I once had a friend who used to cause me considerable irritation whenever I started telling him a story because he always interrupted me with this sentence: “Tell me the last part first.” This forced me to reorganise the sequence of my narrative and I didn’t like it. What was the use of telling when the end was known?
I remembered that friend this week when reports came through that Directorate of Criminal Investigations officers had raided a house in Westlands, flushed out the man of the house from under the bed he was hiding and carted away bales of sports kit intended for the athletes who represented us in the Rio Olympics.
Let me tell you the last part of this story first: He won’t go to jail. Are you still interested in the story now that you know the conclusion?
The last part of a story I filed from Rio during the Olympics on August 19 read: “Kenya does not punish high officials who commit crimes of any kind against the people. It punishes pick-pockets, chicken thieves and house helps. Those are the ones who populate its teeming jails. The senior people just go through a razzmatazz of public theatre. But nobody goes to jail. It won’t start with Rio 2016.”
In law, as in politics, anything is possible. Let’s just go over a few indisputable facts.
The Olympic Games of 2016 were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from August 5 to August 21.
Nike, the kit sponsor of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K), released the full consignment to the Kenya team weeks before the Games.
The kit was provided to the national Olympic team for training, competition, ceremonial and social purposes. That is why it was delivered before the Games begun.
On Monday, a full three months after the Games ended, police officers broke into the house of Ben Ekumbo after he declined their entreaties to open the door.
Ekumbo is the vice-chairman of NOC-K and was chef de mission of the team to Rio. They found bales of the kit which they carted away and later charged him with stealing and handling stolen goods.
You would think that this is an open and shut case but when law and politics mix, especially here where we are constantly reminded that we are a great nation, you must be ready for anything, including the outcome that this never happened. Our renowned thorough investigations could turn up nothing.
It could transpire, as it has over and over since the All-Africa Games of 1987, that it is you and me who are hallucinating.
High level probes into corruption are always a game of smoke and mirrors where the investigating authority earnestly and often dramatically appears to be relentlessly trying to crack a crime while in fact it is subtly sabotaging the evidence at every turn. In the end, the public prosecutor decries the inadequacy of the evidence and decides not to prosecute or if he proceeds to court, the case leaks worse than a sieve and the judge has no option but to dismiss it. Bingo!
Due process has not only been followed, but it has been seen to be so. If there was an Olympic competition for this kind of sport, Kenya would win the gold medal hands down.
That is the culture we have institutionalised. But there is more. About two weeks ago, a Nation reader begged Fred Matiang’i, the Cabinet Secretary for Education to train his guns on cheating during the competitions of schools’ games from the zonal stage right through to the East African level.
According to this reader, the competitions are infested with crooks – and these are none other than head teachers.
“There is massive corruption and use of dirty, hook-and-crook underhand methods to win trophies,” David Aswani, from Busia wrote. “Primary schools illegally draft secondary school students and villagers in their teams. Secondary schools recycle former students as well as poach from clubs, villages, estates and colleges. Mark you, some of the players are mediocre.
“The fraud is aided by forging birth and primary school final examination certificates and student identity cards, which ‘prove’ that they are ‘genuine’ students of these schools. Armed with basic knowledge about the schools, such as the names of ‘their’ teachers, they are drilled to behave as such. This is done with the express blessing of, and facilitation by, head teachers, who collude with games officials to allow mercenaries to compete. Sadly, this is done at the expense of genuine students, who are denied a chance to nurture their talent.”
I quote this reader at some length because I have still not got over his report. I have read it three times and each time I find myself staring blankly at a wall. This story was the subject in a social gathering I was in last Saturday and I still can’t seem to get over with it.
I have tried to get into the mind of a head teacher who does such things and I ask myself: in his private moments, say at night when he switches off his bedroom light, how does he feel now that his school “won?”
Does he have any feelings towards the poor pupils he defrauded of victory? What does he know about the philosophy underpinning sporting competitions? Is it victory at any cost?
Can he organize the injury of an opponent – or worse – so as to win?
And if he is training fraudsters at that level, will he feel justified to protest when they clean out the money meant for the local roads, hospitals and schools after cheating their way through the examination system up to obtaining fake degrees and bribing their way into government jobs? How will he take it when they grab the school playground?
And by the way, is he among the people outraged by the theft of millions of shillings meant for the national Olympic team for Rio 2016 or did he view that as a smart act?
Well, you never know, those people charged with stealing from their charges are probably his brothers by another mother. But most certainly old students of another teacher like him.
“Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of a good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles,” said Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Olympic Games of the modern era.
There is a Swahili saying, that telling that to the head teachers who recruit matatu touts for school competitions is the equivalent of playing a guitar to a goat.
The ease with which it has become possible to loot public resources in Kenya and face no consequences after fulfilling basic requirements of ethnic and filial connections has given rise to ogres that take the likeness of human beings and can be mistaken as such.
But they are not human; they are ogres. And that is my last part said last.