The Wall

The Wall

I finally witnessed firsthand what Mutahi Ngunyi was saying the other day about the tyranny of numbers. He said it unapologetically, with a hint of arrogance; that Jubilee had a better chance of winning the last general elections because well, they had the tyranny of numbers in their favor.

We were disappointed at his audaciousness. How dare he? We were trying to move away from such backward politics, we lamented. We don’t vote along tribal lines anymore. We know better. But do we really?

I walked into a Butchery in Sotik the other day and a light bulb moment happened. Md is done babysitting me now and I am getting to know Sotik all on my own. He did a good job of showing us around. Not that Sotik is a big town or anything. You can walk around the whole town from end to end in what? 20mins? The town is small but the babysitting was good while it lasted.  He showed me the supermarket, the grocery market place, the ATM, the chemist. He also showed me a restaurant where they make the most delicious fried chicken a girl could ever crave for. A girl has to know such a place because there comes a time when the craving for fatty foods far outweighs your determination to maintain a trim waistline. When that time comes, you have no choice but to indulge, calories be damned!  Ladies, can I get an Amen?!

So I walked into this butchery to buy meat. There was nothing extraordinary about the shop; there were two attendants with blood stained white coats, big pangas cutting through stubborn bones. There was matumbo – fresh matumbo – so you can imagine the ‘stench’. Blood. Fresh blood. Smell of blood. Why do I eat meat again? I took in the scene. Tried to picture what had happened to make a live cow a piece of meat. The merciless act of butchering. Gutting. Spilling of blood. I tried to pay attention to any feelings of repulsion. Nada. I truly have no ounce of vegetarianism in me. Not an ounce. I proceeded to buy meat.

I noticed that one of the butcher men who had been pounding on stubborn bones was now looking at me impatiently, waiting for my order.

“Kilo Moja ni how much?” I asked.

“Three hundreth” Yeah. That is how ‘hundred’ is pronounced in Kalenjinese!

I requested for a kilo and a half, all packed in halves for refrigeration purposes.
At the far side of the counter the other guy was trying to do something to the matumbo; was he cleaning it, cutting it? I did not look long enough to see what he was doing because something else caught my attention.

The wall.

There were newspaper cuttings pasted all over the wall. The focus was on none other than the Vice President of Kenya, William Samoei Ruto. The wall was covered with newspaper picture cuttings of Ruto. There was Ruto with Uhuru Kenyatta in that photo where they did the campaign advert standing side by side against a red background with their backs to each other. Another picture was of Ruto with his wife and other members of a church congregation when he cried and cried and cried at a church service after Jubilee’s victory. Boy, didn’t he cry! I even got to notice that he knelt down in the process and wept thoroughly– I had missed that! I think every picture ever taken of Ruto with his wife, alone, in a press conference, in a rally, in a funeral, wedding…was there on that wall.

I noticed Rachel Ruto’s shoes in the picture where her husband was weeping in church. That shoe is so good! I took a great length of time to study that shoe. It was multicolored, had a great heel…the shoe was to die for! But I guess the shoe was the last thing on her mind when her husband was kneeling down weeping and she had one arm on his shoulder seeming lost on how to react. Ruto had both his hands on the floor. He seriously wept! Can I just ask, emotions aside, why exactly did he cry so much? I know he was happy, grateful and you know…all emotional about that victory. But seriously, the weeping was ….why did he cry that much? Coz he really cried. Aki alilia! Get that clip and watch again if you can. Dude can cry.

Done with the weeping reverie, I finally spotted it. The newspaper clippings were nothing compared to this particular picture. Right there in front of me, above me, I saw it. I don’t know how I missed it before. A framed picture of the president was there, which was expected. BUT next to the framed picture of the president of the republic of Kenya, stood the framed picture of the vice president of the republic of Kenya. There was something about that picture. I could tell that it was framed with a little more care. A little more precision. I imagine that whoever framed it did so with a smile on his face. He must have caressed the frame a bit before putting it up on the wall. A thousand shillings says that the glass is cleaned every week or every fortnight just so that it does not accumulate any dust. Dust on that picture frame would be an abomination.

After looking at the wall, you realize that the framed picture of the president holds no candle to the vice president’s picture, regardless of superiority. It was put there with pride. It was a conquest of sort. A battle that was fought and won. A trophy? Arsenal fans now know what I am talking about, huh?

The butcher man could be a local man with no more ambition than to run his business and make a decent living. Feed his children, educate them and put a roof on their heads. But every five years, he wields some power. He goes out to war. He gets to play a part in determining whose picture he will hang on the wall of his butchery. He pitifully believes that Ruto’s win is his win, irrespective of whether Ruto does the work assigned to him by Kenyans or not.

This man, just like Ngunyi, knows about the tyranny of numbers only too well. Maybe better than us ‘educated’ lot. It is sad that it is the only language he knows though. Maybe we should educate him about the ‘tyranny’ of a good development record, the ‘tyranny’ of security, the ‘tyranny’ of corrupt-free government. Until he is educated about other important aspects of government, then his voting will only be informed by that tyranny of numbers. It is the only language he understands after all.

The butcher man let the wall speak for him. We barely said two words and yet I got a glimpse of his heart through the hangings on his wall. He is a man proud of Ruto. Ruto’s win, was his win.
How about you? What do you proudly hang on your wall? What is it that speaks for you even before you say a single word?

 What is your Ruto?

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