Friday, 15 August 2014

A Review of the Book "The Spirit of Understanding" by Daniel Oduor



Dear Gideon,
I have taken hours reading and studying your handiwork and I am impressed. Allow me in this message to sincerely congratulate you for such a piece. It sums up most of what life is and not. You dear friend have set the bar too high.
As I was reading on, I appreciated the ease by which your words flow. Your mastery of English language leaves the impression that English is your first language even though I am privy to the fact that it is your third language. The flow of the language is effortless. I would like to encourage you to maintain it at the simple in your subsequent publications.
Sir, the message in the book attempts to answer age old question among human being. You have made contributions into understanding who a human being is as an Individual and part of the whole. It is enlightening. What I mean is that as I read on I observed that you dissected the “person” and forces that enhance as well as delimit his existence. You further delved into metaphysical realms. And like some of the philosophers, anthropologist, sociologists, psychologists and other men and women of high intellectual inquiry into the question of “Being” human, those know to me in person and those I have interacted with through their writings , in comparison you are coming of age.
Having said all that, I would like to give my feedback in relation to the content of the work. Please Sir, allow me in humility discuss some areas that I felt inspired me. Let me begin by saying most of the chapters were spot on and I would not like to dwell on them. these include the chapter on “Concept of Success”, “Anxiety and Desolation”, Standards of Living”, and  ” Entrepreneurship and Financial Freedom”.  The others that I will not comment on because of my deficiency in the subject matter are: “ The Mystery of God’s Presence “ and “ The Spirit of a True Radical”.
Allow me to assert that I found the book pregnant with knowledge yet it did not adequately tackle each area of knowledge in-depth.  I am of subjective opinion that it should have taken a certain perspective and dwelt in it to it minutest detail. I am of the opinion that different aspect of knowledge can adequately address more or less questions bedeviling a person and his here and here after. It could have taken a philosophical or religious or psychological or anthropological or sociological approach and the message would have been driven home either way. Nevertheless all chapters tackle issues that trouble a lot of people and in spite of the means the end has been achieved.
M
y friend,  on “ The African Spirit” you did well in trying to anchor the book on the African philosophy the “Ubuntu” it is indeed important that as African we interrogate our place in the global society to evaluate and re-evaluate our values. To examine our past vis a viz our position in the cosmopolitan world. How our past values interact with the acquired values which are a result of our interaction with other cultures.  I agree with you that our point of engagement with other cultures should not be an inferior one. We ought to interact as equals.“ All things are equal; as concerns being equal than others. We can blame fate or nature or the first mover for the fact that somethings  are more equal than others are. It is clear that some places are more endowed than others- inequality is inevitable and our differences be celebrated. That is why Africa should not be blamed for what it hasn’t done right.” P20 as a matter of fact you have hit the bulls eye. In nature be it plants or animals of the same species differences in ability exists even among siblings and that does not mean one should despise the other. The reality though is that it is nature that dictates that the fittest survive and the dominant triumph over the weak.
 Africa happens to be the least among equals. It does not mean that that will always be the case. Observe a last born among siblings when they are born they are at a vulnerable position although they are equal by right to the older siblings. With exception to those overly protected by their parent, a weakness in Parenting, Most last born develop very fast trying to catch up which eventually they do. “time” is all that Africa requires. It will grow there is no need to panic. Africa will come of age. Most of other continents that look down upon Africa should read through their own history. If it is wars theirs were more barbaric; if it is disease they had their fair share; famine, the worst the world has ever experienced yet were not in Africa.All the negative thing currently associated with Africa already happened elsewhere. Just like the last born Africa is lucky it is protected by the elder brother who intervenes amid protest from African who despite their weakness feel slighted. Africa will soon come of age.
L
iving and life. I will not say much on this because this is a very subjective issue I doubt whether there can be an objective position on the subject. What has been said about life and living you summarize when you say: “ No science or art can explain what life is.” And no person can purport to possess knowledge of what life is. Indeed life is a mystery and whatever one says about life is their own interpretation of life including what you say in this book. Their words are only a motivator to the listener or reader to navigate their own life in a particular direction depending on what they perceive their reality to be.
Allow me therefore to add a few words of my own which emanated from your inspiration on what life is. I can summarize life as “ A HUMAN BEING MUST LIVE” human being are busy, working, sleeping, waking and all action associated with a living being is to make it live. We live in as much as we go through the physical, psychological and spiritual stages that are essential to our nature. The socio-political and economic aspects are just but aid to living. Out of experience I have learnt that whatever men say to me about life and living come to one axiom human being must live. Let men accuse , deride and ridicule you in your actions ; let them complain that you don’t respect or fear them; let them say you don’t earn your living honestly; but they too will sooner or later, will come down to the hard, cold and indisputable fact Man must Live.
“Are we here on earth waiting for death? How can we have life so that we wait for its end?”p.39   We are mortal beings and yet we are immortal too. In body and all the physical attributes we are so mortal.Our form as it is, is mortal. The non- physical attributes of a human being “spirit, Mind, psyche etc are immortal. We should not preoccupy ourselves thinking of death. It is only cessation of our physical being. Don’t ask me what happen to the non- physical attributes. I don’t know. To me it is a mystery.
I have lived long enough though to see a lot of people having died in pursuitof life long before they started to live. You find them in clubs jerking their bodies in funny movements in dance halls to weird noises. Soft people who were not any better for their knowledge of a world of things. Yet if they must live, let them.
On my part, it is true I love life not because i am used to living but because I am used to loving. And to me who love life it seems that butterflies and soap bubbles and whatever is like them among people know most about happiness! I have no reason to fear death. Why should I fear death? when I Daniel am alive death is not here! And when death comes I am not there!

