Are poor people powerless because they are poor or are they poor because they are powerless? Also, are most rich people powerful because of their riches, or are they rich because they are powerful? Oliver cannot seem to put his head around this shit. And he really hates it when he cannot get his head around shit he thinks about.
He imagines a convoy of black Prado 150s burning rubber on rough asphalt on their way home. Inside one of these beastly Toyotas, the big belly of a big man wobbles like jelly as the tires grind on the uneven tarmac. He is engrossed in a WhatsApp chat with what Oliver assumes to be one of his petite mistresses. He is probably asking her for nudes, as they always seem to do, but she is playing hard to get because she needs money to buy herself a 70k wig! And money has never been a problem to this pile of a man ever since he acquired and kept the gubernatorial seat of his County. So he scrolls and taps on the screen of his high end smartphone with his fat fingers, movements that result in the beeping of the girl’s iphone with a message that reads something like ‘OF46ODQE70 confirmed. You have received…’ Sometime later, she gets the wig, and he wanks at her nudes.
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It is 1830 hrs when the man looks out his tinted window into a vast expanse of land. In the shadows of these plains is the silhouette of a mountain, with streams shimmering in the setting sun. Like a fat boy who has seen fudge cake, our governor is instantly excited. He reaches for his other high end smartphone (guys like these tend to have many). The one that makes phone calls. Then he dials a number. Oliver doesn’t know the details of what they talk about, but he certainly heard words like “Shamba” and “Acres ngapi” and “Gai! Gai! Gai! Gai!” and “Ya nani” and “Hio ni shida kidogo” and “Ndio Mheshimiwa.”
Marketers say the 1st step towards spending money on something is seeing it, and they are right. Only that this time, instead of cash, the purchase would be made in blood and sealed with life. As night falls and they whizz past landscapes, the man muses at how wonderful it would be to have 2000 acres of soil in this part of the Country. And because success requires speed, he makes even more phone calls that culminate into a private meeting in his private study room with his most trusted dogs. They sip aged whiskey as they weigh options and methods of dealing with any resistance they will come up against.
Sometimes, greedy men are patient men. Other times, greedy men are shrewd men. They make long calculated moves. Like hyenas on NatGeo. Stalking their prey and sizing them up. When the equations are right, they move in for the kill. Mheshimiwa acquires the land. A streak of lost lives leading up to a piece of paper. A title deed. Signed and sealed in blood.
Mheshimiwa understands that there exists many people like him. People who might come after his throat because they looked out their Prado 150s and salivated upon what they saw. So he organises to protect himself. He gives a quarter of the land to the nearby poor communities. He tells them, “Wananchi, mimi kama kiongozi wenu nimezingatia maslahi yenu. Hakuna mtu anapaswa kukosa mahali pake pa kijenga nyumba yake waishi na familia yake. Kwa hivyo, serikali yangu imenunua 500 acres ili igawie wananchi.” The wananchi cheer. They celebrate. “Mheshimiwa tena!!” they chant, the idiots. And in their excitement, they build their houses and make babies and begin to farm. They forget to ask for papers. Papers that will ensure no one points at them and says “squatters!”
Mheshimiwa’s plan does not stop there. He needs these people to protect him when other hyenas come. So he deliberately makes sure that these people remain poor, while adoring him. That they receive only a fraction of the services they deserve. He makes sure that the roads remain bad, water is always an issue, electricity barely reaches all households, drainage systems are bullshit, etc. Once in a while he commissions a borehole. Other times a charging spot. Sometimes he ground breaks the building of a hospital. But that’s only as far as it ever gets.
Then, the much anticipated hyenas arrive. They call themselves authorities. They say that the land on which these people live belongs to the government. That it was acquired unlawfully and so these people are living here illegally. A confrontation ensues. But these people are powerless because they are poor, or they are poor because they are powerless – at the point when that sentence crosses his mind, Oliver feels a migraine developing – so they may never win any argument with the government.
In his book The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli said that “God creates men, but they choose each other.” Oliver couldn’t agree more. God does not attend campaigns. He does not take 500 shillings so that He can vote in a certain Mheshimiwa and He certainly does not queue to cast his ballot for the wrong person. Oliver, rather bluntly, supposes that this could be the reason why when bulldozers came to tear down these people’s homes, God did not concern himself with their cries.
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With each wall that was broken, someone’s future crumbled. With every lifting of the bulldozer’s arm, someone’s future was torn apart. And as they cried, #stopoppressingus trended on twitter. The media catch live on camera scenes of women and children being evicted in the middle of a rainy night. Chased out of the place they have called home like stray dogs. You saw it in Kariobangi and Ruai a few weeks. A contagious hate for the authorities beings to spread. The world loathes at the government. Kenyans take to the streets they way they know how to. They become chaotic and in the process anti-riot police intervene, the way they know how to. As the government and the people clash, some civilian lives are taken. The world notices. And the government does not like it when the world sees the dirt it tries to covers up.
So a group of politicians appears and makes a speech about how the government rebukes the recent unjust activities that it has seen on TV. The people are given back the land to rebuild. Meanwhile, Mheshimiwa is seated in his executive leather seat farting and scratching himself. He grins at what he sees on television. His plan has worked for now. It was never about him, it was about the people.