The auditorium at Mount Kenya University can comfortably sit up to five hundred people. The crimson red puffy seats, while contrasting sharply with the smooth ivory white walls, immaculately match the dense woollen carpet spread across the entire floor. The high ceiling coupled with the raised wooden dais gives everyone inside a theatrical experience. The population of the county of Kiambu is well – represented here tonight. Farmers, the business community, youth, women, persons living with disabilities, civil society groups and of course, a few idlers here and there looking to score a free sandwich and a cup of hot tea. Authentic Kiambu tea, grown in the vast flatlands of Limuru and the cold ridges of Riara. The kind of tea that is so rich in colour, it looks like it was scooped from a pool of muddy water. The kind that turns your saliva into a thick slippery brown gel. The kind that can keep your mind alert for two hours, to follow the proceedings of the first-ever Kiambu County gubernatorial debate.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, please give it up for today’s debate moderator, a globally celebrated journalist and a son of Kiambu’s soil, Mr. Geoffrey Kuria!’ the host hypes the rather quiet and stultified audience. Geoffrey walks to the stage waving his right hand resplendently, bows and takes his seat right across the dais. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, our first candidate in tonight’s debate, vying on a Maendeleo Mashinani party ticket, the current Member of Parliament for Kikuyu Constituency, Honourable Stephen Kinyanjui!’ the host goes again, his brow shining from the small droplets of sweat that have gathered. Kinyanjui saunters leisurely across the stage, as a small section of his supporters cheer him on, and takes his position on one of the podiums. The host introduces two more contestants before signing off with his last introduction of the night. ‘Lastly, ladies and gentlemen, our fourth candidate for tonight’s debate, the former Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs, vying on a The Future Is Now party ticket, Mr. Isak Baraza!’ The crowd goes berserk with a racket of ululations, foot stamps, claps and discorded chants. If these noises are anything to go by, it is almost clear which candidate is most popular.
Geoffrey Kuria is a fine journalist who knows his job too well, which has earned him the reputation of being the best political interview host in the county. He has mastered the art of politics. When in Rome, right? He arms himself with all the facts of the matter at hand, then slyly arm twists the respondent into giving him the answer he is looking for. When he encounters a tough cookie who tries to outsmart him by constantly evading the question, he witfully hits below the belt, often embarrassing them. He has no regrets. It is the job, he says. When the candidates had learnt that he would be the moderator for the debate, they braced themselves. It would be an unpleasant two hours of their lives.
‘The first question goes to you Mr. Baraza. You have often been accused of having extramarital affairs. You are also a vocal advocate of family planning. As a family man, what is your take on familism and the concept of the family? You have three minutes’
‘Thank you, Geoffrey. I have been married to one wife for seven years. My only wife is seated somewhere in the crowd. Maybe she can stand and wave? (Baraza searches across the room with his eyes) Ah. there she is. We have been blessed with one daughter. Her name is Nina. To me, my family is my pride. Before leaving the house every morning to serve my country as the Principal Secretary, I am a husband. A father. And I cannot trade these roles for anything in the world. The claims of my having extramarital affairs are unfounded and false. My wife and I have been faithful to each other for the entire period of our marriage and if anyone has any evidence of the contrary, I dare them to produce it. On matters of family planning, I am a believer that numbers are the best tools for decision making. Kiambu County is currently the second most – populated county with over two million people. On the other hand, the county is nineteenth when it comes to land mass. This is a huge disparity which has led to an uneven distribution of resources. My government will encourage the great people of Kiambu to only have as many children as they can take care of. Through this, I believe there will be a fair share of resources for every resident and citizen of this great land. Thank you.’
A huge section of the audience stands and claps continuously. Baraza puts the palms of his hands together and bows in appreciation. ‘Thank you, Mr. Baraza. We will come back to you shortly. Over to you, Mr. Kinyanjui. You are recently divorced and have been accused to be a wife batterer. There have also been reports about your children not performing well in school as a result of the tension and stress environment they dwell in at home. As a leader, is this a good example you are setting to your people? On the same note, share your perspective on the issue of the family, in light of Mr Baraza’s response to the same question. You have three minutes,’
‘Thank you. Geoffrey,’ Kinyanjui clears his throat, ‘I have huge respect for women. I was elected as a member of Parliament for Kikuyu Constituency five years ago, winning with a landslide. My campaign was founded on the belief that women are the backbone of society and they should get equal opportunities in every sector of the economy. In Parliament, I have sponsored bills that advocate for equal representation of women…’
‘Mr. Kinyanjui. I’m sorry to cut you short, but we would like to hear your response to the specific matter of the women in your family. Not what you have done for women in your constituency,’ there goes the typical Geoffrey.
‘I was getting there before you interrupted me’ Kinyanjui seems a little irked.