T
he self, Me, I am as I am.  Let me comment on these since I feel they are the summery of the massage of this book. I must admit though that I am summing up everything as a consequence of my impatience and to a large extend my laziness. Please understand me sir.  You are right, “I am as I am.” I am what I perceive myself to be. I am the sum total of what I have absorbed into I am creating the “Me” me and I are one and the something depending on where I view myself from. And that I am human this I share with other humans. That I see and hear and that I drink and eat is what all animals do likewise but that I am Daniel Oduor is only mine and belongs to nobody else, to no other persons not to angel nor God.  Just as a horse would be as much destroyed if it were changed into a man as if it were changed into an insect. A person would be as much destroyed if he or she becomes an angel or Godas if he becoming a horse!
What to me is the biggest human question is “who am I?” the answer to this question have been disrupted by self-awareness, reason and imagination which have disrupted the “harmony” which characterizes animal existence. Their emergence has made humans into the freak of the universe. He is part of nature, subject to her physical laws and unable to change them yet transcends the rest of nature. He is set apart while being a part; he is homeless, yet chained to the home he shares with all creatures.
My friend I am now tired I would have shared my reflection on happiness but may be some other day.
Let me leave you with the struggles of one of my friend. He claims that he has a conflict within him. That he feels to fulfill his purpose to live he needs help from another free being the female of his species.  He says that he has never thought seriously about marriage. He claims he has once or twice fallen in love but he is naturally girl shy, although he respects women. So the two incidents of falling in love were only incidents of passing nature. And he has always excused excused his girl shyness by telling himself woman is not yet necessary in his life project. He could live quite gaily without partnership with the female species. He does not necessarily deny the importance of physica            `sswl side of such partnership. In fact if he must live this cannot be overlooked.
Please sir, in your next volume make an attempt to address the issue of love and marriage in-depth since your target population are the youth some of whom are grappling with the question of their individuality, freedom and independence on one hand and their lust and crave for intimacy which delimit their individuality(narcissistic tendencies) and perceived freedom. In brief narcissi versus altruism.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

