Reviews

I’ve got something to tell the PM

By TOM ODHIAMBO This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

One Rapho has been ruffling facebookers and unsettling tweeters.

Man Rapho wants to stand on a youth agenda. He is Kenyan by tribe.

The only problem is that Rapho wants to speak for the youth before he knows what the youth really want.

What do young Kenyans wish for? What are their dreams? How do they see themselves fitting into the national political landscape? Do young Kenyans want to be identified as Kenyans only or would they also wish to be known as Digo, Turkana, Iteso, Bajuni?

Well, none of Facebook, Twitter, Bing or the thousands of virtual communities around can tell a Kenyan politician what the youth want.

Forget the noises all over that claim that Kenyan youth are networked. The percentage that accesses the Internet is still not worth talking about.

If you want to know what Kenyan youth want, go to clubs, soccer matches, and neighbourhood corners or read Justus Siage’s book, Letter to the Prime Minister (Nsemia Inc. Publishers, 2011).

Probably I am exaggerating a little bit but Letter to the Prime Minister is a good barometer of the anxieties, wishes or hopes of many a Kenyan young woman or man.

Or maybe let us just say it is Siage’s opinion on what he thinks his country is like, what he wishes it would be and who he thinks is responsible for the state Kenya is in.

This book is not a revolutionary call by a young man to any cause; it is not a manifesto to change.

It is a simple collection of strings of thoughts on everyday happenings, anecdotes from personal experiences and personal history mapped onto the broader canvas of Kenya’s socio-economic and political life.

The sketches that make up the text sometimes appear like letters to the editor; the book adopts the first person narrative voice in some places, moves into a conversation mode and eventually ends as the letter to the Prime Minister that the title refers to.

After all, it is the Prime Minister who is the head prefect of the government, and if things go wrong in the country it is only fair that citizens address their grievances to him first.

Siage is shocked that the persistent blackouts and dry taps that he endured in Kisumu are part of life in Nairobi.

His list of things that make life a hardship in Nairobi/Kenya is endless.

These are the same things that Kenyans gnash their teeth and scratch their heads over every day but have not found a solution to.

An ineffective City Council that spends thousands of taxpayers’ shillings erecting billboards to crow about what is expected of it; MPs who will disagree over everything else but agree not to pay tax; the ever-rising cost of transport due to rise in the price of fuel (does the Prime Minister still drive his fuel-guzzling Hummer?); insecurity; police corruption, etc, are topics Kenyans rehash all the time, everywhere.

So, repeating this conversation won’t hurt the ear too much, one supposes that is how Siage thought when he decided to write to the Prime Minister.

So, what does Siage intend to achieve? Won’t the Prime Minister read his missive and throw it into the trash basket, like he probably does to many such complaints?

It seems that Siage’s wish is that the Prime Minister (and other politicians such as Rapho who want the youth vote in 2012) should realise that the youth suffer the same hardships like other citizens.

Therefore, if adults and the employed are complaining about poor salaries or nepotism, have to walk long distances to work because they can’t afford fare and go hungry at lunch time, then the youth have more reason to complain.

 

Youth(ful) leaders, or leaders such as Rapho, beware.

Dr Tom Odhiambo teaches literature the University of Nairobi. 

This review appeared in the Daily Nation of Saturday September 10th, 2011

 

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