SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: Letter from senior civil servant

Dear Ordinary Mwananchi,

I am writing this to you because you are all I have left. Everyone else has abandoned me. In fact, I just realised it has been so many years since we had a personal conversation. I have so much to tell you my friend.

But to be honest, I never, in my wildest imagination, thought things would get to this level. Me –invincible, powerful, rich –plucked from my life of affluence like some village thief, then locked up with riff raff, ordinary folks like you.

And this was done by some glorified watchmen whose monthly salary can’t even pay my breakfast bill. Terribly arrogant and disrespectful. I never met the like of them before, that I tell you.

I repeatedly interrogated their knowledge of my status in society. But I might as well have been talking to tree trunks. All they did was push me forward rudely yelling, “twende…twende” or “tembea haraga” and “banda ndani” as they shoved me onto the back seat of a cheap Japanese car.

The near-massacre…

I’m not a man who gives in easily, but I must confess the temptation to fight back was massively degraded by the terror the uniformed, gun-toting squadron struck into my heart.

Besides, I was too preoccupied with balancing on my toes, trying to prevent a massacre of monumental proportions to launch any meaningful counter. Prodded by a tugging of the belt by some really strong arm that was grasping it from behind, the hemming below my jeans’ zipper was launching assault of crushing intent after another.

The piece of garment was wreaking havoc in the crack of my ass where it had established firm lodging. But that discomfort was nothing compared to the one that was ravaging my testicles. It had the mettle to turn a man of my volume into one of those queer ballet dancers.

Propping my densely fed frame on the tips of my feet –an act I previously assumed exclusive to girls in stilettos, the aforementioned dancers and wizards –became child’s play. The distress in my groin had made the impossible possible, and for that earned my total, unfettered respect.

I also realised that when those with whom you shared jokes at the golf course throw you under the bus, you can always count on your roots for solace.

And just like that, I found myself sharing a filthy room, breathing the same air with miserable felons. In the twinkle of an eye, reporters were defiling my powerful name by adding a prefix ‘graft suspect’ to it.

As I watched the hours turn into days and days into a week, I learnt a critical lesson. That humans can never be trusted. They are selfish, evil and can turn against you in an instant.

I also realised that when those with whom you shared jokes at the golf course throw you under the bus, you can always count on your roots for solace. That is why I am writing this to you. Because you are my beginning. I was once as poor, hopeless and angry as you are.

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Yep, there was a time I would look at my pay slip and notice, in great consternation, that the government would be taking home from it more than I that month, and the next, and the one after… I would shed a tear, like you probably do sometimes, when I realised that despite my costly contribution, the potholes on the roads were expanding, hospitals growing sicker, life getting harder.

Like you today, I would stare at the growing bills each end month and curse the persons we generously pay to alleviate the suffering, but instead, they take even what little money is left for themselves. I was a struggling, bitter, Kenyan who wished all manner of terrible luck on these thugs – just like you.

Then I crossed the divide, left your underprivileged corner.

But I am now back and will presently tell you why I seek solidarity, why we must stand together at this hour of my need. I know you have accused me of arrogance, incompetence and greed in the past. But I forgive you because the battle ahead of us is bigger. We can revisit after it is won.

You see those phones there, they have gone silent ever since the arrest. In fact, I would be entertaining a guest or two right now but no one seems “to happen to be in the neighbourhood” anymore.

That is how come I am writing this from my huge study, all alone. I am also shaking my head as I do it. It’s not the headache, that has gone down, thanks to French brandy (may God bless the distiller).

In fact, I have lived with the aches for a long time and a Panadol is all I’ve always needed. If not, a glass of finely distilled wine would smoother the flames.

Bizarre phenomenon

But the smashings inside my dome have been growing in confidence since that rendezvous with the law. The gong has been hitting harder. I have also noticed it is requiring more and more glasses of the bitter concoction to still the pendulum. It is a puzzling phenomenon.

This glass in front of me is the sixth or it could be seventh, I’m not sure. Either my cranium has suddenly grown some balls or my beloved brandy has lost its. The former is highly improbable. That is the reason I am shaking my head and also studying the now nearly empty bottle in bafflement.

But from whichever angle, it is a genuine bottle of Meukow Extra. This has been my brand ever since I crossed the divide. Taste, class and quality are three things I won’t compromise, not at any price.

And that is why I stock my wine cellar directly from France. This 700ml bottle, for instance, set me back nearly 400 Euros. That is 50,000 shillings of Kenya, for those deficient of travels.

But besides the great taste, I really love it when I serve a guest and they ask, “What brand is it?”

Then I go, “Meukow…” and they go “Uh?” and I return, “Meukow Extra…it’s made by Russians in France…” as I fetch the stunning bottle with its classy puma logo to delight their vision… Aah! Isn’t it great to afford opulence? But of course, you, wouldn’t know.

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And it’s not just the alcohol I bring from abroad. Everything down to the salt used in my two homes comes directly from a factory in Europe. You see from where I sit, I am privileged with a deep understanding of the counterfeit market in this country.