WHY THE CORD REFERENDUM IS POOR STRATEGY



The dance floor is full and cheers from the watching crowd are abundant. Every dancer is pulling his or her best strokes and he or she is sure he or she is attracting the cheers. This dance is colorful, it is exciting and it has sent every tongue wagging either in praise or in jeer.
Please Raila, stop the dance! Stop dancing and watch the dance a little more. No don’t just watch so you may jump back into the dance, but so you may decide if the dance is worthy or we should move to another arena. The dance as currently constituted has many armature players or dancers. For the armature player; the focus is on winning the dance by all means. By hook or crook, in the most Machiavelli way possible they are determined to win the dance.
The armature players have a toddler mentality or what is referred to as the “Me” syndrome. They do not care about the dance, they are not interested in principles, they care not about values or honor. All they want is to win the dance and all focus to be on them. Even when they are in the spotlight, they are so jealous and suspicious of other players, they would not want to allow them a little space. They declare “it is our time”, they are reckless and they imagine no one is entitled to his or her own persuasion. They do not want to see any bystander rocking his or her head to the tune of the music. They have forgotten to dance, they are more focused on who else is also nodding or moving his body to the music and yet it is their time in the spot light. They make all the wrong moves then quickly they cry victims and blame other parties in the dance or bystanders in the arena.
Raila you are an idealist dancer. You have always stood for nationalism and inclusivity in government. However, in your rallying troops to come to the arena and participate in dance, ethnicity became the banner of your strategy and style. Unfortunate as it was, like a wolf that has tasted blood, your time as the prime minister was a poisoned chalice. You drank the cup of power and popularity and now you are of no capacity for real grassroots based strategy. You crave the podium and all your strategies are high podium oriented. You have become the doomed buffalo surrounded by a pack of hyenas. The hyenas laugh with glee as they hang on your popularity and the power symbol you have become.
Please Raila stop the dance; stop arming your opponents. Stop making your moves; let your opponents move first because you are under no obligation to be the first to move. You have the privilege of not being the government and thus you could successfully use the wait and strike strategy. We all know, without your voice the arena is dull. Without the master dancer on the floor, the dance is boring. In your designed strategic absence, the rookies will pull all their moves that lack refined grace and intensity. They will open their naked tactlessness! You know what, all their strategies start and end with you. As long as the master dancer is on the floor, every other rookie moves to the master’s strokes and the imitations may just be taken for mastery.
You have done enough dear Raila, know when enough is enough. If I were you, I would befriend silence and obscurity at this point in time. Stop engaging Jubilee and give them room to blunder. You do not need to continuously engage your constituency, they are loyal and they believe you as their leader. The more you engage them in flexing your muscles, the more you expose your weak points; please embrace invisibility. In the meantime, focus on party disciple and making elected leaders in the coalition deliver to Wananchi. Work with elected CORD MPs, Senators and Governors to deliver on real needs of the people. Stop the dance and let all those politicians around you go back to the grassroots. Instead of running around clutching on your skirt, let the likes of Wetangula go back to Luhya land and work the grassroots. Let it be that these rookies in your coalition are doing right with the people so that the coalition benefits from them as small brands.
Please Raila, Stop the Dance Sir; forget the referendum and engage people in ways that are move livelihood transforming. Your best political strategies remaining is appealing to our sympathy, massive grassroots mobilization in CORD strongholds and outwitting Jubilee by letting them make the mistakes as you use the mistakes to appeal to some Jubilee constituencies. Let them make their mistakes! Take a podium politics sabbatical and engage the grassroots for real. Where is Mama Ida to engage our women in constructive engagements? Visit counties and let us see you fundraising to develop schools, supporting civil society activities. Why don’t you try and do some listening in the meantime. Come to us and let us talk one on one with us on issues that really affect us. Hear us out dear Raila! Please stop the podium politics or exchanging diatribes with Jubilee. Let us see you launching CORD funded youth activities like a national football tournament etc.
 If you do not stop the dance, we are headed back to a very polarized electioneering in 2017. Many may still stand with you but definitely, you will deliver a great political loss again. The state will be against you. Ruto may choose to kill his presidential ambition; nobody should cheat Ruto that he will be elected president after 10 years as incumbent deputy president. If Ruto sticks with the President Uhuru (Of course he is Uhuru’s only life line for a second term in office) then only strong grassroots mobilization and management will deliver an opposition win. Raila should not loose himself in complicated processes like the referendum; which is a two edged sword. The referendum can only work in favor of CORD if Jubilee opposes referendum and CORD wins the referendum. Unfortunately, Jubilee may just ride on CORD efforts and play the referendum to its advantage. Such a strategy is a gamble; it is a wrong dance!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

