BY DIKEMBE DISEMBE
Forget the usual Jubilee-Cord hubris which greets events of national magnitude. Forget the naysayers on both sides who want to use the JKIA fire to reconstruct the image of Raila Odinga as either the cause or the effect of the inferno. Lastly, forget the tweets and the one line facebook zingers which mocks your common sense and infuriates your intelligence.
XN Iraxi, a Kenyan economist and lecturer at the University of Nairobi once wrote an article whose significance hit me as I wallowed in the “developing story” of the massive fire outbreak at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport here in Nairobi.
According to Iraxi (whom I quote purely on intellectual pedestal), economists had for a long time categorised factors of production as land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship; but increasingly, variations had been founded even in organizations where the three cardinals were constant. To further the realms of knowledge, Iraxi argued that the fifth factor may well be “management”.
Now, I may not be the best at expounding economic theorems, but I muse over them; making this nothing but an attempt to allow think ‘just above the current noise’ and pause a little bit.
First, prolonged media exposure of JKIA, especially by those who wanted to show Raila Odinga a political middle finger bent upwards, made an institution which otherwise operated in the shadows to drive our country’s economy a VERY divisive entity. Politics, the type which now cascades our strategic institutions, many of them which, in functional democracies must remain apolitical, ensured that JKIA was no longer a public institution, rather, a political institution which, like devolution and Makueni by-election, had to have winners and losers.
Then came the Pattni saga and the vandalised duty free shops. A month ago as I passed through these shops, I experienced a real liking of JKIA, even though I didn’t buy an item!. You see, when a country institutionalises a culture of hooliganism, it becomes the norm. Often, the difference are only on the hooligans themselves. We have hooligans who come with earthmovers and haulers as well as my fanatic Gor Mahia brothers who come with stones and vuvuzelas. We have goons which Waititu used to unleash on private properties and the poor goons infamously called ‘sonkolets’; the wretched of Nairobi whom one Mike Sonko hires occasionally to prove an otherwise stupid point.
By any name; goons are known for the kind of incivility with which my friends ‘heard’ the alleged Pattni shops were brought down. They may be government goons but they are just that-goons! Pattni, I often say, embodies the ‘assness’ of the law without the rule; because only the rule makes the law a deterrent in the dealings of man, especially they who live in this part of the cosmos.
JKIA the physical facility where aircrafts land and take-off, event with smiling portrait of the son of Jomo went up in flames today, but there was another JKIA that was already on fire several months ago. The JKIA where there is a certain section called VIP. That JKIA, reduced to the absurdities of a government clutching at every straw to tell the world ‘they’ are in charge; that JKIA went in flames a very long time ago.
Today, it was just a burial date. On social media sites; you could see the sigh of relief. You could see a people celebrating the destruction of a facility which connects it to the world; you could see pus in old wounds still unhealed; social injuries which chest-thumping in press conferences have ensured no fabrin mesh can ever cover.
Now, a similar incident happened at Miami University where I recently went to gather white man’s knowledge. A fellow Kenyan student had accidentally pushed the fire alarm button. Within seconds, the whole fire brigade of that part of the world came sirens blazing. Even after being informed that the button was pushed by an “excited african student” visiting the US for the first time….they still came and cordoned off the area! The end of it was that in functional systems; fire alarms work and firefighters know their duty: protection of properties and citizens.
How did the JKIA fire reach those highest heights without the airport’s alarm system detecting an anomalous rise in heat? Were the fire alarm systems working? If not, why not? If why not, why?
Now, let’s avoid the cheapness with which certain government propagandists want to paint this incident. This incident makes the Kenya aviation scene look bad at a time when when the country’s international image is not ‘very good’. JKIA is bigger than Uhuru Kenyatta, our president; or Raila Odinga, father of the free!
If there was sabotage; then an ugly question even arises: how come a security system famed for harassing certain VIP lounge users never nubbed it? How come an intelligence service used to harassing Eliud Owalo never saw this coming? How come? How come? How come?
As an amicus of freethought. . .how come? HOW COME?