MACHAKOS, Kenya, Feb 8 – It’s the unveiling of the Machakos People’s Park and Mwikali is in a frenzy because Governor Alfred Mutua’s car is a few metres away and the fountain at the entrance is not spouting out water like it’s supposed to.
“’82 yaikabaa,” she says in Kikamba, “Have you seen him today? He was here earlier and he’s in quite a mood because we were still running around,” she tells Eric, the media liason I’m standing next to.
And as she hurries off to enquire why the clean up crew is still loitering around the park, Eric explains to me what, “‘82 yaikabaa,” means.
“It means the 1982 attempted coup will be nothing compared to the hell he’ll raise if we don’t do our jobs,” he explains.
And so we hurry along to the field amphitheatre, water now coming out of the fountain and the Machakos county Cabinet having lined up at the gate to meet the governor.
Having barely taken our seats, Mutua walks in and so we’re told to be, “upstanding,” making three sharp claps in quick succession as it was done in the Nyayo era.
He doesn’t head for his seat but straight for the podium where he remains standing for a quick prayer, a brief introduction by his deputy and immediately launches into his speech.
“I’ll first speak in English, talk about the park and delve into a little bit of politics before doing the same in Kiswahili and Kikamba. My statements will be very brief,” he commences.
And true to his word, that exactly how he does it except for detouring a bit near the end to ensure things go exactly as planned.
“Kidum,” he calls to the musician, “I’m almost done so by the time I step down you and your team should be in position, here in the county of Machakos we don’t waste time.”
And apparently, the entertainment comes after the business is concluded.
A brief jig later and Eric whispers in my ear, “the governor will be heading to the marina in two minutes where he’ll answer your questions.”
The ‘marina’ is the bank of Maruba dam where I later find out, the governor will be taking a ride on MV Machakos.
It sounds big but really it’s just a dinghy that can accommodate about five people.
But before we even get to the marina, Mutua is behind us, his security team running along the grassy bank of the dam, desperate to catch up.
Once he’s at the marina, his director’s instincts kick in and the former Executive Producer of Cobra Squad begins directing the interview.
“First,” he says as he swaps his coat for a life jacket, “I’ll go on a brief boat ride and then I’ll answer your questions, anyone want to go in with me?” he asks.
And as he goes on his boat ride, he’s always conscious to turn, point and wave for the best shot.
“When we met him here earlier he advised me to do my piece to camera out in the boat,” Zainab, a fellow reporter, informs me.
He’s clearly a hands-on man who knows exactly what he’s after and it shows when he later poses with a section of the school children he’d invited for the opening.
“Where are flamingos found?” he asks them, with one hand on a replica of the creature, at the fountain which now flush with water.
But he doesn’t have the same patience for the driver who keeps the press waiting once the shoot is complete.
“He should respect people’s time. Where is he? What else could he be doing? This was his job,” he poses to Eric, “maybe he should go home and decide if he really wants the job.”
Turns out, “82 yaikabaa,” for the driver anyway.