the bicycle may just crush their only son to death. That notwithstanding, he promises Obu that he can use the bicycle to learn how to ride. At this promise, a jubilant Obu runs outside and makes way to his friend’s, Oti, house. As he approaches Oti’s house, he whistles their special call signal but receives no reply. That notwithstanding, he decides

to enter the compound just in case Oti is asleep. He learns that Oti has accompanied Samuel home. This Samuel, he is a bully, a cheat and a trickster and both Obu and Oti detest him. Hesitant at first in looking for Oti in Samuel’s home as no child voluntarily gives himself up to Samuel, he finally changes his mind. This as he needs to share the good news of being allowed to train riding a bicycle. At Samuel’s house, he finds Oti sitting at a corner of the compound shelling palm kernels. Not wanting to be made to join in this punishment, Obu decides to sneak away. Unfortunately, though, Samuel had seen Obu approach and he calls him. Queried as to why he was running away, Obu says that he must go back to Oti’s mother and report that Oti is not there. Samuel threatens to go to Oti’s home to confirm this, with Obu staying resolute and saying that Oti’s mother is waiting for them both. As the two starts to walk away, Samuel observes that Obu is hiding something; which proves to be Obu’s new flute. Away from Samuel, Obu is always at odds with his immediate sister, Ogechukwu, in a classic case of sibling rivalry. This mainly has to do with the way their mother pampers Obu, for instance, by excusing him from farm and household chores. In the end, this forces Mazi Lazarus, a self-made man, to send Obu away to live with Mr Zaccheaus Kanu, otherwise known as Teacher, and his wife, Mrs Deborah Onuekwucha Kanu, or Madam, as a houseboy. This after it was discovered that Obu was an ogbanje – a spirit child – and his ogbanje stone discovered and his father wanting him to be raised to be a man. At Teacher’s house, Obu’s housemates include Silence and Ada while some of his new teachers include We Shall See. Though Obu continues to perform well in school, things are not rosy at his new home. Whereas he was used to being pampered, here,

he is starved, subjected to physical punishment as well as household and farm chores. To survive, Obu quickly discards his naivety and become as cunning as the rest of Teacher’s and Madam’s charges. Not all is doom and gloom though, more so, on the school front. For instance, there is the visit by the Education Officer at which the headteacher’s and his staff show remarkable ingenuity in disguising their school’s shortcomings, only for the Education Officer to leave off in a huff upon discovery that he chanced upon the wrong school. Or the day full of drama when there was sports competition between different schools; with Silence going head to head with Bullet in the quarter mile. Come the December holidays and Obu finds himself back at home. He recruits his mother, who readily sees the sufferings her only son has endured at Teacher’s house, to talk to father not to send him back there. Mother prepares Obu to confront father with his request. The meeting happens and Obu is surprised at his father’s agreeableness. So, does Obu return to Teacher’s house after the Christmas holidays? Well, his father had said that Obu had been sent there voluntarily and not because of a debt. Still, he was at liberty to choose the kind of life he wanted for his future. He could either take after Caleb Okeke or after Edmund who had been born at the same time and in the same village. Of Edmund, it was being said that he had reached the level where no school in the black man’s land could teach him anything and he was to be sent oversees for further studies. This courtesy of Teacher. Caleb had ended up as a truck pusher in Onitsha as he had chosen to stay home with his mother. The novel is set in colonial Nigeria during the Second World War.

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T H E

D I A RY

O F

A

B U D D I N G

W R I T E R

In character N

ow that I am getting down to penning my greatest novel ever, the first business is to develop characters. As you are well aware if you are a consummate consumer of soaps, movies, series or books, characters are the life (and death) of these mediums. There is a way you find yourself rooting for this or that character and detesting the other; Batman or The Joker, the character of Robert De Niro versus that of Al Pacino in Heat… My formula for creating my characters? Human nature. Essentially, what motivates humans to act the way they do and combined with the full range of human emotions. Off tangent, I have observed that as my aunts approached forty, they got more spiritual while my uncles, once they hit fifty, started competing with my cousins in the twenties range. This in terms of behaviour – staying out all night clubbing, how they dress and so on. And thirties is the time to take the plunge into the deep end, so help me God.

