Nobody wakes up wanting to be a hero; rather, it is heroism that chooses you. Yet, Mr Martin Kamotho has become the object of national derision and griping ridicule since he was listed on this year’s Jamhuri Day honours roll for Head of State Commendation. On social media, people have been gas lighting the President in an attempt to denigrate Mr Kamotho’s heroism.
Receiving a national award is a not as easy as winning a lottery. One of three representative committees for the national and county governments; the Judiciary and Parliament must definitely have met, reviewed the events of the past year, and decided that the Dandora-based Nairobi County employee had exhibited exemplary qualities, actions or achievements of heroism, sacrifice, bravery, patriotism or leadership for the defence, benefit or betterment of the country or a county.
The President was advised on the suitability of Mr Kamotho – not for the Chief of the Burning Spear, or Elder of the Golden Heart, or even the Order of the Grand Warrior — but rather the fitting commendation of the Head of State.
Naturally, a committee proposing the conferment of a national honour on Mr Kamotho would have to have published his name in at least two daily newspapers of national circulation, inviting the public to present any views on or objections to the proposal. In the event that the regulations for selecting individuals and groups to receive national honours, this duty falls on the President.
Mr Kamotho needs no such preamble, having been introduced to the public through the media. His act of courage while queuing to vote during the August 8 General Election is a milestone to that moment in history.
The absence of personal embarrassment in a public sanitation officer eating out of a paper-bag before the plastics ban; his integrity in combating hunger in full public view; the chutzpah of ravishing a commoner dish with relish were beyond remarkable.
It takes courage for someone to publicly eat githeri – the admixture of maize and beans that is staple in many Kenyan boarding schools — masticating the maize husks and chewing the bean curd without mercy.
Notably, Mr Kamotho was not eating a beef burger or club sandwich; he was not munching on French fries, or pizza, or any of the other pretentious exotic foods considered markers of class.
It was not matoke, foofoo or some nondescript African food. Githeri is Kenya’s national culinary secret, prepared with love and containing all the ingredients to sustain life.
It can be prepared to maintain just the right weight, or be eaten with accompaniments like avocado, cabbage, meat and potatoes to enhance its flavour and tickle the taste buds.
Eating publicly and without shame was a metaphor of government. At a moment of great tension, when Kenyans could have been slitting each other’s throats because of the unbearable anxiety of waiting for the election results, with fake claims of computer hacking and algorithms swirling in the air, Mr Kamotho was the closest thing to reality – a reminder that everybody needed to eat at some point.
Public gorging of a meal of poverty a person dispelled rumours that Kenya was in the grip of a maize shortage and was probably staring at a food crisis.
His singular act of honesty brought honour, glory and pride to the Republic of Kenya.
Heroism emerges when someone ordinary does something extraordinary without regard to who might be watching. It is the happenstance, the combination of being thrust into circumstances when personal agency is irrelevant that makes a hero. Mr Kamotho, dotingly known as the Githeri Man, is a matchless hero.
The writer is a Programme Advisor, Journalists for Justice. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect those of JFJ. [email protected]