When one day a TV crew interviewed Mwai Kibaki’s ‘toka nitoke sister’ at her wooden shack, living in poverty and squalor, the reaction in a popular Kisii forum where it was shared was one of shock and outrage. Folks were literally ranting at what a shameless, selfish and stingy old fool Kibaki was to let his blood sister live in such squalid conditions when all it’d have taken was just a million or two out of his massive estate to put up a more dignified roof over her old, frail and ailing body.
Later on, i saw the same reaction when they shared the story of the long and firece legal battle that Mama Ngina has had with one of her close kin ~ a poor old peasant ~ in Gatundu over a tiny piece of land in the village. In both cases, what the shocked and angry reactions failed to realise and acknowledge was that they were viewing events in the Agikuyu social set up, through the lens of the Abagusii social set up, and judging the conduct of the two billionaires by Kisii, rather than Kikuyu parameters.
And that is precisely what is the matter with the debate around revenue allocation. I read a discussion where the ‘one man one shillings folks’ just couldn’t understand why Counties like Kisii and Kakamega would reject a formula that would ensure that they get more cash from the national coffers than they currently are, regardless of equity, fairness, justice or any such ‘annoyances’. While they are expressing their innocent, honest and deeply held belief that everyone must be left to tough it out on their own with the strong and mighty dominating the weak and vulnerable, they must not assume that every other community is culturally wired in the exact manner that theirs is.
Among the Agikuyu, once you hit adulthood ~ around the age of 20 ~ you are on your own, and little to none of the fortunes of a ‘blessed’ sibling can trickle down to you. While this set up encourages hard work and enterprise among the young adults that are pushed out of the nest to fend for themselves without the support system that those from other communities take for granted, it ~ quite tragically ~ denies them the ‘helping hand’ that would help them achieve way more than they do. That partly explains why the Agikuyu are the most unequal community in Kenya, and why a half of the most beautiful homes in Kiambu remain uninhabited after their owners abandoned them and relocated back to Nairobi after criminals made tenancy there untenable!
On the other hand, Kisiis whose dads were first borns in their homes would tell you that upon securing employment, their old folks spent the first decade or so of earnings on his siblings’ education. So much that back in the day of ‘Boom’ at the University, most did not spend their ‘Boom’ on ‘Boom boxes’ and ‘Bell bottoms’, but rather on books, boxes and fees for their siblings. And it was never a matter at his discretion. It was ‘a written’, which was well beyond debate or discussion. A duty, and debt that had to be settled.
That is to say that in Gusii, back then ~ as it indeed still is today ~ if you were well to do, but failed to lend your family or kin a helping hand when they needed it, you got despised by everyone. Such social sanction mechanisms have over the years inculcated in the Abagusii, the sense of community, justice and fairness that Prof. Sam Ongeri of Kisii County was all to aware of when he voted against a formula that was deceptively giving Kisii with one hand, and taking it all ~ plus more ~ away through Nyamira which Abagusii view as an inseparable sibling of Kisii County.
And so, for those of you who were wondering why the residents of Kisii and Kakamega were not angered by Sen. Ongeri and Sen. Malala for voting against a formula that would have increased their own share of the national cake, you now know that we would have lynched them had they voted any other way! You probably also understand now, how and why we not only discarded the Nyachae family ~ the then equivalent of what the Kenyattas are to the Agikuyu ~ in the grave known as ‘Kaburi la sahau’, but also despise them intensely, something that is impossible to fathom among the Agikuyu.
It is all because in Gusii, if your billions or position ain’t got no positive impact on your close kin, then you ain’t worth shit in our eyes, your billions notwithstanding. That is why in Gusii, you cannot run for any elective position, from the local Cattle Dip Committee upwards, if your mum lives in a shack!
By Onyinkwa Onyakundi