• Origin of the Rot- by Edward Maroncha

    Mutiso is frustrated. He has tried to call the Cabinet Secretary to no avail. The CS for Vehicles and Trains, Mohammed Abdulahi, is known to have the President’s ear. And Mutiso needs him now to persuade the President to change his mind. There has to be a way out of this mess that does not involve sacrificing him. But the CS is not picking his call or responding to his texts. It is only confirming what Mutiso’s gut has been telling him for a while. His goose is cooked. He is the sacrificial lamb.

    Mutiso is the Principal Secretary in the Department of Trains, and Abdulahi is his line Minister. Was, that is. Because this morning, President Mwiti called him and gave him 24 hours to resign. Or face the sack. He tried to plead but the President was not in the mood for negotiation. Thing is, Mutiso has become a political liability. And he knows it. He is not alone in this mess, but he is the most vulnerable, and most convenient scape goat. Media houses have been running the story of the scandal in the Ministry of Vehicles and Trains for a while now. And Mutiso has become the face of the scandal.

    Mutiso sighs. He looks around his office. His former office. Now he is a trespasser here. Even if he is yet to resign. This office represents power. The power that his company offices along Ngong Road lack. Because of this office, politicians and business people bow at his feet. But all that is gone now. Mutiso leans back on his seat and reflects on how it all began. He was stupid, that is for sure. And greedy. Naïve and greedy.

    One evening, CS Abdulahi had called him and asked if he was available that evening so that they could discuss an interesting concept. He enjoys a warm relationship with the CS, so he had cleared his schedule and met him at the Sankara Hotel in Westlands. He can even remember what the CS was wearing that evening. A navy blue suit. Light blue shirt. No tie. He had that charming smile of him. Over drinks, the CS told him about the deal to repair locomotives belonging to Kenya National Trains Board (KNTB), a state agency. The repairs would officially cost Kshs. 3 billion. But there were some Chinese businessmen who were willing to play ball. They would repair the locomotives for a billion, and keep half a million for themselves. But Mutiso, as the department’s accounting officer, would approve 3 billion. The Chinese would return 1.5 billion. The CS would get 750 million, and Mutiso would keep half a billion. He (Mutiso) would then use 250 million to ‘smoothen the way’ for the deal. The CS read out the Chinese contact’s number, and Mutiso saved it in his phone. They then spent the rest of the evening discussing football and women.

    The figures were appealing to Mutiso, so he got to work immediately. He paid the agency’s board members and the repairs were advertised. A few MPs raised questions but he paid them off and they changed tune. And sang his. Tendering was quickly done and awarded to Xing Song Xhu Limited. Within months, the repairs were done. And Mutiso approved payment. The Chinese promptly paid 1.5 billion into the account of Janet, Mutiso’s mistress.

    But soon after, even before Mutiso paid Abdulahi his cut, hell broke loose. Things did not go as planned. The Chinese just replaced a few bolts that was it. Most of the locomotives were still wasting away at the KNTB yard. Still are. And someone leaked that information to the media. It instantly became a headline. A major scandal. It turned out that Xing Song Xhu was not even a Chinese company. It was a briefcase company owed by locals, through Chinese proxies in a complex network of business associations.

    As the scandal broke out, CS Abdulahi had called a Press Conference and promised to investigate. Three days later, he disbanded the Kenya National Trains Board. The Anti-Corruption Commission then pounced and promptly arrested them and arraigned them in court. But the media was not satisfied. And Civil Society joined in. And the opposition. And suddenly it became a political issue, and the President found himself fighting for political survival. That is when Mutiso started feeling he would be the one to be sacrificed. He was senior enough to feed the mob. Plus the deal had his fingerprints all over it. And CS Abdulahi had played his cards well. There was nothing to link him to the deal. A few politicians asked the CS to take political responsibility and resign, but Mutiso knows nothing of that kind will happen. The President has asked him (Mutiso) to resign. Next he will arrested. And prosecuted. And most likely convicted. He will be used as a dummy for President Mwiti to show he is serious about fighting corruption and turn the political tide into his favour.

    Mutiso rises from his seat and walks to the window of the 15th Floor office at Gari Moshi House. He has switched off his mobile phone because the media will not give him peace. He looks down at the street below. Everyone’s life seems to be going on as usual. How can they be so peaceful when his life is caught in a hurricane? Slowly, his mind drifts to how he got here.

    Mutiso was a passionate Christian in high school. He preached to his fellow students and even teachers with youthful passion and zeal. He became the Christian Union vice-chairman in form two, and chairman in form 3. When he joined the University of Nairobi, he was still passionate about his faith. But he also became passionate about human rights and social justice. He joined protests against corruption and extra judicial killings. He criticized the government, the university administration and the SONU leadership whenever they did something he felt was not right.  Soon, he was active in campus politics and vied for the position of SONU chairman.

