By G Oguda
Every town in Kenya has at least one madman. Miwani had two notable ones, the first being Agira. Agira was from the rice fields of Ombeyi, so she was Agira Nyar Ombeyi (Agira daughter of Ombeyi), or simply, Agira Nyombeyi. No one ever heard Agira’s voice, not that she had an impaired sense of speech but Agira preferred active walk to empty talk.
Every morning, Agira would make the 10km trek from Ombeyi to Miwani for probono community service. There was this ultramodern steel rain-shelter at the Miwani road junction for those traveling to Kisumu, it could accommodate in excess of 100 travellers as they waited for their bus. Miwani Sugar Company stationed a traditional earthen waterpot large enough for a midsized tank, in one of the corners.
The sweet water inside was replenished each morning by someone from the BQ Estate welfare department who would also supply drinking cups on site, it was one massive water dispenser. When Miwani Sugar Company began to capsize, and workers were getting laid off, the guy manning that waterpot was the first on the chopping board. And because we still had thirsty travellers using that shade, Agira Nyombeyi silently took over the maintenance of that water pot and she kept it in tip-top shape probono until the company was put under official receivership and residents started leaving Miwani for greener pastures.
That waterpot was not the only thing Agira Nyombeyi took up after Miwani started wobbling. She tendered to the plant seedlings along the Milimani-Factory stretch, helped travellers with luggage to and from the Miwani stage, Agira even helped school children walking dangerous sections to their homes after the estate bus service stalled. All these Agira did for free and without prompting, and never said a word while at it. One day Agira disappeared from Miwani without notice and there was weeping and wailing from people who had gotten used to Agira’s kindheartedness and servant leadership.
Then there was Awiti. ‘Awiti’ in Dholuo loosely translates to “the one who was thrown away”, or if it’s in the form of a question; “should I throw you away?”. Children named Awiti culturally were those who were born out of bad luck and since it was criminal in the Luo culture to kill children, their parents immediately threw them away at birth hoping they would die. They would later be picked by strangers and returned home.
The Miwani madman had all the traits of a rejected child. Awiti was loud, big-headed, disruptive, violent and with a clever mouth. Every market in Luo Kavirondo has that madman who communicates in Queen’s English and can teach a quantum physics class. For Miwani, that madman was Awiti. Children feared him to death, whenever children refused to eat, all a parent needed to do was to whisper the name Awiti in their ears and before you knew it the plate of cardboard ugali and quinine herbs was cleaner than a baby’s bum.
He was law unto himself. He would walk into the school’s staffroom flashing his trademark machete demanding to be given lessons to teach, one day he stopped a company vehicle and told the driver to step down and let him carry on with the driving duties from then on. He was also the town’s radio station. There was nothing Awiti did not know about. Awiti knew whose wife was made pregnant the previous night, who was going to be promoted to Factory Manager the following week, and which cane-tractor would get stuck in mud that morning. Awiti couldn’t keep quiet to save his life, his clever mouth would have been donated to science and turned into a groundbreaking human repellent.
There is this trio of Musalia, Musyoka, and Musa. You can call them MUMUMU. Mumu, I am informed, is a word that features prominently in Nigerian Afrosinema movies, and it refers to people who are absent-minded or just plain stupid. Instead of picking cues from Agira and working for their political space in silence, the three Awiti reincarnates have chosen to run all over the place waving shiny machetes and baying for blood. The only difference between them and Awiti is that they can’t be entrusted to teach a quantum physics class and can’t even scare children with their lack of political instinct.
If they are not careful, they will remain thrown by the wayside and no stranger will rescue them from the cold and return them home.