By Silas Nyanchwani
Memo From the National Welfare of Men Desk
4. Lessons about Manhood From Protus Kebati Momanyi
I learnt with a lot of sadness about the passing of Eng. Dr. Protus Kebati Momanyi, the first MP for Bonchari, serving two term (1988-1997) and Cabinet Minister in the Moi Government.
Last year, I was commissioned by a government agency to write profiles of a few cabinet ministers and other men who served under Moi. I was assigned Momanyi and on google search, there was little online footprint to help me compile the report. I last heard about him in a news bulletin in the 1990s, when I was too young and chasing lizards in my grandmother’s backyard.
I asked around and was told that he leads a quiet life in Borabu, Nyamira County and he is a cool card, he can grant me an interview. With the help two crucial friends, I got his number. I called him, he didn’t pick but he called me back. He spoke in a quiet, easy tenor, and agreed that we can talk and asked me, where I was.
“I am in Nairobi,” I told him.
“Do you want to do this on phone, or how….”
“I can come down,” I said, always looking for an opportunity to get out of Nairobi. I hopped into a matatu at dawn and around midday, I was in Nyansiongo, one of the most picturesque places in Kenya and he gave me directions to his home.
We always imagine cabinet ministers to be tall, huge, intimidating, but Momanyi was the exact opposite. Averagely built, with a grey long hair, he cut the image of university professor, and a man at peace with himself. Of course, he was an intellectual, among the country’s first engineer and probably among the first Kisiis to receive a doctorate (we such a young country).
I was ushered to his compound and we elected to sit outside the house to soak in the afternoon breeze as we chatted. And then lunch was served. Beef for me, eggs for him. The beef was so well-done, in a way that only our mothers can do it as no woman of my generation will ever make such. It is the beef you only eat once or twice in a year in the least likely places. To be fair, women our generation can longer cook better than we, men can go hunt for a gazelle in a forest.
And then, we casually chatted for nearly two hours as he gave me he told me the story of his life. The most impressive thing about him is that, he had no hang ups. Didn’t miss working for the government or regrets that trouble the old souls I often talk. He had lived his life as he wanted. And when coming back, I reflected, beyond the biography, what other lessons could I learn from him. Today, is an opportunity to share with you.
In a country, where politicians hang in politics to a point of death, when he was defeated in 1997, he quietly resigned to his farm. He had an option of switching parties, becoming a sycophant and still get some post, as is the norm, but he had had enough. And I suppose he led a healthier, peaceful life, as he told me he never stole from anyone, or messed with anyone. Indeed, talking to the villagers, I didn’t hear anyone say anything bad about him. He lived peacefully, attended his Catholic mass, and chilled in the village.
So, quitting is sometimes good. Quit a bad job. Quit bad friendships. Quit bad relationships. Pursue only what makes you happy. Momanyi understood much as politics was sweet and addictive, it can be toxic and not good for the soul. Sometimes I look at Khalalwe, and I cry. True story.
2. Build a house in the village
The worst thing about formal education, is that it introduces us to silly concepts like building a house in the village is dead capital. Formal education is pretty useless if it makes you lose sense of your world. But if you are a man, take advantage that we may be the last generation to have some ancestral land where you can erect a structure. And build a good house, that you can happily retire to. Because life is uncertain and cities are not the best places to live, with uncertainty. I hope corona is a useful lesson. Visit the village, build relationship with your kin, neighbours and villagemates. Monthly visit the village, sit on your veranda and chew some sugar cane. Eat boiled manage and talk to your parents or uncles or aunties. Escape the city and breathe some clean air. For men, this is healthy, as part of the ways of reducing conflicts with your wife is keeping a healthy distance, while doing something productive.
Whatever you do, be adept with a few farming skills. Even for subsistence. Farming is boring, but once you start, it is the most rewarding thing you can do. Farm, even if it is potatoes, or onions. Your harvest doesn’t have to be picture-perfect for Instagram. The day you milk a cow that you fed and eat food made from onions that work of your own sweat, you will be happier than striking a one-million dollar deal.
Is your woman ride or die, or you are only having a good time. Does she love you the way you love her, or she is in love with your potential. Or your money. Ask yourself, if you lost your job, your car, your glamour, will she still love you.
Old people who remain married to the end always fascinate me. I greatly admire old couples. How they survived the storms of their marriages, and lived to tell, is something I would love to learn and writer about. Because marriage is something, we play a lot with lately.
Very few millennials treat marriage as a sacred institution with long term benefits. Yet, to be old and have a family intact is something most of us, may never experience. We can make peace with this or make a conscious decision to work towards that. That means understanding that marriage is sacred. Young millennials should understand you can not cheat with reckless abandon, party like teenagers into your 40s and expect to have marriage. Let the marriage break, but not because stupid and avoidable reasons.
This boils down to asking yourself tough questions. Who is your partner? Does he or she love you? Does he or she respect you? If got an accident and your legs were amputated, will they still take care of you?If you lost your job and you became poor, will they still stick around? If the answer to these questions NO, you need a cold shower some morning meditation? Normalise asking these questions.
5. Be gracious.
Be humble. Be gracious. You are nothing. Accept this, and be a good person. To your children. To your spouse. And with luck, you can reap some good rewards.
Good bye, Engineer, see you on the other side. Condolences to the family. And thanks for hosting me.