YOUTH EMPOWERMENT STRATEGY



If there is anything Kenya and Africa may pride in, it is the youthful population. However, is the youthful population a blessing or a curse? It is a curse to the extent unemployment remains high in our nation? It is a blessing to the extent our governments (national and county) are focused on job creation and engaging the youth in meaningful work towards nation building.
In the recent past, the government has rolled out a number of initiatives towards youth empowerment

        i.            Making education scholarships more accessible
      ii.            The youth funds
    iii.            Sports tournaments and competitions
    iv.            Youth polytechnics
      v.            Access to tenders
    vi.            Kazi kwa vijana initiative
  vii.            Private sector partnerships
viii.            The national youth service

The number of initiatives rolled out by government is numerous; however, youth empowerment remains elusive. What is the problem? The problem, according to me, lies in poor implementation of youth empowerment initiatives and most critically in lack of strategic dexterity and synergy in youth related initiatives.

The higher education loans board has done enough good for us. The only problem with funding formal education in Kenya is lack of priority focus. Why has the government, the higher education board as an agency of the government and industry players not liaised to promote industry driven education in Kenya. It would make a lot of sense if industry and educational institution partnerships were strengthened towards enhancing linkages between education and industry needs. We have so many graduates and our universities will churn out even more graduates going forward, but are their skills linked to any particular industry? If I were the Cabinet Secretary for education, in addition to improving access to quality education for all, this would be my focus. At the County Level, there is need to build databases and to link what children from the county are doing with the needs of the county. If any country focuses on taking a keen interest in its sons and daughters in learning institutions and providing them with forums to network and engage industry players, such a county will create a mass of scholars with the right consciousness to drive a developmental agenda.

Sports tournaments and competitions are good for identifying talents; however, more critical is the talent development part of the deal. In Kenya, there are limited talent development opportunities. Talent development is not just about sports academies, film academies etc. It is about exposing talent and training in how best the talent can be used by individuals at their level for national or county development. There are many young people with sporting talent, singing talent, dancing talent, writing talent, speaking talent etc. However, do these young people know the journey they need to take to transform talent into opportunities for earning? If I were the Cabinet Secretary for sports or youth, this would be one of my daily concerns; how do I get all the youths in the country to know how to turn their talents into opportunities for earning? Any County Executive for youth has to be awake to this challenge. It is not enough to organize some tournaments in the county. We have to go beyond petty tournaments; actually, encourage other entities like NGOs and individuals to organize those tournaments. However, as a county government, start non-formal education engagements with youths, create talent clubs, provide exposure opportunities and provide the required support to youths who have taken initiative. Every county should have a talent development division. It is sole work should to identify talents in the community and link them with opportunities for development. Let the musicians be linked with best producers, promoters and music schools in the region. Let the talent division liase with all team managers of local clubs in all sports disciplines. Let them connect with international sport scouts and academies and link our talented young people to the right opportunities.

Youth Polytechnics are great and they have the reputation of being practical skills oriented institutions. However, underfunding, understaffing and mismanagement are the greatest challenges that need urgent addressing. These institutions are not as esteemed because they have not been positioned properly. If we want polytechnics, then Kenya Polytechnic currently Technical University should offer counties with some good reference point. There is no point in having a polytechnic in every village; this leads to stretching resources hence poor results being realized. Let there be only two or three polytechnics in a county. However, let such polytechnics be fully resourced, with qualified personnel, modern equipment and robust curriculums for those craft courses. Consolidation helps learners to be exposed to many other students. Such in itself helps build the esteem of students about their studies. Consolidations also facilitate more efficient and effective use of scarce resources. A county that manages to graduate as many technically competent polytechnic grandaunts as possible is likely to have a robust informal sector. The informal sector, popularly known as Jua Kali, if harnessed can be a pathway to desired levels of industrial activities and job creation in some counties.

