By Onyinkwa Onyakundi
Save for the occasional jab i’ll swing at Jubilee, Tangatanga, Uhuruto and such other political problems that afflict our nation, i no longer do political commentary. But it wasn’t always like this. Those who know me from the past would agree that back then, i deserved a hefty salary and a decent retirement package from Raila Odinga and maybe even a part of his estate upon his demise, should he ‘left’ before me.
This is because there are few ‘ODM damu online soldiers’ that would match the energy, commitment, resourcefulness, dedication and industry i put in to support his bid to ascend to the Presidency of Kenya. But this was a fact known only to those who could, and had seen my work on social media, blogs, online publications and such other internet based platforms. To the ‘mwananchi wa kawaida’ on the street ~ or even my next door neighbour ~ i wasn’t any such thing.
I bring this up now for a reason, and here is the reason. Soon after Uhuruto stole the 2013 Presidential elections, Kisumu City in its entirety went up in flames, but the hottest part of thar ‘furnace’ was ~ naturally ~ Kobdele. Those who know the City’s layout would tell you that there is no way one can travel from Kakamega to Kisii without going through the ‘hotbed’ that is Kondele, but that is exactly what i had to do in order to get to Bosongo.
Having grown up swallowing Chloroquine tablets to cure Malaria, i had internalized the reality that swallowing bitter pills is part of life, and i thus saw the ride through this ‘valley of death’ as an unavoidable necessity. But as the first and most important precautionary measure, i ensured that the ride would have to be done by public means. Except for the bonfire that some youth had lit in the middle of the highway at Chavakali around which the driver steered us, the journey was largely incident free, until we got to Kondele.
At the Mamboleo junction a kilometre or two earlier, we had been warned by some touts to proceed with extreme caution because ~ to quote them ~ “leo ni mbaya sana!”, but because two of them that were ‘respected very much’ by the ringleaders of the Kondele mobs had hopped into our vehicle and would escort us through the mayhem, we felt a whiff of assurance but kept saying our prayers ‘kimoyomoyo’.
The stretch of road into Kondele is almost a whole kilometre of wide, straight tarmac, and from a distance we could tell that only ‘essential services vehicles’ ~ read the rioters’ motorcycles ~ were on the road. The sight of an oncoming Matatu appeared to stir things up as what appeared like a million young men massed forward from the sides of the road to ‘welcome’ us. The scars on the faces of some and the ‘six packs’ on the bare tummies of others told a story i wouldn’t describe as pleasant.
As we inched closer to the fire, the number of goosebumps on my skin must have made me appear like the Covid19 virus, but i tried to remain calm. The animated talk we had been having earlier on had died and the deathly silence even from the two toughs we had picked from Mamboleo made me so tensed up that that every metre felt like a kilometre. And then as we approached that shed aptly christened ‘Somali Base’, a tower of a man emerged sauntered towards the middle of the road with five or so of his acolytes in tow.
Even if i have referred to him as ‘a man’, it is only for communication purposes. This is because to call him a man is to grossly understate his size. He was so huge, he was in the strictest sense of the term, really two or three men rolled into one. The kind that Sheng speakers refer to as ‘rende’ or ‘Swahili sanifu’ speakers refer to as ‘watu’. A cold chill coursed through my spine when the tall, dark behemoth raised his huge arm to motion the driver to end the vehicle’s motion.
Even before the vehicle could come to a complete stop, there was a deafening bang from from the right flank when a visible inebriated young man his the vehicle’s right flank with a Jembe handle, and just as i turned to look, i saw another young man grab a baseball cap off the head of the passenger seated at the window seat there, place it on his head and proceed to make faces at him. At that point there was no doubt in my mind that this was that hour we Catholics refer to during the ‘Hail Mary’ prayer in the last line that goes “…now, and at the hour of our death, Amen!”
And just as the reality that i was just about to leave my kids ‘getii igoro’ ~ as we say in our mouth ~ raced through my mind, there was another loud bang this time on the rear of ths vehicle as someone yelled, “wapi wakikuyu!” And that is when ~ terrified as i was ~ the reality of what this was all about crossed to my mind, and a little rush of relief swirled around my stomach. For starters, i wasn’t a Kikuyu and there was a ray of hope that my kids would not be left ‘getii igoro’.
Additionally ~ and much more importantly ~ i was one of the highest ranking officers in Baba’s online army, and as soon as i brought this fact to the ‘rende of many men in one’ who was clearly and firmly in charge, there was even a chance that i could be carried shoulder high and heroically escorted to the bus stage to catch a Transline Shuttle to Bosongo! Suddenly, a lemon was beginning to turn into a lemonade! But how was i going to prove my credentials? Oh! Our friend Google could help me out here.
I figured that if i convinced ‘the rende’ to Google the name ‘Onyinkwa Onyakundi’, i’d immediately turn a hero….
I am really for this, but this post is to be continued a little later folks.