By David Ogega-Kenya Diaspora Movement
As Kenya fast approaches the 2022 General elections this coming August 9, 2022, perhaps we should revisit the values they espouse. Many have been enveloped in the politics of the day and wittingly or unwittingly adopted labels that epitomize their values, not the least of which is Deputy President William Ruto’s “Hustler Nation” mantra. It seemed to have taken the nation’s imagination hostage since its inception at the height of his fever-pitched premature campaign to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta. Truth be told, Ruto’s “Hustler” label is a slur, and whereas it perfectly fits his character as a human being, it does not fit Kenya’s national character and must be discarded henceforth. It denotes the worst in society, and anyone who advances its adoption should forfeit his national leadership standing. The “Hustler” tag is not about greatness but about graft, dishonesty, fraud, and many other adjectives that denote chicanery. It impugns our national ethos and aspirations for excellence because it symbolizes corruption, especially coming from Deputy President William Ruto, a self-professed Hustler whose venality is self-evident.
Unfortunately, in this polarized and octane-charged political environment where partisanship has taken root, Kenyans are susceptible to picking up unsavory habits that will further harm the country’s already injured reputation if left undisturbed a corrupt nation. Already, Kenyans hold the dubious distinction of mindless political sloganeering and are notoriously beguiled by popular culture; Ruto’s “Hustler” tag being the most harmful thus far reinforces the negative stereotype about Kenya. It is no secret that Kenya is a hotbed of corruption and that Ruto himself leads the charts but normalizing the vice in the political mainstream is dangerous and outright wicked; that’s where Kenyans should draw the line.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “Hustler” as one who obtains money by fraud or deceit: scammer, swindler; one who lures less skillful players into competing at a gambling game: Dictionary.com defines “Hustler” as (slang) One who obtains money dishonestly. Or a person who makes money by doing something dishonest. These definitions perfectly fit the characteristics of Deputy President William Ruto. He has a long, well-documented dubious distinction as the face of public corruption, theft, forceful seizures, and conversions of other properties, land, and other vices he’s notorious for. Therefore, the self-arrogated tag “Hustler” tag is an unquestionable PERFECT fit just for him and his cohorts, not the entire nation. Attaching Ruto’s dubious character to the country’s reputation will be highly harmful to the country. It could mean lost opportunities in Billions and Trillions of investment shillings that will be diverted to other countries, and it simply cannot be left undisturbed.
Kenya’s Global Corruption & Perception Index – This is best illustrated in the video above, which perfectly captures the country’s standing in the eyes of would-be investors and benefactors. According to the credible rendition by an American philanthropist who, a few years ago, shipped several boreholes drilling Machinery and Equipment to Kenya to help provide drought relief by drilling and providing groundwater. At the Port of Mombasa, government agents attempted to extort him hundreds of thousands of dollars to release the equipment and “hustled” him so hard that he canceled his mission in Kenya and sent the equipment to another country instead. This experience left a sour taste in his mouth, and he never came back to Kenya but shared his experience with the rest of the world. The video clip speaks for itself. It obviously further stained Kenya’s reputation in the minds of would-be benefactors and investors. Ruto’s “Hustler” narrative amplifies Kenya’s corruption and must not let it take root but eradicate it instead.
Hustler – Nigger Parallel – Kenyans must also be conscious that a slur or slogan can and often takes a lasting course of its own if allowed to attach. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the derogatory and deeply offensive racial slur, “nigger”, that African Americans have had to contend with for generations. Nigger, a colloquial derivative of “Negro” or simply “black,” was once an acceptable fad that morphed into a profoundly offensive slur whose effects reverberate globally. The slur was imposed by black Americans somehow, embraced it, and stuck. In contrast, it is used in urban slang amongst African Americans both endearingly among friends and disparagingly to express disdain toward blacks, “nigger” is still an offensive slur in America. Whites especially do not use it, not openly anyway, and those who are discovered to have used it often face severe, often career-ending public, private and professional backlash. The point is slogans and slurs can and do often have lasting legacies. The only difference between the “Hustler” and “nigger” slurs is the choice of ownership; unlike the African Americans, Kenyans have a choice of the right of the “Hustler” label, and they should discard it urgently before it takes root.
The Colonial Captivity Illustration – “Nyangaresi” is a common male name in the greater Kisii region. What is not known to many is its origin or meaning that it is a slur of sorts. For starters, it is not even a Kisii name. In the colonial era, a popular white settler/government official in Kisii would frequently beckon to young Kisii teens as, “young and lazy”, “come here young and lazy lad”, do this, do that, “you young and lazy” boy, and so on. The Kisiis got accustomed to this reference by the white man (“Bwana” as they referred to him) and ignorantly believed it was an endearment reference toward their kids by the settler when it was an insult they embraced it. When the white man (Bwana) left, they named most of their newborn males “Nyangaresi” (Young and Lazy) in his honor. It stuck. Unbeknownst to the white man, he left an unintended and unflattering legacy. And that is how “Nyangaresi,” a pure pejorative, became part of the Kisii child naming lexicon. Ignorance did it. All said and done, Kenyans and Kenya as a nation are better off without the Hustler label. Don’t be beguiled by Ruto’s foolery to those Kenyans embracing the label, don’t fall for it. Let not “Hustler” become “Nyangaresi” in Kenya.