There is a Kikuyu adage that says if an archer becomes old, he needs to add to his acumen. The saying is a challenge to old men to realise that they do get slower with age, and need to redouble their energies and efforts to be as efficient as they would have been at a younger age.
In the African homestead, the man of the house needs to always be in charge to maintain order and authority. He has to protect his farms, crops, harvests, beehives and livestock not only from outsiders but also from his own sons. As the man becomes older he has to turn increasingly vicious to maintain the same authority he had in his youth.
One of the instruments old men use to maintain this authority is a walking stick. Since the man becomes feeble with age, he uses the walking stick mainly as a weapon against the younger men.
Soon, however, he becomes too weak to strike and he will then use curses as a defence mechanism. His sons will comply with his demands to avert the possibility of him issuing a curse in anger. Some old men have been known to leave grievous curses on children who disobeyed them in their old age.
An old man who fails to become vicious with age soon finds himself overrun by his own children. If the youngsters knew he would not strike out physically at them, they would take and sell his property with impunity. If he does not eject them from the homestead, they will soon take over the home and ignore him all together.
In 1969, President Kenyatta found his political homestead in chaos. Tom Mboya had been assassinated and ethnic tensions threatened to cause civil war. All indications were that his government would collapse. The president appeared to give up and retreated more and more from public life. Joseph Kamaru, one of the pioneers of modern cultural music, sung that “the people are saying the cockerel is too old and it should be slaughtered for the people to eat.”
Kenyatta was angry. He sent the late Provincial Commissioner Mburu to go and get Kamaru and take him to Gatundu. He then ordered Kamaru to stand close to him and sing the song. All guitars were taken away lest they drown the lyrics and everyone was ordered to keep absolutely quiet. The President then listened word for word to Kamaru’s song.
It was after the challenge that Kenyatta woke up to the realization that he had to add his acumen. As an old man, people were taking him for granted. He had become to them a toothless dog, all bark and no bite.
President Moi experienced the same frustration in 1992. Slowly approaching 70, he was met with a challenge from the youthful multi-party advocates. He forgot that in his old age, he had to employ twice the effort to get the same results. Soon, even his closest supporters were deserting him and openly hurling insults at him. For a long time it looked like his fate was sealed, till he agreed to take up his walking stick and fight the youngsters.
President Kibaki is in the same predicament. People are beginning to believe that he is too old to wield the authority he did in his heyday. He has been preaching against corruption for one and a half years now but his voice is being drowned out by the sound of people munching the national cake. Cabinet ministers are beginning to think that corruption is a song President Kibaki likes to sing in the bathroom. The song has become the sweet sentimental music high society likes to listen to as they eat.
President Kibaki’s greatest danger is that he seems to believe that it is wrong to strike youngsters with walking sticks or to eject them from the homestead. He wants peace at home and he prefers to talk to people and cajole them from away from their bad ways. He does not want to punish people, he wants to reform them.
But as any preacher will tell you, the book of Revelations is only effective up to a point. The fear of fire and brimstone will get people attentive for a while but as days go by, it begins to sound like an empty threat. The pious church goer keeps waiting for God’s wrath against sinners but eventually finds themselves sleeping through the sermons.
Now there was this man known as Ananias who had a wife called Sapphira. They sold a piece of property and Anannias brought the proceeds to apostle Peter. He then lied about how much he had sold the property for.
The apostle rebuked him and said: “You have not lied to man but to God”. And God promptly took away his life and he fell down dead. His wife came by three hours later and told the same lie. The apostle told her, “How could you agree to test the spirit of the Lord?” And God similarly took her life and she dropped down dead.
Even Jesus Christ once lost his temper and became vicious. He had gone to Jerusalem and met people selling goods at the temple.
Jesus, who preached forgiveness, understanding and turning the other cheek, overturned the tables of money changers and the benches of the ones selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry out merchandise through the temple’s courts.