“The drums beat and the flutes sang and the spectators held their breath. Amalinze was a wily craftsman, but Okonkwo was as slippery as a fish in water. Every nerve and every muscle stood out on their arms, on their backs and their thighs, and one almost heard them stretching to the breaking point. In the end….”
Well, the jazz and buzz that has characterised the campaigns come to a close today and on Tuesday we will know whose back – between Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance’s presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s and Kenya Kwanza’s William Ruto’s – will touch the ground at the village ballot square near you.
It was Chinua Achebe who gave us the spectacular description of the wrestling contest quoted above in his book Things Fall Apart between Amalinze the cat and Okonkwo.
Though not engaged in a physical combat or wrestling match, the political slugfest between the presidential candidates has conjured up in us the breathtaking moment of the Amalinze-Okonkwo duel.
According to Achebe, Amalinze was a great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino.
He was called the Cat because his back would never touch the earth.
It was this man that Okonkwo threw in a fight which the old men agreed was one of the fiercest since the founder of their town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights.
Like Okonkwo and Amalinze, Raila and Ruto are titled men in Kenya’s political arena.
Whether on the same side or both sides of the political divide, both men have in the last two decades waged, fought and won or lost myriad political wars.
But none so protracted, divisive and derisive of each other as the current scramble for the top seat.
The two leaders have in recent months held the country in tender hooks as they battle for the ballot in the oncoming elections.
Different opinion polls have given us equally different ratings of the Presidential elections.
Though there are four candidates, the State House race has consistently painted the picture of a tight fight between the former Prime minister and the Deputy President, heightening suspense and tension in the auditorium.
No doubt this election has been touted as the hottest contested courtesy of the dramatic twists and turns of the last four years.
The epic duel is even more interesting and intriguing for the characters involved and the roles they play.
One is a deputy President pitted against an opposition candidate who is supported by the former’s boss and outgoing President.
Obviously, for President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto, their days have changed colour, as Francis Imbuga would say in his play, The Successor.
From the public display of harmony and perfect friendship during their first term in office to the public display of vicious enmity and animosity in their final term.
We may never know what put the famed dynamic duo with similar suits, shirts and ties asunder in their final term.
But the curious mix of a sitting President and Opposition leader teaming up against his deputy in a bruising battle would make for great drama series for the creative minds now and in the future.
However, ours is a country of such roller-coaster political dynamics that are difficult to keep pace with.
One that President Daniel arap Moi must have had in mind when he once described Kenya as being on the run.
“Kenya iko mbioni,” he would always say of our rapid political developments and terrain.
It can be too fast even for creative writers’ comfort and muse.
No sooner would a writer or playwright sit down to capture a riveting scene on paper than another more dramatic and frenetic one unfolds rendering the former stale.
Russian author, Grigory Chkhatishvili, who writes historical detective novels under the pen name Boris Akunin, learnt this in December 2011.
He had gone to France to write a book when dramatic things happened back home.
Citizens and activists had mobilized to stage a massive protest rally in Moscow against electoral rigging in parliamentary polls by Vladimir Putin’s party.
According to journalist Masha Gessen, Grigory “could not sit still” hundreds of kilometres away and had to cut short his writing holiday with a frustrated post titled on his blog: “Why does everything in this country have to be like this? Even civil society has to wake up when it is most inconvenient for the writer. I went away to the French countryside for some time in peace, to write my next novel. But now I can’t concentrate,” he lamented vowing to get back home “to see the historic occasion with my own eyes and not via YouTube.”
And talking of YouTube, it must have been one of the busiest channels this year as Kenyans followed the bristling and bruising campaigns mounted by the two front runners in the presidential elections as they scoured the country’s land and airspace for votes.
Curiously thousands of others flock to the mammoth rallies and watch the spectacles with their own eyes from treetops and rooftops while taking pictures with their phone cameras for subsequent use and misuse on their social media platforms.
But for all its caprice, one would still crave a book that captures with subtlety the intrigues and intricacies of the Kenyan political landscape.
One that brings to life the political character, the psyche and motivations behind the frequent change of tack, tune and stance of the country’s political prime movers on the treacherous road to the next general elections.
It is not enough to say greed, and it is not enough to say our politicians are corrupt as the pundits on TV have always told us.
I guess there is more than only a discerning and unassuming creative writer can show us about our character that enables us to switch seamlessly from being friends today and enemies tomorrow and vice versa.
And so, after casting the vote on Tuesday, just retire to watch the drama play out on the big screen at Bomas of Kenya as exactly what it is – drama with acts, scenes and casts.
Nothing personal. Nothing real to cause you to cast a stone.