Someone has to tell our leaders, what our youths need may actually not be capital. It has become the cliché, providing loans to youths towards empowering them to become job creators. While the thinking may be great, the assumption that access to credit unlocks entrepreneurial activity is a fallacy. Entrepreneurship is not a function of capital; it is a function of ideas. To encourage entrepreneurship, focus can not be on credit access but on idea generation. The national government is providing loan access through the Youth Fund and Uwezo fund (I do not understand the duplication of funds). How funny that some counties have launched their own youth funds of sorts. Here is a more practical approach to empowering youth. Each County should identify sectors deemed critical or viable for youth entrepreneurial activity. Let available money be used to stimulate activities in such sectors. For instance, if dairy farming can do well in a given county, let the county government roll out a dairy farming program for youth. If tomato farming could give the youth of the county a strategic advantage, let the county begin a tomato program. If Jua Kali will best stimulate business potential of youth, let the county begin a Jua kali program, poultry program, coffee project, potato project, Youth Matatu Sacco project. Let these projects be run as independent business units that are supposed to be profitable and self-sustaining. Let youths interested in any of the programs join the project by registering with relevant in a group of others with same interest and group registered as a business entity with relevant authorities. Let there be training programs in each of this projects. Let the youths individually, or as a group be provided with funding to facilitate enterprise development as per specified best practice model. Let there be accountability measures through grassroots networking of individuals and loans guarantee systems. This approach will help the counties to spur growth in desirable sector. At the same time, the youths who may not have practical or viable business ideas and acumen, will benefit from structured engagement in a project. A bit of what NGOs like One Acre Fund are doing on maize farming can with innovation be adopted as a model.

Youth access to tenders is a mirage. The more the youth think they have an opportunity, the more impossible it seems to access any government tenders. It is simple, the brokers have registered companies using youths and continue with business as usual in the name of youths. The youths have not learnt the rituals of accessing business in government. We do not have the usual kickbacks and are unable to cut deals with procurement officers. Where they could, they have not yet established the trust and intricate relationships with procuring officers, which inform tender awarding. Therefore, while stipulations and directives are good, corruption in government tender processes remain a hindrance.

The national youth service is a great avenue for empowering youths. However, the opportunities available are limited and are normally shared among the few well connected Kenyans. I therefore think there is need to devolve the national youth service such that counties can be encouraged to establish county youth service centers coordinated by the national youth service governing council. Going to these institutions can then be made mandatory for all youths finishing high school. The purpose is to engage these youths in a training that gives them awareness of how to be physically fit, emotionally fit, and spiritually fit and to in calculate in them the culture of contribution. For sustainability, the public works system should work with NYS or CYS to engage the youths in KKV kind of projects. Such works may include road construction and maintenance, maintenance of dams, environmental programs, town cleaning contracts etc.

These are my two cents on youth empowerment and possibilities considering what are in place. A lot of money is being wasted because youths are not being engaged in a programmatic manner. By programmatic I mean an institutionalized approach that is long-term pronged. UWEZO fund and Youth Fund should be merged and a financial institution maybe dubbed Social Empowerment Bank (SEB) muted. The bank should have branches across the country and offer loans through the county youth ministry programs or projects. If a county is running a dairy farming project for the youths, it can approach the bank and secure a loan for the project. This may help towards de-politicizing youth empowerment agenda in the country.