Shena Shena is the queen mother. Wise and experienced, she is the epitome of virtue. She oversees the women in the queen’s court and trains them to be dutiful, yet practical and strong women. Motherly, she offers counsel to

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the queen and trains her in the art of politicking. She was wife to the late king and whose demise saw her daughter become queen since the king lacked a male heir. She is only one of the other two women who sits in the queen’s council. Artful council members first sound their propositions off her before presenting these to the queen since she has the queen’s ear.

Elea Elea is the queen of the Tankla nation. Forceful, intelligent and a skilled fighter, she is the second queen to lord over Tankla since it was founded two millennia ago. Her father, King Ddjado, had her trained in the art of war by the great tactician, General Kali. General Kali, being no respecter of rank or privilege, taught her well. It could even be argued that he was especially hard on her seeing to it that she was to succeed her father. On her part, she lobbied her father to let girls who were interested in fighting be given the chance alongside their male counterparts. King Ddjado indulged her despite stiff opposition from his council members. Still, he was able to convince them with great dexterity, saying that times were changing and they had to change with the times. Elea is close to the queen mother – her mother – as Shena was always looking out for her.

King Ddjado King Ddjado, or the dead king (more accurately in the Tankla’s tongue; something of a cross between ‘the recently departed king’ and ‘the king who is no longer with us but whose spirit lives on in his heir’) is Elea’s father. He was a study in contradiction: kind, yet firm; peace loving, yet an expansionist as he saw this as the only way to defend Tankla’s territorial integrity as her neighbours were becoming belligerent by the day. His only sorrow being that he could not

beget a male heir to inherit him. As a result, he had Elea raised as only a king’s son would, yet, in all these, you could see the love and affection he had for Elea. Which is to say, he considered Shea too protective of Elea but let her have her way now and then.

Ariamu A seer, diviner and high priestess of the goddess Nruur, Ariamu, is untouched as her craft demands. Nruur is the principle deity of the Tankla nation and is charged with matters fertility, war and fortune. Ariamu speaks seven known tongues, with the eighth being the spiritual tongue, Onkabi, used to commune to Nruur by the high priestesses. When not conducting rituals at Nruur’s altar, set deep in the south mountains, she sits in Elea’s council; else, she sits in Elea’s court as an interpreter between the queen and foreign envoys or merchants. At the court, she passes as a Tankla woman, tall, beautiful, courteous; transforming into this unearthly, shimmering and strange creature while at Nruur’s altar when divining.

Ihigwe

The Ihigwe are depicted as an uncouth and barbaric nomadic tribe. Fierce and war loving, these wandering people are known to decimate villages whenever they chance upon them. Fair, strong sinewy and proud, they keep cattle, goats and horses. They believe that the earth was given to them by Ruhu, the sun god, thus they take at will from other tribes whatever it is that they fancy. That side, they have an uneasy truce with the Tankla who bested them time and again whenever the two clashed.

and is not passed down from father to son. Among Raimana’s adulations is Uliam – killer of the desert monster – and Nemerxta – slayer of the seven tribes. Valiant in battle, it is rumoured that his mother was captured from the Tankla during one of the Ihigwe’s raiding excursions. Observant, secretive and a master planner, Raimana has lived among all the seven tribes that inhabit Wangora. His reign has seen the Ihigwe change their mode of operation. Now, they are seeking alliances with the other tribes; with the Tankla thinking that the Ihigwe are doing so so that they are able to subjugate them. Already, the seer Ariamu has divined of ‘the great war to come’ and of ‘the one who was promised’. Cryptical in her divination, it is assumed that the two are the war between the Tankla and the other tribes, and Raimana as the promised one, respectively.

