By Lekan Otufodunrin
I have travelled to Kenya more than seven times in the last 15 years. I was back in the country recently for a meeting and noted the following moments among others.
Very cold in Nairobi
I should have paid attention to the pre-travel weather advice that July is usually one of the coldest months in Kenya. It was so cold most of the days that I usually shiver while outside any enclosed space.
I couldn’t walk barefoot in the room and was grateful to the hotel for giving me a thick blanket without asking for one. Not only the visitors complained about the cold, Kenyans also did.
How is your new President?
Almost everyone I told I’m a Nigerian asked how our new President is doing. They obviously followed the last campaigns and general election from the questions they asked.
Hope he will be better than Buhari. How true are the accusations against him? Why didn’t “Peter the Rock” win with all we read about him online? I did my best to explain what I think of the election and the present situation.
I’m not sure why I was one of the passengers on the Kenyan Airways flight from Lagos asked to give feedback on the services by the airline, but I was glad to do so.
“Always a pleasure to fly KQ. It’s truly the Pride of Africa. They keep to their schedule and the inflight service is very good” I wrote. The airline is 46 years old.
No corruption-free zone
If there’s anywhere corruption of any kind is not tolerated in Kenya, the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is one of the places. The inscription at the entrance of the toll gate where every passenger has to disembark and walk through the screening machine says so.
However, on arrival, a policeman at the airport tried hard to get my colleague and I from Nigeria to give him any amount even when we told him we did not need his help for any entry requirements but we didn’t budge.
He trailed us from the Health checkpoint for Yellow Fever Vaccination Card, through the baggage collection point to the arrival gate.
No power outage
For the one week we stayed in Nairobi there was no second of power outage. There was no generator in sight anywhere in the hotel we stayed or in any building, we passed by. I didn’t see anyone with a power bank for telephones.
Does that mean they don’t experience blackouts I asked a staff of the hotel?
“We rarely do, but we have a backup just in case and there will be an ajdvance notice if there will be any,” he explained.
No wonder, a female journalist who would love to visit Nigeria says she can’t live for a long time in Nigeria. “How do I cope with the blackouts and noise of generators?”
Nigeria music flooding everywhere
A speaker at the meeting we attended spoke of how her son usually complains of how dull her organization’s social media engagement is. She said her son suggested among others the use of “one of those Nigerian popular music taking over the place, Baby calm down or something like that.”
Nigerians and other West Africans who attended the forum stood out with the clothes we wore. We were roundly commended by the Kenyans for the traditional wear that gave us a distinctly African identity.
“We Kenyans don’t have traditional wears like Nigerians and other West Africans. I envy you, people. We are stuck with wearing English wears all the time. I told the lady from Togo to bring me a bag full of clothes the next time she is coming to Kenya,” a Kenyan participant said.
Beware of Nigerians
Kenyans generally like Nigerians for what they call our “Can do” spirit. They say we are very enterprising and daring, but should be dealt with like someone intending to dine with the devil.
“They are many Nigerians here who do all kinds of businesses, but you must be careful about what you buy from them. Imagine Nigerians preaching in our local language Swahili,” a taxi driver said.
We are not all that Christian
A colleague making a call during a ride to the market was repeatedly told by the driver to wind up the glass beside him to avoid his phone being snatched.
“You have to be careful of the boys walking around. We are not all that Christian here.”
Back seat safety belt
I had to wear the seat belt in the back seat along with two others to avoid our vehicle being stopped by policemen who target foreigners and can come up with some funny charges according to our driver.
According to him, they know black foreigners when they see one, especially when dressed in a caftan with a cap to match as I did.
Commercial motorcyclists are as unruly as they can be anywhere as I witnessed in Nairobi. When our taxi driver saw one driving against the traffic on the way to the airport, he couldn’t help but lament how they break traffic rules at will.
“They drive anyhow. They are not trained.”
Osanjo, not Obasanjo
Finally, I met again with my journalist colleague from Kenya Tom Osanjo who I first met in the United Kingdom during a faith-based media conference in 1999. He has always had to explain to people who wonder why he bears almost the same name as former president Olusegun Obasanjo though they are not from the same country.
Photo: With some participants of the meeting I attended on Communication Rights and Digital Justice.