Nairobi — Whenever new friends ask me what I do (for a living), I tell them that I write, and when they ask what I write about, I reply that as a short-order writer, I write on just about anything, with my favourite being obituaries, since one cannot libel the dead.
"Are you paid to write?" they ask. "No, I am paid for writing. First I write, then I get paid for it." I usually add that those people or institutions toying with the idea of paying me to write drop it when I tell them that I am very expensive, and probably, priceless.
There are numerous individuals or institutions which pay journalists for working for them. One such outfit is Ace Communications, which is owned, or associated with, Information and Communication Minister Raphael Tuju, who last week told journalists that they should not talk about corruption in the Narc Government because they, or the media houses they work in, are corrupt.
The Ndori, Bondo District-born Tuju, who holds a Master of Arts degree in Communication from University of Leicester, United Kingdom, was implying that the Cabinet ministers and public servants who are paid by the taxpayer have a right to be corrupt, and that journalists have no moral authority to tell Kenyans how the Narc Government rips them off.
Tuju, a father of three who once said journalists should fight tribal and racial barriers by reporting in a balanced manner and avoiding hateful or hostile language, this time round turned his guns on scribes, whose only sin is stating a fact: that the Narc Government is very corrupt.
Speaking at an investigative journalism workshop, Tuju, who will turn 46 at the end of next month, talked vaguely about MPs who get money to ask questions in Parliament and journalists, or media houses, who get paid to publish those questions and answers.
The Rarieda MP, who studied at Majiwa Primary and Nakuru West Primary schools before joining corruption-free (or so we are told) Starehe Boys Centre for both Ordinary and Advanced level education, further insinuated that his colleagues who have moved house since they joined the Cabinet are corrupt because "I live in the same house I was in in 1989". But that is his problem.
Tuju seems to be missing very main points. Which journalists were elected on the platform of wiping out corruption? Which ones are paid by taxpayers' money?
How many of them took an oath to uphold the Constitution? Which ones sit in Cabinet meetings where decisions to wheel and deal are made? Which journalist signed those questionable contracts in which the public was going to be ripped off? How many enjoy perks without working and which ones let their wives who are not journalists fight their battles when they are accused of corruption?
Mr Tuju, you are a very eloquent, self-respecting fellow and you would do yourself a lot of good by calling a broadsheet a broadsheet and not a big tabloid. Stop fomenting corruption by hiding behind journalists. You either present the facts, or hold your peace for as long as you are riding on the backs of poor Kenyans who toil day and night so that you and your colleagues can reap where you did not sow.
Are you so dense that light bends around your head? Do you have a chronic allergy to exertion? Do you develop violent allergic reactions to an honest day's work? Are you a consummate liar? Do you think that Robin Hood was out of his mind, stealing from the rich to feed the poor, when he should have been stealing from everyone to feed himself instead? Can you say the phrase "It wasn't me" believably even if there is video evidence to the contrary? Are you a team player who will you let your colleagues eat from the public coffers in peace? Do you believe that all your problems are caused by Kenyans envious of your success?
Have you seen and fought in both world wars? Do your friends and loved ones cringe when you open your mouth in preparation to speak? Do you have trouble distinguishing between the words PUBLIC and MINE?
If you have answered "Y"es to any of these questions, then we are looking for you! Kenya's Kitchen Cabinet is one of the fastest growing entities in the world.
Our motto is "Quantity" and our mission statement is "The More, The Merrier".
And just last week we grew some more.
The benefits that come with the job include job security. And like the Italian Mafia, the only way out of the Cabinet is via the Grim Reaper. Other perks include free helicopter rides; a handsome salary; hook-ups for tax waivers, import contracts and the like from fellow cabinet ministers; free use of Government facilities (an excellent army that can dig boreholes, herd your cattle, till your farm and an Airforce that can be deployed to take care of those pesky crows and hawks troubling your farm; our Navy can take care of your swimming pool); ample assistance with three assistant ministers, three assistant assistant ministers, two deputy assistant ministers and four deputy deputy sub-assistant ministers; comprehensive insurance for life and all body parts; interest-free loans and grants and your own convoy, complete with bodyguards who do not have the sense to get into their cars while they are stationary but instead wait for them to hit breakneck speeds. Apply now to the First Lady.
(The original, un-edited version of the advertisement is available on the Internet).
Dear Diary, I am sorry I have not made an entry for the past week because I was so busy working. You know, the President said that this is a Working Nation, but he is so busy not working that I have to do all the work. Diary, my Government and the lesser one of the President are trying our best to ensure that Kenyans get what they do not want: Corruption. But remember, I am a pusher, so much so that people call me a tractor, never mind that a tractor is known for pulling, but in this time and age, anything is possible.
My Government will push the lesser one of the President into working even if it means that I have to fight his Government's battles for him. In the past week I was extremely busy, what with the micro-mini reshuffle that saw the President effect changes but forget to include himself. Oh! what a hard task that was.
Running this country is so difficult, yet so easy. There are minor problems that I have to deal with, like raising money for schools, and ensuring that they do not receive tainted money from donors. I am so busy, and never in the history of Independent Kenya has one woman been so busy.
Sometimes I think I am the only man in this Cabinet, because the Cabinet members have to report to me - how else do you think I get to know the things that I tell Kenyans, like the number of people to be prosecuted and how clean the Government is? Diary dear, Kenyans need to know that we are capable of doing many things, including playing golf, even though we hit the tee and miss the ball.
This is the same spirit we are applying to all things: While Kenyans expect you to do what they know is the norm, do a different thing altogether. Never give away these trade secrets. Kenyans would not be suffering if it were not for the Opposition newspapers that spread malicious rumours that there is graft. Imagine some foreigners trust what they say and then go ahead and suspend aid to Kenya, as if our livelihoods depended on them. We do not need them as what we get from the taxpayers is enough to run our homesteads. We do not need any extra donations from those pesky Britons, Krauts and Americans who think they can dictate terms to us. With these few remarks, Diary dear, I have to take leave and attend to other pressing State matters. If there is anything else that I have not included, the Presidential Press Service will fill in the gaps.
Last Friday, Tony Washika of Kenya Pipeline Company was one annoyed, albeit avid, reader of Clay Court. He sent mail saying he is a professional registered engineer (Kenya), a member of the IEEE (US) and he is sure he got better results than I did in school because electrical engineers are Kenya's top brains.
"I am currently studying at the University of Cape town, and do not think that just because you are a journalist, you know everything. By the way, journalism is not a profession because if it was, it would have a code of ethics like we do," his diatribe read in part.
My offence? I had offered to lend Kiraitu Murungi my thesaurus so he could look up the other meanings of the word "clown". In the process, I listed some names and in conclusion said the minister might even find Kiraitu Murungi on the list. I fail to understand why this engineer was so annoyed, just the same as pharmacist Christopher Ndarathi Murungaru was when he was moved from the Office of the President to Transcom House.
"What is this mob talk. I heard someone say over the radio that they want to see blood. Of what, a goat, chicken.... Ask specific questions for which you will get specific answers and not speculation," Murungaru fumed at journalists, his face contorted and his fingers twitching in an arrogant display of anger and disdain at the members of this otherwise unlovable tribe.
Daktari, ease up. You forgot that you were on national television and that you were addressing Kenyan taxpayers and your actions just showed how disrespectful you are towards the people who pay your rent and literally feed and clothe you. Reserve those looks and words for your Cabinet colleagues. They are the ones who are as ill-mannered, and deserving of your kind of arrogance.