Gerofia In Wangora’s mythology, the Gerofia are giants who strode their lands when the earth was still new. From the beginning, they were at war with humans and nearly annihilated them. From the humans, arose a great leader, Raji, who gifted his people with magical horses, birds and spears. The magical horses were metallic and bellowed smoke as the humans rode inside them. Same with the magical birds which humans flew in. As for the magic spears, when shook, they threw bolts of lightning strong enough to kill giants. With these contrivances were the humans able to vanquish the Gerofia. The mythology insinuates that a time will come when the giants return to punish humans for their wickedness.

Raimana Raimana is the present chief of the Ihigwe. Unlike the Tankla, leadership among the Ihigwe is based on merit PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2018

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F I C T I O N

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oo much religion is dangerous, said Dick. Perhaps he was referring to our friend Paul. Now, Paul had gotten saved and zealously at that. Paul was an extremist in his doing of things. Before he saw Jesus, he did worldly things hard. During his smoking days, he smoked as if his life depended on it. Cigarettes then marijuana. Then, we called him Paul the chimney. Paul then turned to drinking. The doctor, when Paul suddenly collapsed one day and had to be rushed to hospital, was stern. Either he quit smoking or life would quit on him. Now, with a verdict like that, who would have contradicted the good doctor. Still, Paul had to have a vice. And his drinking was equally hard and dangerous, considering that he drove a taxi for a living. Red eyes Paul, we started calling him. For he was now always bloodshot. He got involved in a scratch or fender-bender once, twice, thrice and we started counting days to his funeral. Trust Dick to WhatsApp him a picture of a Ghanaian coffin that befitted him – one in the shape of Royal Duke, a gin that promised royalty to its partakers like Paul. By now, we were sure that Paul had cut his liver to a quarter of its size as he now frequently alternated from red eyes Paul to yellow eyes Paul should you chance upon him sober. Jaundice, said the doctor, which meant that Paul had to quit drinking. Paul’s third vice. Women. Now, some men are born nice and some are born gentlemen. Paul fell into the latter category. This Paul, he had a way with words and mannerisms that made a woman, any woman, feel special. Plus, he had that careless streak in him that cast him as one ready to throw away everything for love; that was one way of looking at it. The other being that he was unfazed as to whether he broke tender hearts or not. It was this streak that had women throwing themselves

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at him while the rest of us starved. Now, Paul got entangled with a military man. Rather, Paul got entangled with the wife of a military man. She was a chance client that he carried in his taxi and she fell for his charms. She was in a complicated relationship, she said, giving him room to wriggle into her life. And Paul did so smoothly. From what we gathered when we went to see Paul at the hospital, the woman’s husband had arrived suddenly from his peacekeeping mission in Somalia and found the two of them in his bedroom engaging in rather unchristian behaviour. This meant he had no recourse but to chastise them as Jesus would; him, Jesus, demanding to be shown the adultering man when only the woman was presented to him. Then casting stones on them both. But who was Paul? Even after defying death as the soldier man had attempted to shoot him, he still went chasing women, single or otherwise. Like that time they went to pick Jane, Dick’s girlfriend. Now, Dick wanted to impress Jane, meaning that Paul’s car came in handy at this task. Ideally, Paul should have given the car to Dick to take out his date. Then again, Dick’s driving licence had been confiscated some days prior to this over some traffic misdemeanour. Plus, Paul did not have a regular woman so that they could do a double date. Going forward, it was agreed that Paul would be a wall flower – uninterested, unexciting, and so on. Date day. Paul, this is Jane. Jane, Paul. A friend. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Pleasure is all mine. Stay to the script, act uninteresting, unexciting, just like a wall flower. Paul knew good friends were hard to come by. Now, Dick is all mushy and wordy and Paul can tell that he is smothering Jane. Still, he is all uninterested, talking only when talked to and so on. Jane, a girl raised right, tries as much as possible to include Paul in the conversation. At some point, Paul excuses himself as he