    His then girlfriend, Dorothy, was solidly behind him. She believed in him. So she campaigned vigorously for him. She was a popular secretary of the huge Main Campus Christian Union, and used her position to vouch for him. She even influenced all other Christian Unions, including the equally large Kikuyu Campus Christian Union, Kenya Science Campus Christian Union, Upper Kabete Campus Christian Union, Lower Kabete Campus Christian Union and the tiny but vocal Parklands Campus Christian Union to rally behind him, as a brother in Christ and a reform agent. They all marshalled supporters behind Mutiso and volunteered as his agents on the poll day to prevent his opponents from stuffing votes. So Mutiso easily won.

    At first, Mutiso resisted pressure from other SONU executives to pinch SONU money. He believed in his reform agenda, and told them off time and again. It did earn him several enemies, but he was determined to stay put. Plus anytime he wavered, Dorothy reminded him that she put her credibility as a Christian leader on the line for him. And he honestly did not want to let her down. He loved her.

    But it was getting increasingly difficult. He felt there was a standard of life set for SONU chairmen that he was not living up to. His suits were shabby and ill fitting, and like most other students, he was constantly broke. After all, he came from a humble background, and his parents had struggled to put him and his siblings through school. Then one day, at the Moi University Student Organisations (MUSO) chairman’s party, he met a former MP who was also a former student leader at Kenyatta University. The man looked at him in utter disbelief.

    “Why is the SONU chairman looking like a pauper?”

    “I am not employed sir. I am just a student”

    “But you are the SONU chairman! You have resources at your disposal!”

    “With all due respect sir, I run a corrupt free administration. I cannot use student’s money for personal gain.”

     

    The former MP laughed patronizingly. He was a short man. Round in shape. Cylindrical would be a better description. He looked at Mutiso and for a while and smiled.

    “Listen son. I know you mean well. But the truth is, SONU money will never help students. You are there for just a year. Next year your successor will come and eat the money. Why do the students need the money anyway? Look, I know for you to be SONU chairman, you have really worked hard for the students’ welfare. And this is God rewarding you. Get yourself good clothes. Start businesses. If you are wealthy you will be of more help to this country. You can give bursaries to needy kids. And stand up to rich politicians because they cannot intimidate you with money. And I will tell you now, that your political science degree will not make you rich. If you are lucky to get a job after graduation, they will pay you 35 thousand gross. After paying all your bills, how much will you save and how long will it take you to make even just 1 million?” the man then shook his head and went away to greet other acquaintances.

    That night, Mutiso thought about what the man had said. It made a lot of sense. He thought about discussing it with Dorothy, but he knew she would hear none of it. But slowly, Mutiso relaxed his rigid principles. At first, he looked away as other executives organized sham events. When they offered him a ‘cut’ of the loot, he took it. Then slowly he started actively demanding his share. He approved bursaries to ghost students, and shared the money with executives. And he slowly stopped going to the CU services.

    Dorothy was no fool, of course. She realized what was happening and confronted him. They had numerous fights that ended in a bitter break up. Dorothy apologised, amid tears, to the Christian Union for misleading them. She then resigned from her position as the Secretary.

    Mutiso enjoyed the new life. It was freedom. Parties in high end clubs. Girls chasing him. Girls more classy and exciting than Dorothy. He even bought a car and started several companies. He used his connections to get tenders to supply government agencies with overpriced stationery, snacks and tissue papers. He rarely went to class but paid his way to a first class honors degree, and immediately enrolled for a masters, which he finished in a year. He then opened a consultancy firm and again used his connections to get consulting jobs with state departments.

    Then three years ago, he joined the newly formed Tarakilishi Party. He campaigned hard for presidential candidate Mwiti, and his running mate, now Deputy President Oduor. He toyed with the idea of running for MP, but he was told to remain in the national secretariat, on the promise of a PS seat after victory. And the President kept his word.

    Life was good. Of course there were some challenges. Like his wife Stacy having an affair with that stupid MCA. An MCA! Not even an MP. Mutiso had not even confronted her. He just oiled a few hands and the man was shot dead in a club. Stacy knew, but couldn’t ask. That would be an admitting to the affair. She instead engaged him in cold war. Which was fine, because he had Janet anyway. A hot third year student at JKUAT who was mesmerized by his earthly possessions. A few blogs had picked the stories of the MCA, but he had paid them off and killed it. But now they were bound to resurface. His affair with Janet was now in the open. The money had been traced to her last evening, and she had been arrested, and spilt the beans. It is only a matter of time before he himself is arrested.

    Mutiso sighs for the umpteenth time. He should have listened to Dorothy. In fact, he should have married her. They would not be rich, extravagantly rich, but they would be having a comfortable middle class life. Without drama. He would be a better Christian. And he would not be facing a jail term. And his conscience would be clear, without the blood of a man in his hands. Oh Dorothy. Dottie.

    A knock on the door surprises him. Has that ingrate of a President sent cops after him already?

     

    Image source: http://gulf-insider.com

     

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