Friday, 25 July 2014

The Birthright



We arrived at Kangemi social hall early enough. Like many other youths, this was one opportunity I did not want to miss anything; especially registering early enough to be around when tea is served. By ten o’clock the organizers called all to attention and after prayers, the seminar began. The first speaker was the moderator from the NGO that had convened us. She spoke softly but firmly. She started by explaining that they were an NGO keen on empowering youth. In response to this some youths could be heard murmuring “where are the jobs, we have papers”. She continued and pointed out that life is what one makes it and that if we chose to make ours great, it was all within our making. “Normal motivation crap”, I quipped under my breath. She introduced the speaker of the day and as she sat down she added, “I hope our speaker of the day helps you think without a box, all wealth and happiness and freedom awaits you”.
“Nature and nurture can be used in the same sentence without contradiction”, Mzee Maembe began speaking. “That is quite a statement”, I thought to myself. “Ladies and gentlemen, the more we forget nature, the more chaotic, loathsome, grueling and despotic our lives become”. A youth close to me leaned towards me and said “sounds familiar, crap about environment and sustainability, right?” Mzee Maembe looking in our direction and seeming to address me continued, “I was just like you”. What? How could a man who owns a leading manufacturing company, retail chains and hotel chains have been just like me?
“This area, this slum is very close to my heart” said Mzee Maembe. “Many of you know me as the owner of multi-million businesses. Yes, I own businesses that fulfill my joy and excite my life every day. Every day I wake up and the joy of seeing people finding livelihood and fulfillment fills my heart. How I wish all humanity would feel such joy. How I pray that today marks a new beginning for you young men and women such that 20 years from now, you will be telling others a story of joy and fulfillment”. By this time, I was hooked. That is exactly what I wanted, that was my dream; to live a life that blesses others and enables them find meaning and value in their existence.
“20 years ago, ladies and gentlemen, 20 years, I lived in this Kangemi and I was a pauper. Just like you, I enjoyed the stench, insecurity and helplessness that slum life can offer” continued Mzee Maembe. “I remember my turning point very well. I was 32 years old, a diploma holder and had done all odd jobs in this great city as a sales person and a merchandiser. I enjoyed my work but then one day my employer lost the merchandising contract. Without savings and a job, it meant whiling away time in the ghetto and looking for menial jobs, especially on construction sites for survival. Let me tell you how my journey to where I am today started”, Mzee Maembe said with a firm tone and to this, I could see every youth in the room shifting his or her sitting position.
 “My journey to the top started through some unfortunate circumstances. On this particular day, I did some heavy work on a construction site  and as usual received my wages. Like it was our norm, we decided to pass through Kawangware to say sorry to our bodies. Our normal style of saying sorry to the body was to pass through Mama Safi Hotel for cow leg delicacy then we would proceed to Mama Pima’s joint to gallop down Busaa or Chang’aa until the body felt sedated. The day was calm as usual, the Mama Pima environment way. There were hordes of us in every corner and I could pick out the voices of the regulars as they belted their broken English and assured the world of how learned they were. Everything was going right but no sooner had I taken a swig at the contents in my glass than I heard murmurs “this chang’aa of today is not good”, one said. “It has a funny taste, but it is catching me well”, another one said. “It is not the normal one, Mama Pima, hii chang’aa ina nini, uliongeza mkojo wako?” another one joked.
I ignored what they were saying for normal drunkards’ talk; the chang’aa had a funny smell yes, but it tasted good, it had the kind of toughness that makes one close an eye before swallowing a gulp. I took a swig and another and another until I was about to empty the contents in my glass. I was drinking fast because I needed to get back to Kangemi and address something before it was dark. Just then, I heard a man groan and say “hii pombe ni mbaya bwana”. Before his words could settle, I heard more retorts to the same effect and immediately felt a dizziness beginning to creep up and my eye lids becoming heavy. My brain ran very fast, and quickly the thought struck me “another case of illicit brew poisoning?” There had been numerous such instances but like we the drunkards used to say, it is insane to stop drinking; only alcohol can reject me.
Not wanting to take chances, I sprung to my feet and staggered out of Mama Pima’s den. I spotted a motor bike guy, beckoned him and ordered him to rush me to the nearest hospital. Rush, he did, riding mad like motor bike guys love to do and I clung on him as I bit my teeth together trusting that I would hang on my dear life no matter what happened. By the time we got to the hospital, I was already frothing at the mouth and my breath was belabored. As I was being helped into the doctors’ room, all I could feebly matter was, ni pombe inaniua. I do not remember anything else but I came to, a day later to the news that thirty fellow drinkers had died and I was among the few survivors.