Red eyes Paul, we started calling him. For he was now always bloodshot. He got involved in a scratch or fender-bender once, twice, thrice and we started counting days to his funeral. Trust Dick to WhatsApp him a picture of a Ghanaian coffin that befitted him – one in the shape of Royal Duke, a gin that promised royalty to its partakers like Paul. has an errand to run. When the date is over, Dick will beep him to come pick them up. Later in the week, Dick told us how much of a gentlemen Paul was, a notion we all groaned to as we rolled our eyes. Paul had been such a gentleman that Jane had appeared sympathetic to him; Mother Hen looking out for the weak chick. We forgot the matter, though it would crop up in a couple of months or so. In hindsight, it could have been the car. Men love cars, women love men in or with cars. Honestly, I was busy minding my own business… Paul talking. So, here I am on my Facebook page and what do I get? A friend request. Janet. Soon after, a hi follows. Now, I am thinking… Janet from Jaba or Janet Sunglasses? I look at her photos closely, she seems kinda familiar. We are now texting in full mode as I try to place her. Then it hits me… Jane. Jane without a tee. Dick’s girlfriend. I tell her as much. But you know how women are. We are just friends – her and Dick – she tells me. Still, it would be unbecoming of me to date a bro’s


girl, bro code and all. I do not commit to anything. A week later and Jane is still on my case. She confesses that I am one of a kind. That, unlike some of Dick’s friends who would have jumped at the opportunity to date her behind his back, I am a true friend. She admires and respects such character in a man. Inwardly, I scoff at that. Meanwhile, I affirm my commitment to my friendship to Dick. Could I at least be a friend, she asks. But we are already friends on Facebook, I tell her. Yeah, but friends, as in friends’ friends; she is adamant. I agree to that though I am not sure what she means and I am too lazy to ask for a precise definition. Paul still talking. Paul continues. Apparently, being friends entailed hanging out, an innocent lunch here, an innocent dinner there, a listening ear… which means my act won her over emotionally as it had countless others. Plus, I was honest about my other women and didn’t promise her marriage. We are chilling in my house

doing a movie and who should drop by? Dick, of all people. Then he acts all up. What am I doing with her girl, that kind of vibe. Jane says she is not his girl and they both storm out of my house. In the evening, Jane calls to apologise for what she made me go through. She is all weepy. Says she is lonely and could she please come over to my house to apologise in person. For the first time, Paul said no to a girl. That he was sorry but was not comfortable with the direction their friendship was talking. For a week, they did not talk. Then again, Dick was now spreading malicious rumours about him. Which made Paul call Jane over to his house for that apology in person. In the end, though, Paul and Dick, at our insistence, patched things up, though Dick is still sore at that memory. Paul being Paul, he continued this way for some time until he was resisted by Ladasha. This Ladasha, young, petite, pretty, brown… the kind that had men taking overdrafts to take her down to the coast on public holidays. Trouble knows trouble, so

Ladasha actively resisted Paul. She was used to manipulating men, not the other way round as was wont to happen with Paul. Sorry Paul, but you are not my type. Back to Paul. I would be lying in saying that Ladasha’s rejection informed his road to Damascus moment. This, I think, being merely that final nudge to introspect on his life’s bad choices and make a conscious decision to change. Then again, I had seen people edge closer to Jesus and embrace him with great voracity when they hit forty. I guess, forty is that time to examine one’s life philosophy, more so, if you have taken care of life’s basics – clothes, shelter, the next thirty-six meals – as you cannot ruminate philosophy on an empty stomach. So, here we are earth people enjoying our tipple at the local and who should show up? Paul, now Brother Paul. He is clad in a cassock, carries a staff on his left hand and a bible on the right. As we recover from the shock, he sits down on the counter

