Monday, June 26, 2006


"Many are spoil’d by that pedantic throng, who with great pains teach the youth to reason wrong. Tutors like virtuoso’s, oft inclin’d by strange transfusion to improve the mind, draw off the sense we have, to pour in new; which yet, with all their skill they ne’er could do."
Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism (1711)

As I have said before, I was brought up on Shakespeare and The Bible. The Bible was important to remind us of whose image was on the coin whilst Shakespeare, by being incomprehensible, was meant to make literature- and the quest for knowledge- abhorrent. The school system was designed to turn us into carpenters, like baby Jesus, and not what Taban Liyong called intellectual- intelligentsia- convertibles.
They would never teach us Ngugi wa Thiong’o because the realities mirrored in his writing were too close to home. Ngugi- and his ilk- was anathema because wasn’t in the business of raising intelligent revolutionaries.

Our history and Civics texts- inspired by Joseph Goebbels or George Orwell’s 1984, maybe- were, with their Presidential Press Service photos of the president building gabions, something in between the non existent KANU manifesto and government propaganda. They even made us read a certain book called Nyayo Philosophy written by a certain eminent and politically correct professor. (Fortunately, the only thing I learnt from the book is one perfect example of an oxy moron: Nyayo Philosophy.)

But all that is a long time ago. Way back when there was only one broadcaster whose brief was to remind us of our love for the president. And all that was before telling us who the president had hired, fired or gone to church with. That was all before the era of multiple TV stations. It was back when Kenya Times was as sacrosanct as the Kenya Gazette and was required reading by the Public Service Commission. Those were the days before Christ-how-did-we-live-without-it? - FM radio.

FM was the last straw that broke the back of Government’s budding complacency. The Government was suddenly awake to the fact that the youth had new heroes; heroes who didn’t even have roads or white elephants named after them. The Government also realised, at about that time, that there was a huge demographic escaping the inbuilt indoctrination mechanism of the Public School system. These impressionable youths were not merely in private schools but some a new kind of setup called International schools. It was apparent that the cost of a GCE at an ‘off licence’ Muhindi Academy was lower than the cost of a Government National School. (International Certification, or whatever, was therefore not the preserve of the children of flash in the pan bureaucrats who had discovered the destination of ‘missing files.’)

FM and a parallel system of education had distracted the youth from the most significant symbol of National Unity- the Presidency. Suddenly, there were a large number of youths who hadn’t pledged their loyalty to the president, sang the National Anthem and- atrocity of atrocities- Tawala Kenya. And FM was giving these juvenile hordes something to dance to that wasn’t, ‘Nyayo Philosophia Njema….

To say that Government was faced with a crisis of monumental proportions would be easily dismissed as this writer’s penchant for hyperbole, yet as Lord Byron would have it, truth is always stranger than fiction. As it is, any strong arm Government can only thrive not only through monopolising the executive, legislature and the judiciary but also the key superstructure element that is education- knowledge. A despotic state wishing to perpetuate itself must remain the sole purveyor of information to the masses. And here was FM radio usurping that role, by being the new Information Super Highway for urban youth. FM radio was a veritable Dooms day Cult.

Courtesy of FM radio, Kalamashaka had a runaway hit- Tafsiri Hii- and were being turned into national heroes by the youth. All of an easy sudden, here was someone telling the youth something they could relate to beyond the official- viongozi wa kesho- line of the Government.
What else could constitute a crisis for Government? Here was a bogeyman that no light- light covered with a bushel, obviously- of Commission of Inquiry or a new district could banish.

The Professor of Politics had to rewrite his thesis, nay, shift his paradigm...
Coming Soon: PROJECT DUNDA- A Governement Sanctioned Counter Culture


Afromusing said...

Excellent post! I will just leave it at that...well mind if i gush alittle more? - This post imo shows our history without the airbrushing that often happens...

I did read the Nyayo Philosophy...His ideas of straddling capitalism and communism at the same time...well i dont know why it appealed to me at the time.

The education bit...well, i could feel that they had some type of agenda...thank god for libraries, because without them i think my brain would be oxymoron mush.

I am looking forward to the next post!!

POTASH said...

The part about sraddling communism and capitalism wasn't even a Moi philosophy but rather a 'fuata Nyayo'of the Afro carribean philosophy of non- allignment dating back from the 'Independence' decades.

On a related matter, I wonder if you ever read Tom mboya's seminal Sessional paper No. 10 of 1965 that set kenya's model as an African Socialist state.
of course Kibaki being a young bureaucrat involved in its drafting has found himself put to task about it vis a vis its implications for underdevelopment in kenya.

Here is Kibaki's statement:

Acolyte said...

My pedestrian mind loves the post names now to decipher the post itself!

The Lone Beader said...

FM radio was and is still a very powerful form of media.

Prousette said...

As usual on point.Is it a wonder that I cannot remember the loyalty pledge even if my life depended on it, yet faithfully recited it for 8 years?

The closest we ever came to thinking outside the Nyayo-Bible-Shakespeare bind was Masaibu ya ndugu Jero which made a complete mockery of the church and hence the bible thumpers. Thank God for FM stations though it seems they will not be free for long.

tomas said...

U guy!!!!!
si thats some true deep conspiracy vybe over there

POTASH said...

Hope you decipher it, I am not good with written for an audience, and a pedestrian one at

@ Lone Beader,
FM radio remains a powerful media and in Africa it is amazing how the governments were unable to tame it right from the begining. of course they attempted to with selective licencing but still.. Uganda's Museveni, would have a lot more to say about what FM can do to a strongman.

Masaibu-interesting drama, they taught that in school, didn't they? I guess it was before my time. That is one of Soyinka's finest plays and his themes Kenyans can work with but still why the west African writers- okay the guy had a Nobel and all... but still, how do we grow develop a kenyan canon reading West African Literature?

Lord byron for you: 'tis strange but true, for truth is often strange, stranger than fiction.

Kagz said...

Nice post.

Deep stuff.

Good English :)

Wasn't quite a fan of Kalamashaka but Gidi Gidi Maji Maji's "Unbwogable" simply ROCKED!!!

Thanx for stopping bye.

Afromusing said...

would you please email me the link to kibaki's statement? It got cut off...
afromusing at gmail dot com.
I havent read Tom Mboya's paper, i would like to, i will look for it.

inane said...

and to think that majority of all this things are so forgotten.sincerely, till i read this i'd forgotten about how the only TV n radio station was KBC......n b4 that VOK n the only thing we'd hear on news was what "dear" our president was upto for the day,which church he went to which daughter had the pleasure to give him flowers and details no one wanted to know
Thank God for the revolution (per se)but things r ratehr different today.
Potash yo so deep.fab blog

POTASH said...

Kagz... actually Kalamashaka is what The Kapuka Conspiracy was meant to shut down. They had concious music.. and what I have to say about Kapuka is might sound like sour grapes- coming where I am coming from with it- but watch this space.

@Afro... I will send you the Kibaki link, like Monday week. Uhm, the Tom Mboya paper is sadly not available online. Government press maybe.

@Inane- Hear!Hear!
Well thanks for the sentiment too