Fare Thee Well, Mr. President!
A portrait poster hang on a discolored door. An old baldheaded man with a slight smile and a distant look in his eyes stared from the poster. I went closer. With his right eye the man looked into mine but with the left, he seemed to look over my shoulder. My eyes lingered a moment on his pair and then followed the left eye’s gaze. An empty relatively quiet compound met my eyes reminding me that my companion was actually only a picture, not the real person.
I looked back at the poster. The background was yellow. At the top center the acronym NARC screamed in large black capital letters. Underneath it, the words “NATIONAL RAINBOW COALITION, NARC – MWENGE – RAINBOW,” also in black and all caps but smaller in font size underlined the acronym. Encircling the acronym and with the words as the base, a flaming torch in a person’s hand formed an arc. I felt an electric wave travel down my spine as I took in the poster for the umpteenth time. The poster and all it represented inspired hope in many Kenyans. In me, a boy just stepping into teenage, I guess the poster and its representations instilled an inexplicable euphoria. I wanted NARC to win. I couldn’t vote though. But my inability to vote was a minor problem in comparison to what had happened to my pictorial companion.
Miles away, the old man in the portrait was nursing major injuries sustained in a terrible road accident. I did the only thing I could. Call it innocence or whatever you may… but I prayed. And I wished.
Later, the man left hospital in a wheelchair. The injuries and the subsequent health issues notwithstanding, he would be sworn in as the third president of the republic of Kenya barely months after the accident. His presidency would usher a new era in the land. Kenyans had not hoped in vain. For once, their optimism had not been a pie in the sky.
Free primary education, Constituency Development Funds, freedom of expression like never before, a booming economy, a new constitution providing for checks and balance in governance, recognition and representation of marginalized groups like women and the disabled. These and many other developments that could not even be dreamed of formerly became a norm in Kenya under President Mwai Kibaki’s leadership.
The man whose picture simultaneously stared into my eyes and into the distance past me has now rested. The hero pilot who steered the plane that was definitely headed for a devastating crush back to safety and laid a basis for safer flights has bid us goodbye. It is imperative that we celebrate his life even as we mourn his demise. For in celebrating such a life, we learn, we mirror our own, we evaluate our choices, and we steer our ship towards a worthier destination and on a worthier route. Heartbroken though we be, it would be remiss of us to waste such a chance for self-examination.
For restoring hope to the hopeless, for rekindling a Kenya where dreams and aspirations are possible and realizable, for a life of service well lived in service, for setting an example and being a yardstick in an impossible environment, for doing more and talking less, may Emilio Stanley Mwai Kibaki find a special place with the saints and the angels. May his soul rest in eternal peace. May we emulate him, learn from his successes, and guard ourselves from repeating his mistakes.