The Nigeria in Kenya

by Segun Akinyode

Each day I walked the streets of Nairobi, listened to the radio, watched programmes on Kenyan television stations or read the Kenyan newspapers, the quantity and quality of resemblances between Nigeria and Kenya never ceases to amaze me.

The name of Kenya’s minister for youth development is Mohamed Kuti. Kuti is a sound meaning ‘the one that refuses to die’ in Yoruba, a language spoken in the southwestern part of Nigeria. It is also the family name of one of Africa’s most respected musicians, the Afro beat originator, the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The other day, I heard a prominent Kenyan politician addressed Falana. That is the name of a fire-spiting lawyer in Nigeria. Full name: Femi Falana. Again the sound, in the south western part of Nigeria,, translates ‘the god {Ifa} has provided a lucrative means.’

Several years back, armed robbery, looting, raping and other shades of social insecurity made their entry into Nigeria. One gangster was at the centre of the upheaval. His, name, Anini, became a household name in Nigeria. The nomenclature became ridiculously eminent that, every misfortune was attributed to him: one of my friends blamed Anini for his son’s poor performance in his studies. Another one nearly sent his wife packing because he thought Anini had a hand in her turning to another Jezebel. The dust Anini raised was so infectious that the then Nigerian military leader, General Ibrahim Babangida, asked the then Nigerian Inspector General of Police, Musiliu Smith, at one of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, meetings: ‘my friend, where is Anini?’

Just as Anini terrorized Nigeria and Nigerians, Matheri also held Kenya and Kenyans by the jugular for several years. Matheri was nabbed in the bosom of his wife; Anini was caught carousing with three different women. End of similarities. The Nigerian police shot and maim Anini when he tried to escape arrest by scaling a fence. Matheri, was defenceless when Kenyan police mowed him down in a gale of bullets. Anini was interrogated for several days; he volunteered information that led to the arrest of his cohorts; he was arraigned, found guilty and eventually executed.

Hei, I suppose the ethnic groups in Kenya have traditional attires. Why have Kenyan prominent citizens consistently refused to flaunt the dresses their ancestors proudly wore? Right from the assistant minister to Mr President himself, it appears tie and suit is the national dress. It becomes an embarrassment when we see the rural Kenyan: the real tribal Masai, the vowed Kikuyu, the unabashed Luo and the likes wear the traditional dress to a political meeting only for the ministers, the MPs, the assistant ministers and mayors dress in suits and ties whose elegance could make Gordon Brown green with envy. Can’t we design something more African for those District Officers? The last time I saw the DOs on KTN, (a Kenya TV station) holding a meeting with the President, I thought we were in the 1950s; I expected to see Justice O’Connor perform a swearing in only to behold Mr Mwai Kibaki resplendent in a shining suit, doing the talking. The women folk is not as guilty though. That reminds me. Maybe we should appeal to the first lady to advice other wives of our honourables to have pillow talk with the eminent Kenyans on their mode of dressing. Perhaps they will reconsider, perhaps.

The year was 2005. The United Nations Development Programme had released its report on the level of poverty in Nigeria, that there was abject poverty in the sixth or is it the seventh oil producing country in the world. The Nigerian president was on air almost immediately the report was made public; he, as usual, presented a ridiculously contradicting statement. Hear him, ‘yes, there is poverty in Nigeria but not abject poverty.’ The inference of the Nigerian president’s observation is that, it is legitimate for Nigerians to experience poverty but abject poverty is not desirable for Nigerians. In Mr Obasanjo;s modified estimation poverty should be a way of life for Nigerians but not abject poverty; it is as if poverty of any nature is desirable for Nigerians.

Turn your searchlight to Kenya. The month is February, the year, 2007. The same body, UNDP, has just released a report on the level of human development in the country. The report showed a serious chasm between the poorest and the richest regions of the country.

A cabinet minister read government’s rejection of the UNDP report about forty-eighty hours after it was released, ‘the poverty diagnostics cited in the report are based on figures which have indeed changed.’ The Kenyan government pontificated. The statement went further to say that the Kenyan government would soon make its own report based on current figures, public. The government’s stance implies that the United Nations by implication the UNDP always base its reports on obsolete therefore unreliable data. Good reasoning. It is logical, therefore, that Kenya and Nigeria should refrain from patronizing the UN if both countries cannot accept the realities of the findings of the August body. So, the United Nations Environmental Programme headquarters should be moved from Nairobi to Paris. Why not?

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