Dear Diary

Life on the silver screen is appealing

I was in Lagos State, Nigeria for the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards (AMCVAS) when news of Uhuru Kenyatta’s elevation to the Kenyan Presidency was unofficially announced and celebrated by his supporters on social media.

The celebratory mood that hovered over the online community like a heavy pink cloud, anticipated a positive announcement from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, and seemed to indicate that even before votes were cast, the outcome was a forgone conclusion.

The voices that were lifted in jubilation were conspicuous in their tribal identities. On the losing side, the silence was pronounced. The country had been split into two opposing blocks. But given what happened in 2007/08, grievances were either being bottled up or expressed in the third party, as if those aggrieved wanted to distance themselves from the very mention of disgruntlement. Everyone felt duty bound to protect the peace.

A few hours into it however, the gloves were off as supporters from both sides of the political divide traded barbs and insults, one side hurling accusations and the other side defending what in my view, is an untenable position. This verbal violence is still running rampant on the social media, largely unchecked by the State agency charged with regulating hate speech.

In keeping with the promises of a digital future that were bandied about in campaign season, the violence has gone viral. While all this was happening, I ran into a happy coincidence when I found myself in the company of two Nigerian legislators who represented Abuja State. They were in Lagos for a conference. Naturally, the question of the Kenyan election came up. I explained to them that with this election, Kenya will now move into governance by county, which is very similar to the Nigerian federation of States.

They welcomed the transition, saying that the devolved system of government had worked very well for them. “Like me,” one of the gentlemen said, “I represent Abuja State.” “I get money from the federal government to spend on myself. I can also spend it on my constituents if I want.” If by any chance I had forgotten where I was, that right there was a reminder.

I wondered how often he wanted to spend money on his constituents but decided to keep those musings to myself. He continued: “The president can make suggestions when it comes to the running of Abuja State but we don’t have to do what he says. We manage our own affairs.” Whether that kind of autonomy will be allowed to take root and flourish in Kenya, only time will tell. One can only hope.

Meanwhile, the organisers put on a spectacular show at the AMVCAS, in so doing projecting the kind of continent we should be proud to live in. And proving that despite the political rot, all is not lost.