Celebrating East African Writing!
Dear Mr. President,
Greetings, omera. I hope that you and mama watoto, Michelle, and the watoto are doing fine.
My name is Atkins Atika. I live and work in Kisumu, Kenya, near the shores of Lake Victoria, though I was born and brought up in Kogelo. I believe you too trace your ancestral roots there. I think we are cousins – far cousins.
I work as a boda boda rider and I’m the chairman of Boda Boda Welfare Association, a self-help group that advocates for the wellbeing of bicycle taxi operators in Kisumu. Boda boda simply means bicycle taxi. A padded seat was welded to the back of the black mamba bicycle and a passenger sits there and I ferry him to wherever he wants to go – for a small fee, of course. This is how I earn a daily income.
I’m nineteen years old and, like you, I have two watotos.
“Omera, you’re too young to be breeding,” I hear you gasp in shock.
Too young? I don’t think so, Mr. President. Historically, African men have been marrying and fathering kids as soon as they broke their voices. Speaking of which; there’s a young man named K’Odipo here in Kisumu. He’s only sixteen and has two wives and five children. One wife bore twins and the other triplets. Like me, he dropped out of primary school due to lack of school fees and came to Kisumu town to look for casual labour work. Using the money earned from casual work, he bought a bicycle and dashed to the welder and had it converted into a boda boda taxi.
People are saying that K’Odipo’s bicycle seat is to blame for the multiple births. It failed to protect him when he rode over bumpy roads, apparently. I have never met anyone as stressed as K’Odipo. Poor omera.
“Yawa, what is stressing K’Odipo?” I hear you ask.
“Well, Mr. President, you see, he has to find three goro goro of unga maize meal each day to feed his large family. His children swallow kuon like water. Goro goro is a two kilo tin – a common unit of measurement in western Kenya. Kuon is ugali. What is ugali? Google it, omera! I, on the other hand, only need one goro goro of maize meal a day to feed my family. I have no stress. None at all. For I can easily earn enough money each day to buy a goro goro of unga, and even spare some to buy omena and cooking oil for supper.Supper is dinner. Omena is fishlings.
I know you have already guessed what my wife’s name is. Yes, she’s called Mrs. Atika. She’s my First Lady. We live in a thatched roof mud hut. It is very cozy. A TV aerial sticks from its top and we enjoy watching TV every evening. The TV is powered by a car battery. Electricity charges are too expensive for lower class Kenyans to afford. My wife and I delayed to go to work on the day you were inaugurated as president so that we could watch the re-run of it on CNN. Mrs. Atika wept in joy. I’m tough – I only snivelled.
Though my First Lady’s clothes are not as elegant as those of Michelle, I always strive to work harder and earn enough money to buy her new dresses. Just last week I bought a kitenge cloth, three metres long, from Ukwala Supermarket and a new pair of green pati pati for her. Pati pati means flip-flops. Mrs. Atika was very happy with the kitenge cloth and dashed to the local tailor to have a new dress designed and sewn for her. The green patterns of the cloth match the green colour of the pati pati. It’s very nice. Other women envy her.
Mrs. Atika now says that I’m the best husband in the whole world. I’m flattered. She says that unlike K’Odipo, she doesn’t want to share me with other women. But Adhiambo, a plump pretty lass who works at the posho mill where I buy unga, says that I should take her as a second wife.
What do I do, Mr. President? For I’m torn between two women.
Mrs. Atika is missing six front teeth on the lower jaw. The teeth were removed during the rite of passage ceremony when she was a teenager. She’s older than me by two years. When she eventually grows old and all her remaining teeth fall off, how will she eat? Omera, tell me, how will the nyako chew food?These thoughts trouble me. It’s almost similar to the healthcare issue you are struggling with. But when I look at Adhiambo, I see that she’s always smiling and has all her teeth in place and she’s fat. She always tells me that she can grow bigger when we get married. She looks so good in tight jeans that the surgeon who circumcised me recently during the on-going anti-AIDS mass circumcision campaign, warned that the stitches will come out if I keep thinking about her.
My wound has recently healed and I have resumed my regular husbandly duties. Both Mrs. Atika and Adhiambo are delighted with this development.
“Omera, stick to one woman,” I hear you say. “A toothless woman is better than a fat one. Choose one.”
OK, Mr. President, I’ll soon make a decision and choose which one I’ll stick with. It’s similar to the Israel versus Palestine issue you are facing. There’s no clear-cut solution that will leave everyone satisfied and happy. Whatever decision is made, someone will get hurt. But we are leaders – we have to persevere.
Congratulations for winning the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize! When the exciting news was announced last week on the radio, Kisumu instantly went into a carnival mood. Residents abandoned work and flooded the streets and ululated and jumped around in jubilation. We even cut twigs from roadside trees to wave around as we celebrated your win.
President Kibaki almost called for a national holiday, but was advised against it. For a whole minute we chanted your name and praised you as a great son of Kogelo. A hastily composed song even termed you as the King of Kogelo. Yes, you heard right – King of Kogelo! We stopped celebrating when the radio news bulletin announced that you’re planning to give the money away to charity.
Give the money to charity? Are you serious, Mr. President? Or did they misquote you?
The people of America are already rich! They don’t need any more money. We do. The people of Kogelo, where your father was born, are bosom buddies with poverty. Omera, you surely are aware of this fact. You saw it when you visited the area as a senator.Don’t we have stomachs to eat big money? Though our wallets usually handle something called shillings, they’ve never been hostile to dollars. Our welfare group could do with funding.
As you contemplate on what charity organization to throw away, I mean, give the money to, please remember these six letters: K.O.G.E.L.O!
Your Far Cousin,
Atika wuod Kogelo.
© Denis Kabi 2009 www.deniskabi.wordpress.com
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