Are we April Fools all year round?
This year April 1st fell on a Sunday and, like many of you, I began perusing the newspapers trying to spot the spoof stories. I do this every year, and it is an exceedingly difficult task, because the line between reality and farce is so thin in modern Kenya.
For one thing, April Fool’s Day or not, our papers are usually choking with political stories. These take the form of: Mr X is way ahead of Mr Y in the latest opinion polls. Mr Z, now a distant third, has dismissed the poll as rigged, fallacious, and technically incorrect.
Or: an in-depth analysis of the political intrigues behind the recent fallout in the ABC party. Or: who is scheming with whom behind whose back – exclusive revelations. Or: why the XYZ party failed to hold its grassroots elections.
Ye Gods. Why do we care? Let’s not blame the newspapers and their editors – we actually want to read this stuff. Why? Why do we acquiesce in the personality parade that passes for politics in this nation? Why do we care about who’s fallen out with whom after someone planted a knife in someone else’s back? This is like the clowns’ show in a circus – except that we are willing spectators and the clowns are actually our freely elected leaders, whom we pay to watch as they kick each other in the pants.
There is so much to worry about, so much to care about, so much to build, so much to achieve – but all we want do is watch the clowns at work. In this regard we are fools not just in April, but for all the other eleven months as well.
When the clowns are actually at their place of work, they promptly fall asleep. I speak of the propensity of members of parliament to fall into deep slumber the minute they plant their hefty frames onto the benches of the august house. This tendency was receiving some coverage on April Fool’s day, and it was difficult to know where the joke ended.
The parliamentarians themselves are up in arms about the media, claiming it is unfair for photographers to depict them in various states of somnolence. It is natural to take a little nap every so often, say they. Some commentators have also defended our lawmakers, saying that dozing off at work is a universal tendency.
Right: so we pay these people world-class salaries and allowances to NOT show up at work most of the time and NOT stay awake on the rare occasions that they do. In which occupation, which organisation and by which set of owners would that be tolerated? If we accept this, it is only because we are all-year fools. Unfair? Let us be cruelly unfair. Let us never again vote for any member we catch dozing for even a second. And let the media keep pointing out who is sleeping on the job. We will not become a tiger economy if the pilots are asleep during take-off.
Another April 1st story: the vice-president’s state-of-the-art vehicle apparently broke down on the highway, reportedly after his driver hit a bump and triggered a ‘computer malfunction’. The 30 (yes, thirty) other vehicles in his convoy narrowly avoided piling into each other after this sudden occurrence. Police officers were called out in large numbers to investigate.
Tax-payers, all together now: where does your money go? That’s right – into buying massively expensive cars for our massively important leaders to attend massively vital functions protected by our massively brave security forces.
After reading these and many dozen other April Fool’s stories last Sunday, I decided to go out for a drive to clear my head. When I came to the roundabout that connects Nairobi’s Valley Road with Argwings Kodhek Road, I noticed a huge crater in the middle of the road, freshly dug up in readiness for the massive traffic jam that it would cause on Monday morning.
And so it transpired. Come the dawn, the workers and their ground-diggers arrived to make the hole even deeper, sealing off the road. What were they doing: laying a pipe, digging for oil or just having fun? It doesn’t matter: the traffic queues went back all the way to Lavington. An excellent April Fool’s joke to play on Nairobians. How we laughed.
Being good-humoured and tolerant, we accepted this state of affairs and soldiered on. A less foolish public might demand that any road works at major junctions be done only at night-time and weekends. It might ask that prior notice be given via public announcement that a certain road will remain closed. It might even ask that the road be patched up quickly and neatly after the workmen are through. Not us!
This column supports the campaign to make April Fool’s day a national holiday in which we can all celebrate our fortitude, forbearance and foresight.