‘Alright, go ahead. You have two and a half minutes left,’
‘It is true that my wife and I split up. The reason for the divorce is personal but the fact of the matter is that we are both happier apart. Our two children have been very strong during this period and the reports of them performing poorly in school are not true. It is normal for children to lose a bit of direction during such periods of change, and I am proud of my two girls for holding up and understanding that their parents have to stay apart. With regards to the matter of family planning, it is very ironic that the man purporting to control the population of Kiambu is busy planting seeds everywhere and not watering them,’
‘What do you mean by that, Mr. Kinyanjui?’ Geoffrey asks, shifting in his seat. This is getting interesting. His kind of interesting.
‘I am referring to the fact that Mr. Baraza has impregnated a couple of university girls, even some from this university, and denied responsibility for his actions. How can you claim to control a population that you are busy increasing through infidelity?’ Kinyanjui barks into the microphone.
‘Would you want to respond to that, Mr. Baraza?’ Geoffrey takes the ball to Baraza’s court. It’s almost like the other two candidates have been forgotten. The room is now filled with the warmth that comes from the anticipation of some juicy news. Trust the people of Kiambu to
‘The university girls my opponent is talking about were out to rip me off. Who knows? They could have been sent by my opponents to tarnish my name. I am certain the children they were carrying were not mine,’
‘What makes you so sure?’ Geoffrey digs deeper.
Baraza’s face lights up. His eyes wander across the room. Thousands of eyes stare at him apprehensively. He swallows a gulp of the thick slippery brown saliva (he drained two cups of tea) and clenches his jaw. He leans into the microphone and takes a deep breath, before calmly confirming the fears of many.
‘Because I cannot have children,’
There is a stiff sullen silence as the audience digests this realisation. Soft murmurs cut through the shock and dismay. The journalists at the back clamour together to verify that they got that footage in high resolution. Geoffrey brings the room back to order and probes Baraza further. Baraza confesses that their daughter is indeed adopted. He shares a touching story of how he reacted after getting the news about his fertility from his endocrinologist. He insists that his condition has nothing to do with his population control campaign. A small tear drops from his right eye as he talks about Nina and how he loves her as if he was her biological father. Cameras shutter. He completes his monologue with an appreciation to his wife for accepting him as he is and for sacrificing the satisfaction of childbirth and settling for an adopted baby instead. The cameras point to where Natasha Baraza is seated. The seat is empty. She is somewhere in the bathroom, sweating and convulsing uncontrollably. She chucks up a mixture of vomit and thick sticky saliva. Her seven weeks old pregnancy must not have liked whatever its mother had heard or seen.
The leading Kenyan papers hardly carry the same story on their front pages unless it is one that is saturated with suspenseful nuts and bolts. A story like last night’s gubernatorial debate. The Kiambu Family Man. Baraza Raising The Bar. Infertility Is Not Inability. The gossip blogs and social platforms are not left behind with their corny story headlines. This famous politician with a hot wife cannot have kids! Meet the lucky orphan girl who was adopted by a rich politician! However embarrassing it is to be the centre of all this attention, Isak Baraza is a happy man. His little ignoble plan is working. Everyone is sympathising with him. Everyone adores him. They are praising his positivity and lauding the courage in revealing his condition. It has also served to clear his name from all the rumours of him having sired children with other women, at the same time making Mheshimiwa Kinyanjui come off as a chronic liar. His wife being angry at him for exploiting the situation to gain political mileage is a small price to pay. She has been moody and cranky lately, but Isak Baraza is sure all this will go away as soon as she becomes the FLOTCOK. First Lady of The County of Kiambu.
You are having a rough week by extension. The women in your life are getting into your nerves in their special respective ways. Natasha is acting weird the past couple of days. She seems sad and defeated. Her rather beady bright eyes are now hazel and dry. Like she has been crying herself to sleep. She has even added a couple of pounds and it is showing. She no longer reminds you of your mother! And the last time you were together, for the first time ever, she did not desire you. However, with all that has been going on with her husband, you cut her some slack. Lilian has lost her job and is blaming you for it. She believes the reason she was let go was as a result of all the drama brought about by her little fling with you. She curses you and swears that you will pay for it one day. Joy, your former girlfriend, is now flaunting his new man on social media. The captions are all alluding to you. You never realise how much you settled for less when someone else treats you the way you actually deserve. He is tall, this new boyfriend of hers. His beard is full and healthy. From the photos, he looks like a real upgrade from you. ‘Wataachana Tu,’ you think to yourself and scroll on.
Then there’s Josephine. The slim fine girl from the club the other day. The one that messed your bedsheets. She called you the other day, sobbing uncontrollably. She said her mother had been killed by some bad people and she did not know what to do. You do not know how to console a grieving person so you told her what everyone says. It will be okay. All is well. She said there was something she needed to talk to you about but would do so after her mother’s funeral. You said it was okay. You have had enough from women. Maybe you can stay by yourself this weekend. Alcohol was invented for moments like this.
END OF EPISODE 7
Episode 8: Friday 5th June, 2020