A lot has changed in the village lifestyle since I last visited Kajulu in Kisumu.
Overzealous enforcement of the so-called Mututho Rules means that more sober and law-abiding people now walk the footpaths.
As I gathered from the village wag last Monday, even the privileged beer-swallowing folks who patronise the local pub named Parliament at the wrong hours have learnt to show the police a clean pair of heels.
Equally remarkable is the way the villagers are already implementing the new Constitution, especially the chapter on devolution.
The council of elders’ chairman is seen to increasingly wield more powers than the chief or the assistant chief.
People prefer to take cases involving land grabbers, wife beaters, chicken thieves, adulterers, rogue wife inheritors, negligent parents, absentee husbands, gluttons, truants, and rapists to the chief elder’s court.
The local patriarch is himself a beneficiary of a more recent exercise in vertical devolution that dispersed power from the institution of the traditional Luo ker (king) to the grassroots.
The reforms came complete with the installation of a new ker amid complaints that the past office holder “behaved too modern”.
As an MP remarked during the installation ceremony, “we don’t want a ker who eats fish and chips in town”.
A more plausible version of the story, however, is that the man was seen to crave another centre of power outside the political establishment at whose pleasure the ethnic aristocracy is expected to serve.
Still, this struck me as ingenious considering that senior people in government and Parliament cannot agree what shape or form devolution should take.
Remember the foggy debate over whether the provincial administration will be retained, restructured, replaced, or removed?
What hasn’t changed in my village is the monotony of political conversations.
Folks here just never tire to drop the name of jakom in every small argument.
Dholuo for chairman, Jakom is mostly used to refer to Raila Odinga, the Prime Minister, by virtue of his being the leader of the dominant political party in the area.
But it often finds its way into conversations as would the village oracle.
When, for instance, I asked the village wag whom they are likely to vote the Kisumu governor, this is what I got for an answer: “A number of people are already campaigning for the seat but it might amount to nothing in the end. Jakom will anoint the right person.”
If I felt embarrassed, I did my best not to show it.