Propelled to internet fame by a clumsy photograph of himself during an election, githeri man has instantly become a beacon of humor and good will in a country that is still hurtling away from a rocky election. An election marred with accusations, counter accusations, petitions, law suits and a widening rift among citizens with different political preferences.
In his wake, Martin has received a number of endorsements from brands across the country. He was the perfect distraction during a time when brands on social media could not do much. As a country, our electoral process has not evolved to the point, say like the American’s, where brands can openly troll candidates and declare support for others. Here we still walk on egg shells. And so when he popped up, stoic, alert, holding a polythene bag of githeri and an expression on his face that showed what I think to be a mixture of impatience on a non-moving line and an expectancy to vote, brands lapped him up and went ahead to distract users from political banter and brought attention to a different agenda – peace.
But Martin, or Githeri man as the internet is so fond of calling him could be the shoot of a more deep rooted problem. That as a country we are escapist in nature. We lack the emotional, intellectual and even political maturity to address the problems we face. And that is why on a national level this guy became our temporary dose of distraction. A dose we so desperately need and one we will soon desperately seek as he cannot sustain the high.
On August 8th 2017 there was a civic duty to be carried out. Voting. Kenyans in their millions thronged their different polling stations with some streaming in as early as 3 AM. From where I was the excitement in the air was palpable. You could touch it, mold it into something and breathe life into it. At that moment we were all unified by a single factor. In our specific streams, it did not matter what the last name of the person ahead or behind you was. We held each other in positive regard, throwing in a few jokes here and unanimously agreeing to the efficiency of the process. There was a bit of discord once in a while when a supposed mother would be ferried to the front of the line much to the dismay of many. But other than that the process went unfettered and people went home.
Then as night fell so did the veil of many Kenyans. We had a candidate make claims that the election was rigged. In their possession they had strings of evidence and insider information. The internet went into a frenzy. Previous affiliations you might have thought to be sensible left their decorum, education and knowledge at the door. They were spewing tribal slurs, hate and vowing to teach lessons.
Personally, I am not a fan of political banter. The main reason is it is never constructive. A lot of time is wasted as to why a certain politician is better than the other and we concentrate so much on the numbers they have. A majority of people do not realize that they are the numbers. And that political discussions should not be had on party or tribal basis but on development basis. That these discussions should not be about lesser evils or past indiscretions but on ways of moving forward. And with this we find that these discussion tend to be myopic.
With the few people I managed to engage on their political preferences; none were able to validate their choice. It was all founded on flimsy reasons. Politics. You might think that this is bullshit, that I am one of those people that cannot take a stand and choose a side. Well, you are wrong. I have a side and that side is me. The country. You. On that ballot paper we had names most had never heard about till the elections. Maybe because the individuals did not have the resources needed to mobilize themselves and get the word out. But as a citizen, how much due diligence did you conduct? Do you know what your candidates manifesto contained? Or what their plans were for different sectors of the economy? Or how their plans aligned with millennium development goals or Vision 2030? That is not enough. Did you know what their opponents had? Did you audit it and see what was different? If it was workable? If indeed they were the worst choice?
And that is why when faced with such questions people slip back into their tribal cocoons, decide to label others as sympathizers or radical extremists or simply look for escapist means of dissipating the tension hence; githeri man.
To the man behind the legend, Martin Kamotho; he has done well for himself. Land, smartphones, holidays, makeovers, menu items, endorsements and the list is continuously growing.
But what can we say about ourselves? Are we ready to start addressing these key issues with open and sober minds? Or are we just going to accept and move on? Accept that we are incapable of sober auditing of political agendas and move on with the lies we have told ourselves.
You tell me.