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and orders a cold soda. Then he starts greeting us, the people he know. Now, there is a way you slightly hesitate should a mad man refer to you by your name, and if you can help it, you ignore him and make haste past him lest he scoop dirt and throws it at you. In our case, though, there was nothing we could do but sit out the discomfort. Brother Paul then requested for the music to be turned down. Now that the sheep had refused to come to church for salvation, the shepherd must go out and look for them, his exhortation. We are not sheep, you dung beetle, a drunken slur. Halfhearted laughter at that. Brother Paul assumed him and continued with his preachment. Said Brother Paul, today’s sermon is on how God can turn you from Saul to Paul, anyone know the story? Take your story to your mother, the same drunkard. Well, Brother Paul saw red, unseated himself and went to the back of the local where he gave the errant fellow a walloping. A mini ruckus erupted though the owner managed to calm down the situation. We now sat more attentively listening to Brother Paul, despite small voices – courtesy of the drinks we were imbibing – telling us otherwise. Now, everyone knows the story about Saul to Paul. This fella Saul, he persecuted Christians. He is on his way to Damascus when he saw the light, literally. As in a light, flashing, blind, 10,000 watts, fell him and asked him why he was such a bad person, prosecuting and persecuting and all that. Which saw him change course, write letters and spread the word. But from Brother Paul’s sermon, we knew he had skipped Sunday school in his upbringing and that a crash course in the same would definitely help him in his new-found career. So, Saul was coming from a brothel when he met the prophet’s aides. This Saul, tall and handsome; in fact, a head above all the men in the nation and the handsomest man too. If

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you were a woman in Israel, wouldn’t your ovaries have sighed at the sight of Saul thinking of the beautiful children he would have given you? We could have told Brother Paul that this was not the way to preach. That sermoning was an exercise in decorum and sensibility. Then again, he had just come from walloping a guy. We could have also told Brother Paul of our recollection about King Saul. That Saul had been out looking for his father’s donkeys when he was anointed and appointed to be king. That his grandfather was called Zero and perhaps heralded that King Saul’s kingdom would come to nought. But Paul, brother or not, had a reputation which we thought not wise

Now, everyone knows the story about Saul to Paul. This fella Saul, he persecuted Christians. He is on his way to Damascus when he saw the light, literally. As in a light, flashing, blind, 10,000 watts, fell him and asked him why he was such a bad person, prosecuting and persecuting and all that. Which saw him change course, write letters and spread the word. to shake and none of us had a cousin in the army to be Brother Paul’s medicine. Saul did all the things kings do and got bored. He started persecuting people, beginning with David. When David missed impalement courtesy of King Saul and his spear, King Saul moved to other things. The impalement of Christians. This man Saul, a

sadomasochistic, was Brother Paul’s verdict. Brother Paul then preached many other things – having discarded sodas for sterner stuff; again, what was Jesus’ first miracle, the one in Kenya? Right. Which meant we had now fully embraced him and his evangelisation, including the drunkard who had earlier been rebuked physically. The baptism as it happened. As we got merrier and merrier, Brother Paul asked who would like to get saved. Several of us chorused yes. So he prayed for us to be saved. Brother Paul then said we had to get baptised. Many waters or small waters? Dick wanted to know; many waters essentially being dipped in plenty of waters as in a swimming pool while small waters being Catholic baptismal. And whose father was he – the pope – seeing to it that the pope was not married? The Catholic in us promptly told him off. So now that people were going to be baptised, one of the waiters got an empty cask. We then cleared the tables and chairs around the centre of the joint which space Brother Paul turned into his altar. Initially, he was to fill the cask with water, but some bright chap suggested that drink would do, for which he got a round of applause. So, we all chipped in with our contributions in kind; two litres of Jug Daniels, a shot of Royal Duke (expensive stuff), a bottle of Randy the Brandy… those of us to be baptised, we stood in line, awaiting our town. Then, Brother Paul would dip our heads into the cask, the thirsty in us going in mouths agape and imbibing via the mouth and nostrils. I am sure all of us were baptised that night, including Brother Paul who temporarily gave his mandate to someone else. I am also sure that if there are people who will not see heaven, we are among the lot.


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Prose Magazine June - July 2018 issue  

Prose Magazine is a bimonthly publication that has hitherto delved into industry trends, promoted literacy in the region, put on the spotlig...

Prose Magazine June - July 2018 issue  

Prose Magazine is a bimonthly publication that has hitherto delved into industry trends, promoted literacy in the region, put on the spotlig...

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