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Did someone plant story in papers about planting trees?

Monday, November 13, National Tree Planting Day came and went. The next morning, two stories that stunk to the high heavens cropped up in both the Daily Nation and The Standard.

The Standard: Cabinet travel budget hurts Kenya’s struggling economy.

Daily Nation: What austerity measures? Ruto ministers fly to different parts of the country to plant trees.

Both headlines were rabble-rousing. The Standard’s appeared to tell how Cabinet ministers were blowing up taxpayer’s money on global trotting. But no – the story, like The Daily Nation’s, was about how the ministers spent money mobilising Kenyans to plant trees.

It is curious the two national dailies ran with a story that read the same from all angles. But something did not read right.

Let us conduct an imaginary dry run on the two stories from a Wanjiku perspective.

Press: Hey, Wanjiku, Cabinet Secretaries travelled hundreds of kilometres to plant trees?

Wanjiku: So, what? It was National Tree Planting Day, CSs are national figures, did you expect them to plant trees in Nairobi?

Press: But Wanjiku, the Cabinet secretaries used biiiig vehicles….”

Wanjiku: So, what? Were they supposed to use oxcarts or bicycles?

Press: They used government vehicles.

Wanjiku: So, what? Were they expected to call Uber or Bolt?

Press: The government vehicles use a lot of fuel….

Wanjiku: So, what? Are they supposed to use paraffin or charcoal? They use these government vehicles all the time-what is wrong with using them now?

Press: Some Cabinet secretaries used helicopters to go plant trees….

Wanjiku: So, what? Given the bad weather, were the CSs expected to swim from one village to another?

Press: But imagine flying thousands of kilometres to plant trees?

Wanjiku: Mmmmh?! You have lost me, are you suggesting that planting trees is not important enough?

Verdict: It is our humble submission that the angle to the story about CCs spending millions to traverse the country during National Tree Planting Day was strained and fell flat on its fanny. It would have worked in other contexts, say CSs spending money on foreign travel, homecoming parties and so on, but no, not on this one.

If anyone wanted to push the angle of wastage, perhaps a more ingenuous take would have been questioning the whole idea of the off-the-cuff declaration of public holidays. If the online buzz and memes were anything to go by, the November 13 public holiday caught many by surprise.

Yes, the Interior Ministry can declare national holidays, but perhaps the media ought to have given some space to audiences that questioned the economic sense or non-sense, of our national holidays.

This angle would have given a voice to, say, Kenya’s industry players-how much did they lose to the abrupt declaration of a national holiday? Who was consulted before the holiday was declared?

This would have been a fair reply to Kenya’s private sector employers, not a forced angle on CSs spending millions to plant trees – a story that like it was planted.

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