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Media should consider permanent sidebars for silliness

By Kodi Barth

Only four contenders will be on the ballot in the race for President of the Republic of Kenya this August. All male. And for one candidate, his single agenda is to plant marijuana – a lot of it – and start snake farming.

Yup!

“Wajackoyah to pay Chinese debts using snake meat if elected President,” said a June 9 headline in the People Daily.

That would be self-made Professor George Wajackoyah, 61, a former street boy, grave digger, Special Branch sleuth and holder of 16 degrees, according to several biographies online.

“One of the ways we are going to offset the Chinese debts is by extracting the poison from the snake and then giving the Chinese the meat to eat and telling them to offset the debt,” Wajackoyah said June 8 on Citizen TV’s JK Live show.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Yet, Roots Party of Kenya leader Wajackoyah will have shot to the ballot from a list of 55 contenders interviewed by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, according to the Daily Nation. Among those beaten by Wajackoyah were a county governor and a city dollar multimillionaire.

Weed and snake oil – now why didn’t I think of that! The governor and millionaire must be kicking themselves.

Look, it’s the season for silliness. And that’s Okay. But should media elevate and trumpet this stuff, pretending to cover it on the same footing with sane ideas that birth sound governance?

Did anyone notice on JK Live that Wajackoyah and his running mate, Justina Wamae, weren’t even on the same page on a single policy proposal?

Wajackoyah would shut down “fake” pollsters who exclude his party in national polls and summarily expel their foreign directors. Wamae would give them “a conducive environment to not feel compelled to support only the powerful.”

Wajackoyah would hang corrupt people or drop them off a cliff in Kwale. Wamae? “Well people are corrupt,” she told Trevor Ombija, sitting in for show host Jeff Koinange. “[We will go after] what compels people to be corrupt.”

Wamae kept trying to set her evidently eccentric principal straight.

And does their party have candidates for other elective posts? Nah. Their selection criteria were so rigorous that nobody qualified even for Member of County Assembly (MCA), Wajackoyah said. Yeah.

Did any reasonable viewer think that a lone-ranger ticket with uncoordinated messaging and zero campaign structure could run government?

Talking about campaign structure, has media attempted to investigate how this ticket managed to gather the stipulated 2,000 valid signatures and ID copies of supporters, presumably registered voters, from at least 24 counties?

Considering that stringent IEBC requirements felled many of the more evidently organized candidates with better capacity, how did this duo that winged the TV interview pull it off?

Media is not asking these questions. Instead, news houses are preoccupied with other silliness. For example, mitumba and the colour of police uniforms.

 Odinga at the launch of his Azimio Manifesto on June 7 controversially said that his administration would “save” Kenyans from wearing mitumba (imported, used clothes), which he derisively called dead people’s clothes.

A furore erupted among netizens. Kenya Kwanza opponents gloated over the gaffe, fanning the flames by laughing their heads off at their rallies.

And now Odinga’s surrogates, from running mate Martha Karua to Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka to former UNCTAD boss Mukhisa Kituyi last weekend, hogged the airwaves to clean up Odinga’s gaffe.

Next, various media reported UDA’s deputy president nominee Rigathi Gachagua saying Saturday, June 11, at a church in Nyandarua county that their administration would discard President Uhuru Kenyatta’s much ridiculed blue police uniform. They would “donate” it to the PCEA Church; that it belongs to the PCEA Women’s Guild, the Sunday Nation reported June 12.

This promoted a sharp tweet by lawyer Miguna Miguna, which the Star immediately turned into a headline: “Focus on Kenyans agenda; if not, shut up – Miguna tells off Gachagua.”

And just like that, all media houses are talking about mitumba and blue police uniforms.

Buckle up. It’s a season of silliness.

Should media just ignore Wajackoyah, weed, snakes, mitumba and blue uniforms? Nah. But cover it in context. Consider a sidebar for silliness. Call it ‘Just for Laughs’. Or something.

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