Many of my friends and colleagues are in it. Okay…me too. In fact, it’s been my most profitable line for some time now. I could tell which of the adulterated products you are consuming cross the borders courtesy of me –but I would have to kill you, eh? (Know you didn’t see that coming).

Anyway, knowing the extent of fake products in themarket, I would be a really stupid person to shop anything from our local shelves, don’t you think?

I certainly wouldn’t get a wink at night with the knowledge that my children could be innocently munching on toxic cereals or poisoning their system with sub-standard cough syrups cleverly packaged and sold as the genuine product by some thrifty Chinese… those tots are my everything, the reason I work so hard.

Anyways, I should probably have started by introducing myself. Good manners dictate as much. I’m usually of decent morals so forgive me. It must be the headache or wine, or both.

My name is…on second thoughts, I will keep that to myself. I don’t think these are the days I should trust you with such vital intel. What I will, however, tell you for free is that I am a hard-working, senior civil servant with a pay slip that is equally senior.

My paycheck, which is closer to 800k than 600k, seemed invincibly senior as well when I was promoted to my current post. That was several years gone past.

However, God also played a nasty trick on me. He cursed me with a bunch of financial needs that have the ambition of those hyacinths in Lake Victoria. Stupid things just won’t stop growing –fast, really, really fast.

The discovery…

It took them just five months to catch up with the new pay. By the seventh month, my salary was struggling to make out their rear plates. I was living on deficit.

That is when I discovered some magical thing called ‘allowances’. Those imprests and per diems, add up to a tidy sum, if you know what you are doing. And unless you are pretty daft, taking trips isn’t such a hard nut to crack. If there are no trips in the natural pipeline, then you learn how to create some.

The moment I discovered this money minter, I could go for a year without a peek into my salary account. At first, local trips of national importance would be enough. But as I mentioned, my burdens are an ambitious lot. They soon caught up.

So I upped the game. East Africa became my office. Kigali this week, Moshi next, Kampala here I come… But it didn’t take the pesky needs long to overrun the regional allowances as well. So, once again, I had to raise the ante, cross the big oceans.

Soon, I was raking in ‘air points’, and a healthy amount of Kenya shillings, crisscrossing global capitals on useless trips, sorry, official duty. From Moscow, to Geneva, to Tokyo…First Class all through and not a coin leaving my account. Instead, the coins were flowing into my accounts at a generous rate.

At one point, I was absent from my Nairobi office so often, for such a long time, I forgot my secretary’s name. But I don’t think she cared anyhow. She had the perfect job and the perfect boss.

In charge of my schedule, she showed up at her desk the few minutes I would be on the ground. The other time, she spent at a kindergarten she had started in her estate. Yep, earned a regular pay from the coffers but spent most time milking more dough from parents. Who would complain?

I know this because people thought I took her on my global tours. Of course it didn’t take long for a rumour that I was getting more than meeting reminders from her reached my ears. Didn’t take much snooping, either, to find out the state of affairs.

But, I didn’t care. As long as my trips were booked and my allowances pushed through Accounts, man must eat, remained my mantra.

Anyways, my needs, once more, caught up with my earnings. I was packing bigger and heavier bills at the end of each month. I began struggling to meet the basic needs of my children and wives.

A responsible father doesn’t go terrifying his boy with his financial woes. I had to work harder. And I knew exactly how. My signature.

Like this time, my then 15-year-old boy wanted the just-released 80” curved TV screen to go with his new Play Station. He had just smashed the screen of the 55” I bought for his 13th birthday playing baseball inside the house.

I didn’t tell him how broke the 1.3 million I spent on the new screen left me. My account was screaming on the red line, holding slightly below 15 million bob. How does one survive on so little money?

But a responsible father doesn’t go terrifying his boy with his financial woes. I had to work harder. And I knew exactly how. My signature. Very powerful strokes, those scribblings of mine wield.

In the beginning, I would wait for the fellows on the other side of the desk to make an offer. I would then feign offense and throw them out, threatening to call the cops on them.

My emissaries would intercept the panicked bribers at the parking lot, get them what they were after –my signature –and accept the dough, most of the time more than the initially floated amount. They would be happy, I would be richer, and there was no way of linking me with the illegality.

But with my financial position needing a major lift, I decided to overhaul the process, make it more efficient, more profitable. It needed speeding up. And I needed to get rid of the middlemen, the emissaries.

They were eating into my profits, yet my fears had not been proven so far. Every other State official with a signature worth a shilling was hawking it right, left and right again.

Nothing ever happened to any of them, as long as you were stealing, sorry, (slip of the tongue again), making amounts with enough zeroes at the end. In fact, the logic ‘law was created to protect the thiever of billions from the thiever of chicken’ was quite popular around those cocktail tables of the wealthy.

I reckoned that since I was no longer sharing the pond with the small fish, I too, could get away with anything –as long as that anything didn’t negatively impact a fish bigger than me. The middlemen had become an unnecessary expense. They had to go.

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I took the initiative. My time was increasingly becoming more precious and waiting on some nervous, naïve investors to propose ‘some soda’, then haggle over it like my office parking had become a tomato market was tiresome.