A well wisher took care of our hospital bill and I was discharged. However, ladies and gentlemen, I had lost all capacity to do the usual construction site work. I was emaciated and did not know where the meal of the day would come from. I went to my rental room and for two days I was confined to my room; feeding on porridge and nothing but porridge. I knew I had to do something if I was to survive. I took my phone and called a friend. In a condescending tone, he told me “Kama Nairobi imekushinda, rudi mashambani”. Those are the most hurtful words I have ever heard but those are the words that turned my life around.
After a few days of relying on my neighbors for something to eat, weak and tired, I made the decision; to go back to the village. This is the most difficult decision to make; going back to the village signifies accepting failure and giving up on the dream of finding a great job and being wealthy, which is what I felt as I rode the bus back to Western Kenya. Immediately my clansmen heard I had arrived, they came knocking; as usual expecting handouts from the city. However, upon seeing the skeleton I had been reduced to, they quickly found an excuse and left. It did not take more than two days before the verdict found consensus among villagers; and the verdict was: I was HIV positive with full blown AIDS. In a good village like ours, that verdict meant none was keen to associate with me. I was left to the care of my mum, poor mum; her eyes were always filmy with tears whenever they met with mine. From the fear in her eyes, I knew she also believed what the other villagers believed, her son was going, and death was beckoning.
My mum was born again and she strongly believed in miracles. I guess that is why she invited him; the pastor I despised most because of his ever nagging behavior. He was always on my case whenever I would visit my village; always making pronouncements about how all pursuits are vanities unless done in the spirit or when tuned to GOD fm. I used to argue with him and dismiss him but now that I was weak and bedridden, I skeptically listened to him pray and rant about God’s power. He prophesized that I would not die, I would live. Of course, I was not terminally ill and I knew that with mother’s good care I would be strong and ready to go back to Nairobi in no time.
After the long prayers, my mum left and returned with a big kettle of tea and a plateful of arrow roots. As we munched away on the delicacy, the pastor turned to me and said, “Son it shall be well with you”. To this the assistants and my mum quickly rejoined with “Amen”. The pastor then fished his bible and read a verse in 1 Samuel that was to the effect that scion was to emerge from the house of Jesse. And what followed was an animated sermon by the pastor on the scion that was to emerge in the house of Jesse. This talk kind of melted my heart because I needed all the assurance I could get. Then there was dramatic silence; that deep silence that ensues after someone has been shouting in a room for a while. I looked up and gazed into the eyes of the pastor who was looking straight at me. “Son”, the pastor calmly started, “I want you to reclaim your birthright. You were not born to fail, you were born to win. You are not a looser; you are a gainer in Jesus’ name. You are not the tail, you are the head, trust in God and reclaim your birth right”. The pastor went on quoting bible verses about God’s faithfulness and nearly lost me when he veered into some arimashaba bagala kararaimabala raswamathakani, all in the name of speaking in tongues.
The pastor and his entourage left but I was left thinking and for a number of days I thought without any clear answers. What did that pastor mean by I should reclaim my birthright? Hope he does not mean I get born again as to be walking around with a holier than thou gait? As I started to regain my energy, I visited my grand father and mentioned the idea of birthright. My grand father quickly pointed to land; “you want your dad to give you your share of the ancestral land?” he seemed to ask himself and continued as if talking to himself “Now what would you do with that. Land has shrunk; you should go out and look for money where there is money. Even if you were to be given the quarter an acre that may be your birthright, what would you do with it?” I quickly, excused myself and left because getting a share of my dad’s land was far from my thoughts.
I was unsettled and knew I had to get some money and return to Nairobi. There was a village mate who had dropped out of school in class eight and was doing very well; he was the rich man in the village. I went to him to request for a loan. Rudely he told me that he would not give me any loan but if I chose to, I could work with him on his farm for pay. He was lucky; I thought to myself, his dad had left him a two acre piece of land. On that piece of land he had a dairy unit, maize, tomatoes and vegetables. I started helping him on the farm and I got a rude surprise. Every day my friend could sell crates of tomatoes, vegetables and milk from his dairy unit. From the four lactating cows he had, he had at least 40 litres of milk daily, which assured him of at least 1000 Kshs per day. By village standards, this was a lot of money. I helped him on the farm and he gave me 200Kshs per day. One day as we were sitting below a mango tree, resting after spraying the tomatoes, three mangoes came down by themselves from the tree and fell by my feet. As if in succession, I became aware of other thuds not far away from where we were as avocadoes fell loosely from a tree.
