It’s Monday 22nd August, we depart at 8:00 am with a group of journalists from JKIA onboard KQ Embraer destined for OR Tambo international Airport, South Africa. Four hours later, we land. Immediately we step on the exit terminal, I get blown away, literally.
A fellow journalist who was with me but had travelled to this country reminds me that I haven’t seen anything yet. That I need to compose myself. I try to follow his instruction but with no success. This son of Kano hasn’t travelled much. Based on where I come from, this country is on another level.
Because a nation’s airport can tell you a lot about the status of a country.
We are picked up by our host, Ford South Africa, who were launching their brand new FORD Ranger 2.2 automatic. At the arrival pick up point, I see a range of sleek Mercedes Benz cars, ranging from the C 200 series and others. On top of them is a taxi sign. I ask, albeit in low tone why there are no old yellow painted cabs with aggressive drivers who smell of rotten tobacco on this airport.
After a brief introduction, we were chauffeured off to Pretoria to witness the automated assembly plant where the FORD Ranger is manufactured. There was no traffic jam, no bumps; just wide, well-labeled roads that allowed us to go at a minimum speed of 120 Km per hour. Our journey wasn’t made uncomfortable by potholes. There was not a single old vehicle on the road because they do not import Japanese second-hand cars. The citizens are incentivized to purchase locally manufactured car brands thereby promoting the vibrant local industry. In 30 minutes, we had covered 72 KMs to land in Pretoria. Then I swiftly came to this conclusion, Nairobi isn’t a city and Kenya is a struggling third world country.
Please, I beg you, by the mercies of our Lord, do not adulterate the word city. Neither should we refer to Kenya as a middle-income economy. Those words cannot exist in the same sentence with Nairobi and Kenya. Driving around the Jo’burg metropolis, you can see a nation that was planned by its founders. They didn’t just wake up and declare that every open 50*100 pieces of land need to have a building on it. Nope, they planned. They first saw the end product in their minds before they brought in the excavators. They were not moved by quick bucks as we are.
They love their nation so much that they had to make their country beautiful. Right from the airport, the country looks like it’s the garden of Eden where Adam and eve were tempted. You can live longer here. I kid you not. If you struggle with respiratory illnesses, you can move here and have your clogged arteries cleaned.
We drove around Sandton, around the entire metro of Johannesburg and never did I see a single cop. Just Street lights, nice signage but I never saw a single fat police cop or a malnourished County officer with their ugly uniforms. Yes, neither did I see hawkers in the CBD. I also did not see on their roads a single old struggling matatu belching toxic fumes, blasting loud music while having the rowdy, miraa chewing, body odour owners and intoxicated makangas.
Everywhere I went to, I was ably reminded that I live in a s**t hole and because we vote in s****y leaders, we have accepted our lot in life. Our worth is almost equivalent to that of a worm of the soil. In fact, worms live a more dignified life than some human beings in this country. Because who wouldn’t want to live in a clean environment? Who wouldn’t want to have running water? Who would despise excellent infrastructure? The blame shouldn’t, however, be placed on the shoulders of our leaders alone because they are a reflection of who we are.
How else would you explain the madness that is in this city and country?
Unless you have an airport which has several terminals, several chains of hotels, sound proof engineering, perfect amenities etc, whatever you call an international airport here is surely an over praised village runway. You cannot claim to have a city when the roads are thinner and in bad shape than a wild track for the squirrel.
What about urban planning? Nairobi is a pit latrine. We live in a crowded and filthy s**t hole. Please, stop referring to Nairobi as a city. You have no right to abuse the word city. You must cease, with immediate effect from referring to this dingy s**t hole as a city. It’s like calling a Kikopey zebra an Italian horse. It’s like calling a Vitz a Ford Ranger. It’s like cleaning a pig by giving it a name like a unicorn.
Stop right there. Because it amounts to defilement. Our city is congested. When you drive from the airport, especially during the day, you will understand that Mombasa road is the modern manifestation of the road to Gehenna. Whatever madness that goes on that road is inexcusable. You cannot refer to Nairobi as a city with the rampant filth that adorns our roadside tourist attraction sites. There is no way you can call Nairobi a city while the signage is poor, only competing with those found in Nyalgunga or shamakhokho.
While South Africa has its own paradoxes, like the annoying inequality gap between the rich and the poor, xenophobia, surviving stumps of apartheid, alleged corruption within the Government etc, you have to give it to them that this country is simply clean and their urban planning professionally managed. Those who have visited the country have proclaimed that South Africa is the only European country in Africa.
Then it hit me that the poor haven’t travelled much, lacking any tangible mental picture of a progressive country to compare their country with, therefore their best is a rundown city and country. Yet the rich travel and that’s why they put a stranglehold on developments as they syphon resources meant to change the lives of the poor to stash in offshore accounts.
Patriotism my foot. If you get a green card to a better land, go and enjoy it. If you get an opportunity to marry a foreign woman or a man and they are willing to accommodate you in their country, escape and go. Forget about patriotism. Forget about dying for your country. If you get a woman from a progressive country, assemble village elders, get them tickets, go and negotiate bride price then don’t come back.
Unless we sit down and draw what we want as a country, unless we shun negative ethnicity driven politics and syphoning of public resources, a new wave of brain drain will start. Many of us will move. Because we cannot die for a country that doesn’t want to live for us. There is no need of patriotism when our leaders fleece us every day.
Kenyans are some of the leading dimwits in the world. If the kind of leaders we elect and the kind of behaviour we exhibit on the streets are anything to go by, in the words of a good friend, only a miracle can save Kenya. Only a miracle will pluck this nation from the tentacles of destruction. Nothing short of another sacrifice on Calvary is what is able to save this nation. We are only united by tragedy.
No wonder Obako was flown to SA when he fell ill. Raila’s daughter is receiving treatment in SA. Because South Africa’s ambience alone can heal a broken and tired soul. If you there looking like you are 40 but you feel like you are 60 years old, I can assure you that you will look and feel younger.
My skin was cleansed from Eastland impurities. Githurai stench no longer had a hold on me. I did not see those annoying witch doctor ads there. Like we cure sports pesa, we cure leprosy, we can help your libido, etc. What manner of nonsense is that? Clearly, the signs of a failed state are all written in our nation.