Ndwiga idly stares at a lone cockerel strutting around the dusty courtyard. He's been crowing nonstop for the last hour. He’s struck with loneliness, perhaps. A few weeks back, Ndwiga took pride in his huge flock of Kienyeji chicken. Now it's just one cockerel, strutting around like Last Man Standing in a duel of knights in medieval Rome.
The neighborhood is awfully quiet. It’s disconcerting. Ndwiga is unused to the quiet after weeks of non-stop dancing, blaring bullhorns and riding atop branded pickup trucks.
Where's the political euphoria? Where are the raunchy songs made by the hour? What happened to "Ndovu ni Kuu" and "Masaa ni ya Ndovu" catchphrases? Ndovu had seemingly been leading in the local opinion polls.
Ndovu is Ndwiga's elder brother, seeking a Member of County Assembly (MCA) elective seat. The grandiose 'Ground Imekubali' statements were outright lies, with a layer of sugar. Ndovu had come in not,….but, a distant 7th!
Gold aside, local political pundits are certainly not worth their weight in salt.
Ndwiga strikes a match, lights a cigarette stub. He stares at the flame, reveling in a moment of philosophy: Politics is like a match stick's flame - burns bright and hard, but lasts less than a minute!
He’d messed up. His brother Ndovu has been missing since the election. The election loss had been hard to take. It’s unfortunate that so many other people’s dreams had tagged themselves to his…
Resigning Job & Burning Bridges
Ndwiga had been a truck driver plying the Mombasa-Busia route, sometimes beyond. A call in May - three months before elections - had signaled his systemic spiral into his present abyss.
Ndwiga had just settled into his cabin cot for the night after eleven hours behind the wheel when the call came.
It’s the elder brother, Ndovu - newly returned from a three-year-stint with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Sudan. He was loaded, enthusiastic - brimming with infectious dreams.
"Hey, bro. Kuja tushinde hii kiti ya MCA....."
"Uko na pesa? Siasa ni pesa...." Ndwiga, the typical Kenyan - has every milestone pegged to money. Or, lack of it.
"Pesa iko. Nataka uwe my chief campaigner and assistant. Kama ni doo nitakusort. Sare hio job..."
Ndwiga didn't blink. He had faith in his brother, and full conviction of his dream. His brother's name was Njenga, but quite early - he'd picked the moniker "Ndovu". He had a reputation of charging through issues, head on, like an elephant.
With the May salary hot in the bank, Ndovu didn't bother calling his employer, an emphatic Asian lad known only by his surname Raheem. As far as Ndwiga was concerned, Raheem was no more than an arrogant scion of an Asian trucking family who did not deserve the courtesy of a notice period - kiburi wewe!
He'd abandoned the truck, ignition key in place. Ndwiga would later learn that his turnboy had earned a promotion, as his replacement after crawling back to Nairobi with the truck.
There was no going back. Even in the remotest chance that they accepted him back, they would slash his salary in half - and, maliciously double his shifts.
Ndwiga retrieves his phone from the window sill. It’s a battered 3rd generation feature phone with a rubber band holding fort. His prized Android smartphone had been lost on the campaign trail. This one has been on mute since the election. Not that it matters much - there are no missed calls.
Two messages are pending. First, the network service provider - recommending a new, revamped data bundle package - Ndwiga scoffs in disgust. The second one, the landlord, at the market centre - half a mile down the road. It’s a grim message.
“Shop rent is overdue. Tomorrow 12am we lock it, and keep the machines till you clear, plus interest”.
Ndwiga figures the elderly landlord’s daughter had drafted it.
For the heck of it, Ndwiga writes back: “12AM or 12PM, Stacy?”
“SAA SITA MCHANA!!” Now, that’s the default landlord, alright.
If Ndwiga had a live fireplace, he’d have flung the handset into the fire. All he had is a forlorn cockerel pacing the length of the yard.
To date, Ndwiga is clueless on the genesis of the business idea. After jumping ship at his workplace, he’d walked into his Sacco’s FOSA office and asked for a loan. Over two years, he’d amassed shares worth Ksh200,000.00. He’d asked for a Ksh120,000.00 ‘Development Loan’ - with his shares as security.
Ndwiga had purchased a new 3-in-1 printer machine, cash - for Ksh55,000.00 in Nairobi. He’d spent Ksh25,000.00 for a bale of plain, cotton T-shirts and Ksh10,000 for a bale of polyester T-shirts. He’d be printing campaign T-shirts, caps and banners - over the political season. He’d used Ksh20,000.00 as three month’s rent for a backroom.
Surely, if all else failed, business from Ndovu would be enough to recover the investment.
Except that in a few days, business went sideways. First, Honourable Ndovu made a verbal order for the entire cotton batch, for which he’d conveniently forget to honour the Ksh75,000.00 payment - being the impressionable brother, he began printing nevertheless.
His brother’s classic reply: “Bro, we uko kwa serikali. Contract za CDF zote si ni zako? Wacha tushike serikali”
A separate lady aspirant had ordered a batch of the cheaper polyester T-shirts. She’d paid Ksh10,000 as down payment for the Ksh35,000 order. The balance was due on delivery. She sent agents for collection, and as the campaign trail was tight - she’d kept making promises. She lost, coming 4th. As expected, that was the end of any prospect of repayment.
Now, he couldn’t pay rent - and, Ndwiga still owed his designer a month’s salary in arrears.
Ndwiga giggles idly, like a madman at the market. A thought has crossed his mind. How much is this cockerel worth? A thousand bob? It got to cost more - I mean; this is Last Fowl Standing!
He needs money - and, fast.
A week into the campaign period, Ndwiga had retired to a local bar with a few allies. They’d spent the day traversing the ward, spreading the ‘Ndovu ni Kuu’ gospel. At midnight, a group of youths in varying degrees of intoxication had flowed into the joint. All was well, at first - till someone hurled an empty beer bottle towards Ndwiga’s table.
The youth allegiance belonged to a rival MCA aspirant.
Now, since ‘Ndovu ni Kuu’, Ndwiga had randomly hurled a bottle back. Things cooled down after that, somewhat. At dawn the next morning, Ndwiga had been arrested on charges of assault and bodily harm. The bottle had allegedly struck someone’s temple!
In truth, Ndwiga hadn’t really aimed at anyone, but it was hard convincing the resident magistrate.
Apparently ‘General Direction’ didn’t offer sufficient merit to throw out the case - and, Ndwiga was slapped with a Ksh20,000 cash bail to secure release, or endure six months in the slammer. He’d called his mother, earnestly swearing ethics and purity for posterity.
Well, maternal love being what it is, she bailed him out with her Chama’s money.
The court case is scheduled for hearing after the election. Ndwiga toys with the idea of skipping town. If Ndovu doesn’t surface soon, he will be forced to sell this cockerel - and more.
Lonely, he cannot dare show his face in town. Not with hefty bills in numerous pubs raised by ‘their followers’ in the name of Mhesh Ndovu.
Ndovu ni Kuu! Ndovu Ndio Ako Kwa Ground!