Anyang’ Nyong’o: My highly exaggerated death

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BY ANYANG’ NYONG’O

My death while I was away in the United States for a few weeks was, unfortunately, very highly exaggerated. As a matter of fact, no such thing happened, and I thought those who were calling me to find out what had happened were confused by some new calendar which might have then been circulating in Kenya since April Fools’ Day had long come and gone.

Be that as it may, I thank God I am still alive and kicking, and may be doing so by His grace for quite some time to come. But in politics one never knows how many enemies are harvested along the tortuous path we tread, and when they rear their ugly heads. Worrying about them, however, can render you ineffective politically and consign you to the corner of political inertia. But ignoring them altogether may also be foolhardy. The balance is not easy to keep, hence the need for wise counsel and sobriety, two commodities not always available when most wanted.

I took the opportunity while in the US for a United Nations meeting of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration to which I belong to go to California for my annual medical check up which was long overdue. I should have had it in January but the elections were around the corner, so duty came first. An annual check up does not mean one is just about to die; one never knows when that comes anyway. But it means one is heeding to the nursery school warning which says: a stitch in time saves nine. And it is usually better to take your body to the doctor than to wait until your body takes you there, so says Hon Dalmas Otieno Anyango.

Which means that we should train health care givers, from nurses to doctors, that preventive health care is the foundation of good health. Which means that community health workers should teach our people in the villages and urban areas about healthy living. In every dispensary the people around should each have a record of their health status, which means visiting dispensaries for regular health checkups even when they think they are well. When this is done regularly, once a year for example, one can discover a creeping disease in time for it to be arrested before it damages the body.

Let us, however, go back to the original issue of my highly exaggerated death while I was away in the US for what I considered a worthy cause. Thank you all for those who expressed sincere concern. My equally sincere apologies for giving you such unnecessary grief. The root cause of our suffering was, of course, some irresponsible and malicious individual in a technological city called “the social media”. I have no problem at all with this technological contraption, but I worry about its irresponsible and reckless use by some people who have little respect for the sanctity of family life, the sovereignty of individual privacy, the beauty of civility and the need for a culture of mutual social responsibility.

The social media, put in the hands of some people immersed in the heady excitement of social upheaval which must deconstruct everything in every direction, may cut off many people from enjoying the benefits of this information super highway. Somehow the excesses of the social media need to be managed. I do not think this technological innovation came with the sole purpose of building a rumour-mongering industry, nor was it meant to give credence to character assassination. In Kenya, however, I fear “what trends” tends to be what is most notorious or what is most outlandish. That, obviously, is a rather unfortunate reputation to build. Let us be fair to all of us: do unto others as you would others would do unto you.

Now let us look into the future. Those who have initiated the debate on “being Kenyan” deserve our support and encouragement. It is an issue which is both urgent and timely. We still have not fully known, nor appreciated, how political repression can mess up with building a democratic political culture: a culture of discipline, trust, mutual social responsibility, decency, give and take, fairness, respect for ground rules and, above all social justice and liberty. This political repression usually begins by the reckless use of state power for the individual gains of those who hold or influence this power in developing countries in particular. When properly institutionalised we all it authoritarianism, a disease we are trying to deal with in our new constitution.

That is why it is very important to implement this constitution, take care of devolution and be ready to amend the constitution where some parts of it need improvement in institutionalising a democratic political culture and dismantling authoritarianism. As usual this will entail some struggle between those still determined to maintain the old order and those determined to become Kenyans under the new constitutional dispensation. Let the debate be carried out under an atmosphere of civility since human rights are now enshrined in our constitution and they need to be exercised with due respect to each other’s rights.

That, however, is not usually the case. I remember in 1998 when I proposed a Bill in Parliament for Presidential Retirement Benefits I was scathingly attacked by the media and “civil society” for pandering to the Moi regime. As one known for participation in the Second Liberation, what I was doing was regarded as an anathema. But I was quite clear: with a retirement benefits package, sitting presidents will, in future, feel more secure “to leave the throne” rather than to continue undemocratically to stick to power. This was my responsibility as a legislator, and the law was being enacted not just for Moi but for future presidents. Recently when the retirement benefits for President Kibaki were made public I did not read anything negative by those who viciously attacked my ideas in 1998.

Of course I argued for the principle, and not the details in terms of facts and figures. These can be moderated in line with our economic realities in Kenya. But this discussion, I repeat, needs to be done with more civility and less cacophony whether it concerns the remunerations of Members of Parliament or of laboratory technicians.

Article courtesy of the Sunday Standard

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  • bwana Senator , am glad you realize we need to train nurses and doctors…. majority of kenyans cant afford the medical trips to the states like you …. you had the docket for almost a decade ..actually a decade …. wish you had more but am glad you did what you had to do and what you did ….

    • Lucy

      wonder why he is telling us all these, shame on him

  • EMY WANYAMA

    A former vocal Minister for Medical services who goes for his ‘annual medical check’ in california!

  • hal otudo

    Prof. You dont have to fight every time. Sometimes you just let go. All the same I still think you failed miserably where it really counts seeing that having been health minister for close to a decade you still have to make trips abroad for treatment. Perharps it is now time to spend more time reflecting and making peace with your God. Ever read Hebrews 9:27 (in the Bible)? John 3 also makes very informative reading for the life ahead.

    • Thuku WairimÅ©

      Hebrews 9:27 – ”And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” Honestly, this professor is just a nuisance. He should not bother with God’s duties. He should wait for the actual judgement day

  • DM

    Wish everyone can afford to leave the country for check up. And at the same time, abuse the local nurses and doctors. I am sure a lot of people wont be saddened by your demise

  • minnie

    if your doctor was at the kenyatta hospital am sure you would respect the doctors and nurses that you ‘tortured’ while you the minister, ………….annual medical check up how many kenyans can afford that may your conscious catch up with you.

  • Mwendatenzi

    Prof,do you see how people respond to you?gotta up your game

  • Annual medical check up in the US?? This Nyongo guy would have no business making Kenya Healthcare better; he does not need Kenya healthcare. The irony is that the taxpayers who do not have healthcare paid for his check up abroad or at least he paid for it from what he stashed from the ministry he headed for almost a decade. Shame on you good for nothing Prof.

  • Duncan Muchina

    After being at the helm of health matters in our country for many years, you should at least point out something you began which you would wish to see completed under the Jubilee leadership. Something tangible and not one of the many statements you have spewed here that are full, too full, of yourself Professor.

  • Where is Nyong’o? haven’t seen him in ages

  • Wangechi

    He probably should do his annual check ups in Kenya.

  • kwamesa

    It’s such a shame for my Kenyans to be so full of hate as to even wish for another man’s death ( especially in one particular comment). The man is speaking the truth, and you know it! Maybe he is not your typical intellectual. I think people have become used to the sonkos, waititus, shebesh, etc of this world. Or even so, unless the writer is from your tribe or from a similar political dispensation, whatever he or she talks about is hogwash.No matter the content of his piece. There is no need of hating on a fellow man. He goes to the US for his medical checkup because the United States is way ahead on the treatment and research of cancers( he has suffered prostate cancer, as you may be aware). Beth Mugo spent a chunk of her time getting treatment in the US but she didn’t get any grief. I guess when people hate on him that much, he must have done certain things right.

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