Being in charge meant I could name my price. I even prepared a pricelist which I would consult for ease of transactions. It also made it easier to kick out difficult customers.

Like this investor delegation from Canada, I think it was. Came to see me last year just after the second election. Theirs was a grand plan that revolved around injecting a sizeable number of billion shillings into the economy. They said the project would directly employ more than 2,000 people in the first year and 1,000 annually for ten years.

They also projected that the value-chain involved would create at least 200,000 jobs indirectly. I listened to them in bored politeness because all those nice sounding figures would make more impression on the minister of Labour or that of Treasury. I was neither.

I had also come to learn that the world was created cruel, heartless. It is the only means of culling the weak nature has been left since humans outlawed the faster, more clinical one of sorting and drowning the poorer genes. Today, only the ruthless get to see tomorrow. And getting sentimental over some new jobs could ensure you don’t.

So I consulted my pricelist, did a few calculations and named my figure. It was not even getting to 20 million shillings but the rage the buggers flew into, you would think I had asked to marry their daughters as a condition.

I even showed them the list, something I never do with clients, and offered a calculator if they thought I had erred in computing the percentage.

The elderly lady in huge spectacles and black spots all over her wrinkled skin demanded to know why “in the bloody world would your government literally beg us to bring jobs here then charge us for it?”

That is when I realised I was dealing with idiots and laughed like a hyena on weed.

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The shorter bloke with browning teeth, orange hair like Trump, and a similar attitude said I was terrible for my people and that it is persons like me that will make Africa wallow in poverty forever.

“You are denying 2,000 children of the poor guaranteed employment so that you can add more millions to the ones you have in the bank? How selfish can you be?” he spat the rudeness from his sickening mouth.

I was awfully tempted to knock his bad teeth into his intestines. Not that his question irked me, no way. I just hate short people with a bad attitude. You have no right to be insolent if you are already defectively created.

I swear if I were not a Christian, a senior official in my church, I would have kicked his gonads up his ears –not that they would have had a very long distance to travel. (By the way, gonads are balls, right?)

Anyways, I wanted to ask them how they expected me to afford the tuition for my kids in South Africa.

Did he know that my younger wife MaryRita needs at least 200K a month to stay pretty? That is beside the upkeep of her home in Lavington, whose mansion I am still paying mortgage for.

They didn’t seem to care that we had just got out of a really tense political environment and our investments were doing really badly. How did they expect me to complete the stalled apartment complex I was putting up in Roysambu?

How about the 45 million bob holiday home in Vipingo and whose payment I was falling behind? How is a man to keep up with his financial obligations if he kept such dull company as theirs? Of course they wouldn’t understand. So I kicked them out.

Hidden within the 1.4 billion people in China are magicians who will reproduce anything on this planet, make it look more genuine than the genuine.

But however hard I worked, my financial needs just kept up. It was terribly exasperating. Then a friend introduced me to a different kind of investment. It was the biggest break of my entire life.

All one needed was to identify a popular or must-have product in the market, raise some initial capital and send samples of the original good to Asia. And hidden within the 1.4 billion people in China are magicians who will reproduce anything on this planet, make it look more genuine than the genuine.

Once the duplicates are made though, you need to get them across the border and into the market, in order to make that money from you and other unsuspecting ordinary wananchi.

For this, you need to know the right people in the right government departments. Now, being a senior civil servant meant my network was also as senior, the right kind. That, my friend, is how I was able to buy my private helicopter.

I have been shipping the photocopies into the country for a while now, sometimes making 150 percent in profits. It is an insanely profitable venture, an endless chain of opportunities.

See, one of my fake imports will make you sick. The pharmacist will sell you my friend’s counterfeit drug which may make you better or worse depending on your luck. You jump from one fake medicine that doesn’t work to another, surrendering all your savings to us in the process.

You will grow poorer as we grow wealthier. Your kids will probably drop out of school and wait to inherit your poverty and ignorance. My children, meanwhile, will go to the best schools in the world and despite their proven inability to beat classmates in academia, their futures are assured.

My connections will get them multiple jobs they can’t do. But your poverty is their insurance. You, my friend, is a permanent market, a factory that will keep churning out consumers for the illicit investment my tots will inherit from their dad.

The betrayal…

That’s how callous life is. That’s how it’s meant to be. How it has always been…until a few weeks ago. Whatever bug bit the boss in State House. We always assumed he was one of us. I spent my own money begging you people to hire him –twice. And that’s because his manners were impeccable throughout the first term.

He did what was expected of a typical African leader, said the right thing at the right time, issued a stern warning when necessary, but that was all. He was careful not to distabilise the status-quo. We thrived, you withered.

Now that he has no election to look ahead to, he feels we are dispensable. He has turned his whip on us. We should have seen it coming, we didn’t. Too late, we are discovering, he was never with us. He is nothing but a traitor, a betrayer.

But as I said earlier, I am a fighter. It is the reason I am coming back to my roots, to you. I need us to mobilise and fight for me. He has touched one of your own, and you will show him why that is a terrible thing to do, won’t you?

Sincerely,

Corrupt Persecuted Senior Civil Servant

Mtoto wenu!

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