What? I asked myself. Are these the same fruits we bought at 20Kshs each in Nairobi? There and then, I knew what to do. I went to our local town and walked around, scouting to determine the supply of mangoes and avocadoes in town. I saw a few fruit stands and some women hawking fruits but I knew there was untapped potential. My uncle was a bicycle repair in some corner of town near a primary school. I went and asked him what I had to do if I wanted to start a fruit stand close to his bicycle repair stand. By the next day, I visited my friend not to help him on the farm but to collect mangoes and avocadoes. Just on the first day, I was mesmerized by how people grabbed the clean and well arranged mangoes and avocadoes at my stand. The mangoes and avocadoes were in plenty in my village, so I could buy many and started selling to hotels for juice making. Before long, I had to employ someone to take care of the initial fruit stand as I did supplies to schools, hotels and even offices. As my clientele grew and became loyal, I began to notice other things they used such as vegetables, tomatoes, cereals, onions and I supplied. At this time the knowledge acquired in school came in hand; I registered a business name, printed invoices, receipt books and delivery books. Without knowing it, I was becoming the preferred supplier of cereals and grocery items in town.
I had no choice but to open my first cereals store and a grocery, adjacent to each other in town. As the work grew, I employed more young people to help me. Then with more capital than I needed, I ventured into the hotel business. I did not start big; I simply started a milk café and focused on giving extra-ordinary service to my clientele. I went to the villages and collected milk, which I either served as tea or prepared sour milk that was served with ugali or mandazi. Before long, we had to introduce other foods like chips and main course meals. We looked for bigger space and our model of dealing directly with farmers helped my hotel to offer very competitive prices on things like chicken.
This is how my mega businesses started my dear friends. It started with me realizing the value in what God had given our people in abundance. The more I dealt with farmers from my home town, I realized the challenges they faced marketing their products. I realized how much they were exploited by middle men. I also realized how seasonality of products also meant seasonality of income for them. As a consequence of seasonal income, my people were embroiled and trapped in a certain poverty cycle. I sought to find market for most of their produce and to give competitive prices to them. I started taking their produce to new markets. With better returns, my people increased their productivity on the farms. For instance, my suppliers of tomatoes were increasing the production every year due to my assured buying of their product. I kept supplying markets like Nairobi but soon realized I could even make more money if I processed the tomatoes. I ventured into agro-processing and I have never looked back. The profits keep flowing in. I visit supermarkets and I am happy to see my products smiling at me. I have worked on a model where my production is retail chain driven. I have retailers all over the country who pre-order my products. Most critically, my other businesses are the greatest movers of my products. My hotel chain and retail stores are an assured distribution chain.
As I conclude my friends, you have choices to make. The choice to embrace your birthright or you will continue searching for Holy Grail. I was more like you; I thought success will come my way if I stick in slums in urban centers and do odd jobs waiting for the lucky break. Little did I know that in basic things availed to us by nature, we can grow some gold. Now I have friends and they mesmerize me. I have a friend who supplies firewood; but unlike those who rely on forests, he gets his firewood from his tree farm and from others who have planted trees. To ensure there will always be trees, he liaises with farmers and encourages them to plant fast maturing trees. I now have suppliers to my hotels. They have poultry farms or they buy eggs and chicken from farmers, among other commodities and supply to my hotel. Agribusiness my friends, agribusiness is the most assured route to comfort in life that one ever discovered. You do not need to own big lands. You just need access to some land and engage in farming activities that excite you. You do not have to go to the farm; just help solve the problems farmers face and you will be blessed with great returns” concluded Mzee Maembe.
As the vote of thanks was made by a youth leader, as the moderator thanked all and declared the seminar over and as people milled out of the social hall ready to go on as if nothing happened, I remained fixed on my seat and staring into space. There was fear in my heart but I knew the decision I had to make. I have to claim my birthright!