Maad City

Nairobi County Council. Sounds like a bellicose brutish toad about to OD on a sackful of flies. If such a toad was to belch, and one was unfortunate enough to be passing by at that very instant, the resultant waft of smell and grossness that would collapse on the poor one like Kisumu’s Moi Stadium walls would begin to paint a picture of what Nairobi County Government is about. From where I am standing of course. Chances are a majority of you have different and even joyful experiences with The Toadies. Yes. That’s what I am calling them. Majority here, of course excludes the hapless street people, female hawkers and their babies. Come to think of it, why isn’t Nairobi referred to as The City of Nairobi? That would send the bellicose brutish toad image diving deep into sewage drains. But seriously, have we ever paused to think about this? It seems as off as New York County Government.

As a rule of thumb, I avoid the CBD as much as one would their mother-in-law, and various other in-laws, to the extent that I can count the number of times I have driven to the CBD this year on the fingers of one hand. As another rule of thumb, it is believed that lightning hardly strikes the same place twice. What am I going on about? Well, has anyone of you tried to retrieve bulky cargo sent from upcountry from Coast Bus’ downtown Accra Lane premises? First of all, it is a nightmare to find, as usual, and has 2 unmarked parking spaces which are ringed off by metal rods impaled on old car rims, joined together by a rusty metal chain and painted Coast Bus’ official unsettling green. This is where the trouble begins, trying to maneuver into their parking ‘lot’ from the main street, especially when they are both occupied and one has to drive round and round the narrow congested downtown thoroughfares without signage. So it was quite a relief to find one unoccupied slot on a Friday afternoon. The other problem is Coast Bus has either a deaf or daft or both, watchman, who despite our incessant hooting for him to let us park, was busy having an animated conversation with someone inside the cargo area. Because we were holding up traffic, I jumped out to alert Deaf and Daft to let us park. And then Nairobi County Council descended.

Ubiquitous and anonymous, circling overhead like vultures, ready to swoop down and descend upon unsuspecting hapless city residents, pecking at their tired flesh, ripping the meat off their bones, gorging themselves, sweat, blood and fat dripping off their pudgy hands, their breath reeking of carrion flesh, their belch bellicose and rancid. What me and Kamau, my poor cab driver, had imagined to be pedestrians waiting impatiently opposite the Coast Bus ‘parking’ to cross the road to retrieve their precious cargo were in fact the dreaded county toads. They quickly entered the car in a seemingly flawless and seamless fashion such that my exit and their entry could be captured in one frame of a millisecond, were it being recorded on video. Such is their efficiency in their well-rehearsed and executed maneuvers. Poor Kamau did not know what hit him. His car was now under the control of 3 county toadies, and my futile explanations and pleas fell on deaf ears. I could swear I caught a whiff of meat under their breath. The 2 slightly overweight slightly hysterical women were in the back, with the worst hairstyles on earth, one resembling a bird’s nest in a state of disrepair, bits of what shouldn’t be sticking out doing so, and an obvious half-hearted attempt to pat it down; the other looked like a whiplashed tragedy, stringy and without form, dazed and uncomprehending and it was difficult to determine whether the owner picked it up grudgingly from a store shelf or whether the whiplashed form descended upon the owner’s head and sublimely planted itself upon her head. The guy was in the front, a toothpick hanging loosely from his mouth, one of Nairobi’s flourishing tabloids clutched in his left hand, and wearing such a hurt and forlorn face for our transgression had so invaded his sense of civic propriety. “Drive!!!”, he barked at no one in particular. Poor Kamau obliged. Well, we retrieved poor Kamau from the jaws of the city pound and their tow-truck in the nick of time, otherwise his car would have spent the entire weekend there, robbing him of a livelihood for that period, not to mention the hefty 12,000 bob fine to pay on Monday to secure its release. Let’s just say that Kamau is not a happy Nairobi resident and does not ever want to contribute whatsoever to the county government’s kitty. Pretty understandable.

Anyway, about a week earlier to our fateful encounter, on a fine Saturday morning I found a parking slot in the Kenya Cinema Plaza parking lot, locked the car and engaged the parking boys’ services, all in the while hoping for Yellow Jacket NCC Parking Attendant to appear with the magic parking ticket. Of course they did not appear, and I could not wait forever, so dashed across the busy street to attend to my affairs. I mean I would cross back 30 minutes later and find it sticking on the windshield, right? Wrong. Came back to a clamped front wheel, notification for payment of 2,300 bob sticking on the windshield and Yellow Jacket smiling asininely at me, apologetically even. Don’t look at me, he said. I did not do it. Some other unit did, and I don’t have the keys. Apparently Nairobi County Government has a Padlock Unit. So, where is the Padlock Unit, I ask? City Hall, where else could they be? responds the Sage in Yellow. Good one, I say as I walk off to City Hall, where I queue to get a slip from a stenographer looking lady behind a dusty counter who operates an equally stenography looking machine which whirrs and purrs and conveniently hangs. All around her are old people clutching polythene bags and receipt books. Only that they are Yellow Jackets who having finished their shifts for the day, are bringing the loot home. Yes, you guessed it, the loot is in the black polythene bags, and they are manually reconciling the receipt books with the cash at hand, getting a slip with the amount printed on it from Stenographer and queueing to drop it off with the cashiers. I wonder why Yellow Jackets can’t just deal with the cashiers directly. So, one pays the 2,000 bob to the cashier, gets a slip and then walks across the banking hall, to the other side of the building where you meet a sea of yellow clamps, and Yellow Jackets milling menacingly about, up a flight of stairs where on a patio like landing, behind a massive desk, sits King Yellow, Master of Keys of Padlocks. I started to explain that there was no yellow jacket in sight and it is unfair what the county is doing, and they should install parking meters just like they do in civilized and modern societies and have they ever heard of smart technology? King looks up disinterestedly (at least he is reading a ‘respectable’ daily) and drawls, I don’t make the rules. Give me the slip. And 300 bob. What is the 300 bob for? I ask resignedly. The parking fee which you should have paid in the first place, King drawls back. I suppress a maniacal laugh. King opens one of his drawers and reveals keys to padlocks stuck on a long oval shaped wire. I can’t resist asking how he knows which key will open which padlock. He looks up and smiles the Master of Keys of Padlocks smile. A minion comes for the key and walks me back to my car, cheerily extolling the virtues and ingenuity of their padlock system. After he unclamps the wheel, he asks whether I could offer him a soda for his hard work? I officially hate this city, and feel like pulverizing my head into little bits for having allowed myself to be a resident of this awful place.

Governor Kidero, Jonathan Mueke, please reclaim the city from The Toadies. My name is Kendrick Lamar. Maad city.

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