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What Raila Odinga Needs To Know about Dennis Itumbi

OLEITUMBI-

DENNIS ITUMBI

In a needless affront upon the youth, ex-Prime Minister Raila Odinga launched a recidivist attack on the recent appointment of Dennis Itumbi as the Director Digital, New Media and Diaspora, saying it is “a clear indication that the government was not treating the diaspora with the seriousness it deserved.”

For man old enough to be Itumbi’s father, the attack displayed his retrogressive loathing for Celerac-baby Itumbi, a journalist and blogger who cut his teeth fighting for the rights of the ordinary person, who has barely settled in his new office.

I have known Itumbi for some times now. A few years ago, while in communication school, he single-handedly fought for students’ right access their hostels that had been occupied by relatives of a former high court judge. His tenacity and fidelity to the right course left him languishing a few nights in Industrial Area Police station where he was mistreated. Because of Itumbi and other lions, the family was evicted and KIMC students got a chance to sleep in peace, and dream. I was one of dreamers who’s still dreaming.

Then, a few years ago, I stared at the crowded streets as Itumbi joined dozens of journalists demonstrating against a government bid to regulate the media by sneaking in Gestapo-style rules. Yes indeed, Itumbi alongside activists like Boniface Mwangi were clobbered and others hauled to police cells for “re-education.”. Yet again, the government relented and the blogger’s nerves steeled. It was a necessary shot in the arm for the former Baraka FM journalist, who had craned his neck and saw the Garden of Eden, then started to walk there.

These are just a few examples. When Itumbi was arrested last year for allegedly hacking the ICC system — a comical allegation in itself, I met Itumbi’s mother, who like my great mother, she is a school teacher. She told me ruefully, from the bottom of her heart, that her son, Dennis Njue Itumbi, has always been generous in his warmth, optimism, commitment and humanity. And when such a statement comes from a mother, who are you to cast a doubt.

Although Itumbi has bad habits; like drinking tanks of Red Bull and Sprit, he can be judged only, like me and you, after he has been given a chance if to show his mettle.

By scolding Itumbi, barely a month in office, Odinga has shown his impatience and lack of trust on the youth, many of who overwhelmingly responded to his December 2007 “war cry” summoning them to ‘peacefully’ demonstrate against the re-election of President Mwai Kibaki. Sadly, many youth were killed; injured; maimed and God forbid.

Instead, I expected Odinga — the doyenne of opposition politics — to invite Itumbi for the just-ended US trip to meet the diaspora. So why does he incite the diaspora against Itumbi — apparently younger than Fidel Odinga — instead of assisting the young man to cultivate a working relationship beneficial for people who call Kenya home.

This is not the first time the ex-prime minister spews negative rhetoric and other pent-up things as a result of his loss top President Kenyatta in the March 4 general elections. A few days ago, he gave a frightening and memorable interview to Citizen TV’s Julie Gichuru and alleged that the Jackal News is owned by the CID, the investigations wing of the Kenyan police.

Like a man with a knife in the bathtub, Odinga made the ridiculous allegations on national TV without asking his hopeless parrots like Phil Etale and Eliud Owalo to call the Jackal News overlords and seek its ownership structure. Alternatively, he would have walked to the office of the Registerer of Companies and ask for files. He did not.

I have tremendous respect for Odinga and a few — if any — of his advisors, but making such a petty mistake highlights the casualness at which he takes things for granted while making decisions of national significance.

As many journalism scholars will tell you, Odinga suffers from a similar ailment that consumed Hunter S. Thompson, the founder of Gonzo journalism, who was consumed by his ego.

As Bill Reynold, the respected communicator at Ryerson University, noted in his seminal work; On the Road to Gonzo: Hunter S. Thompson’s Early Literary Journalism (1961 – 1970);

“This is “Gonzo persona, which served him spectacularly well in the early 1970s, eventually overwhelmed his content and exiled him from the journalistic main stage to kind of sideshow of recidivist buffoonery.”

At this point, I fear Odinga might be facing the “Gonzo persona.”

As many already know, courtesy of the growing school of haters who reckon I was conceived in Papua New Guinea, I have had one hell of an fascinating career, punctuated by blood, tears and a copious supply of booze; first at The People, where I picked my first nemesis, Caroline Mukoto, to Agence France Presse (AFP), where I interviewed Hollywood temptress Angelina Jolie, to East African Magazines, where I tried and failed to date Wayua Muli, to Jackal News where I found my soul — and perhaps my Stella quality of being myself.

In between, I have pumped into decent men and women, many whom we have agreed to disagree on many issues, including what one should do to women who’ve rejected his sexual overtures; leaving him stranded in Boulevard Hotel — remember the Boulevard of Broken Hearts; told him that he was raised badly, dismissed him that he is not their type, accused him of rocking their boat — only to end up with some dubious character and finally wished him death in a mid-night call. One of the many such fine men is Dennis Itumbi, a man many will love to hate. But for people like KTN’s Dennis Onsarigo, Telcom’s Martin Gitau, PSCU’s Carol Gakii, ex-KTN’s Mwendwa Kiogora and myself, a set that has led a disjointed and somewhat incoherent life, I am damn sure they know the president was spot-on by deploying Itumbi to head the diaspora desk.

With the faith of a Christian and honor of a gentleman, I can say that I have  watched Itumbi’s life as an adult, unspool, purposefully to serve the people of Kenya, a nation strained by petty jealousies and frightening conspiracies. Over time, he has amassed an impressive tribe of admirers and because of the chilling hatred he has met, he has learnt to ability to match people and to plant and fertilize friendships. The magnetic pull of his rebellious persona, sadly to say, confounded Odinga, like it does his parrot, Phil Etale.

After Odinga’s needless affront on a young Kenyan, unmarried or perhaps unmarriagable, Itumbi trained his scorching gaze at the ex-prime minister, fashioning his response emotionlessly, while craning his neck at the end-game.

“The kind of character who has been appointed by the Government, I don’t think has the kind of connection and capacity to bring in the Diaspora together…. Well I will record a response, but the Former PM should be aware of two key issues, he had an office in his PM’s office, where he took a Diaspora person to take charge am not sure about its effect, two my office falls under Manoah Esipisu who has been appointed and brought back from the diaspora, so if the issue is living in the diaspora then that matter is sorted, the rest is strategy and bwana former PM, ‘this character’ and his team will show you what can be done to transform relations, involve Kenyans living abroad in Gvt. Policy, champion for employment of Kenyans abroad as we create jobs for those in Kenya and ease the processes for investment and renewing of documents by creating a working One stop shop and many other interventions.”

Of course this is not Itumbi at his best. Of course, not everybody will be happy with this response, knowing the kind of fanatical following Odinga has, I advice Itumbi to try harder, dig deeper, jump higher  because the haters are boiling with sperm-spiting rage. Like the main door of State House, where Itumbi’s office is located,  proudly displaying two war cannons, laying bare the inner reality of the building, my friend Itumbi, battle lines have clearly been drawn and I have gleefully taken a ringside sit to cheer you up. Chief, it time to impress.

 

-by BOGONKO BOSIRE VIA The Jackal News

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