Ezekiel Mutua is one person who puzzles me. He has taken his job as boss of the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) as an opportunity to extend his personal brand.
Yet every time he opens his mouth to make a statement, most sensible people cover their faces with their hands in utter embarrassment. He often appears to be passing off outdated ideas with the conviction of a priest and the naivety of a three-year-old.
Last week, Mutua discovered that a Coca Cola “Taste The Feeling” commercial which his organisation had initially approved, violated “family values” and featured “offensive” kissing scenes.
KFCB’s official statement actually quoted Mutua’s Facebook update, where he thanked some friends for bringing the “public outcry” to his attention. “On 23rd March, the KFCB approved our advertisement as it qualified for the ‘Parental Guidance’ (PG) rating in line with the established classification guidelines,” the soft drinks maker said in a statement.
It edited out the kissing scene, anyway, and was all diplomatic about it but everyone knows you don’t want to pick a fight with Mutua. He would probably call press conferences every hour to update on the stalemate just to get his face on the evening news.
You see, Mutua is a former journalist. In fact, he was a sub-editor for this very newspaper for eight years until 2002. Within Nation Centre, they are the studious types who pore over copy, pulling out the poor turn of phrase and sculpting articles into the (mostly) readable articles that end up in the paper.
It is not a job for a moth drawn to the lights. There is no glory in it, no thousands of adoring Facebook fans, no recognition. A job on TV didn’t materialise but he moved on.
So he became secretary-general of the Kenya Union of Journalists instead. The last time it held awards — a decade ago — the prize money mysteriously disappeared.
Winners, like photographer Boniface Mwangi, never saw a dime of their prize money. It is quite rich that he can base his puritanical campaign on such a shaky background, wrongly assuming a countrywide amnesia.
It is said that KUJ officials received 20 TV sets meant for the awards from a sponsor. The televisions were neither mentioned nor presented during the awards ceremony. Maybe someone watched #theTrend’s Trending Talkers segment on one of those sets on Friday.
Mr Mutua took issue with the panel calling him out on his moral crusade. “OK, now this is journalism at another level,” he said on his Facebook page.
You’d think someone with his background would know better than to assume everything on television is journalism.
“Well, BIG DEAL: KFCB has had ten long minutes of prime time publicity and this post could also be subject of more publicity.” And in that brief moment of absolute honesty, his true intentions truly shone through: Mutua cherishes publicity.
A casual look at the board’s Facebook page reveals the shameless, agile self-promoter that its CEO is. Before his arrival last October, it was a pretty standard page, with periodic updates on the ratings for movies and almost nothing else.
Since the former information secretary took over, the official account has become something of a personal diary of what he is up to and who he meets.
In fact, there hasn’t been a single post on how the KFCB has rated any recent movies since his appointment. It is far too less dull, doesn’t attract any media attention and receives no publicity unless they ban a movie.
KFCB and Mutua’s role doesn’t even include advertisements. Though the board’s mandate expanded beyond the Films and Stage Plays Act to include monitoring what broadcasters air during the watershed period, commercials are outside that bracket.
Ministry officials and experts alike roll their eyes at his frequent over-reaching and courting controversy.
Mercifully, Ezekiel Mutua won’t annoy us for long. He’ll probably be out next year, using the notoriety gained from this post to run for public office. It is a playbook straight from another namesake. It might just work again. God help us all.
*This article has been edited to reflect that Mutua is not the Chairman as earlier stated but the CEO of KFCB.
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