Sawa – we, the Political People

| May 13, 2013 - 13.46UTC

In Kenya, the only times folks don’t talk politics are when they’re listening to others talking politics, and when they’re thinking about their reply. By Josaya Wasong.

Phew. The elections are over. It’s time to get back to more important things, no? More important biz like doing… oh, heck, politics. Admit it. We’re all raring to goss.

Man, this is Kenya. Chuck politics out of circulation and our second nature kicks in: we’ll beseech the government to intervene. “Tunaomba serikali…” And that’s while we’re at it on the streets, hollering our civil rights anthem, Haki Yetu.

Besides, serikali shenanigans sell dailies, although it’s mostly a love-hate affair. We love the dirty game’s drama but hate the players for prying our last pittances from our death grips.

The first one hundred days. I’m not talking about those pies in the sky that politicians promise on campaign trails. The first one hundred days I’m talking of involve Kenyans trading conspiracy theories, rumours and gossip through the grapevine.

The thing with these tales is they keep changing. Hear a rumour on day nine and when you chance upon it again come day 81 it will have done seven sequels and two prequels. It’s up to you to choose what to ‘carry forward’.

Man, Kenyans have this badass talent of ‘rewriting’ political gossip. Which can teach a hotshot Hollywood writer like Night Shyamalan a thing or two about writing high concepts.

The crystal ball. Here are things to watch for in these early days. Instead of the silly season, rumour mills will go into overdrive. This is the right time to start yellow newspapers. Hawk them in matatus. As oafs swallow your bait all the way to wherever, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

During this time opinion polls will be replaced by guesstimates. Kenyans, being consummate number crunchers, will give you seemingly-verifiable facts and figures. Even guys who know jerk about sampling will tell you stuff that will make you go, “Tom Wolfe”.

After the one hundred days ‘breather’, like clockwork we will start electioneering again for the next General Election. That’s the state of the nation, sawa?

The art of discourse. “Sorry, boss, I’m not a fan of politics,” I once told an ‘itinerant analyst’ (I was in a matatu) who had glanced at a racy newspaper headline and used it to break the ice.

Hell, that’s just us, the people. Since (like it or not) you’ll be forced to parley, here’s the art of political discourse:

One, act like the cat got your tongue. In Kenya, talking politics is a marathon gig, so please never start what you can’t finish.

If One fails, go to Two. Mmm-ing and aha-ing. These grunts will be intermittently punctuated by statements like, “you don’t say” and “say what?” Hold your gear in neutral. Why? Because anything you say that goes against an analyst’s grain can be used against you.

If neutral fails, hit Three. More like Step On It. Quote some gross goss from the ‘yellow pages’ and let the sucker do a marathon rewrite… as you return to One.

That’s us the people, sawa?

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