It is un-Constitutional to put the Picture of Jomo Kenyatta on the new Kenya Currency

(And why the Central Bank Governor, Patrick Njoroge has to read Ovid’s Metamorphosis)
By Alexander Opicho

The Kenya constitution (2010) does not allow the use of photograph of any human person on Kenya currency. The constitution clearly mentions the type of features and symbols to be used on the currency. The constitution does not suggest that the picture of Jomo Kenyatta has to be put on the currency. This constitutional decision was arrived at through a referendum. The logic in not using the picture of an individual on the currency is to uphold Kenya’s nationalism and statehood. But recently, Patrick Njoroge, the Central Bank Governor in Kenya, made the most chauvinistic move to commit un-constitutional act of using the photo of Jomo Kenyatta on the new Kenya currency. When the Governor was taken to court by Okiya Omtatah, he defended his act by arguing that he had consulted the public, when the facts are that no Kenyan man or woman is currently aware of the consultation and a mini-referendum in 2019 that has been conducted by Patrick Njoroge to nominate the pictures of national heroes to be used as symbols on the currency.

The reasons that made Governor Njoroge to print the un-constitutional currency may be ranging from political pressure, sycophancy, ethnic chauvinism, tribal narcissism, inter-tribal disrespect, political insensitivity, poverty of ideology and small space for objectivity and intellectual freedom hence shrinking of the free thinking culture to serve the master with dignity of being mauverick in thought and choices.

If freedom fighting is the criteria that Governor Njoroge used to select the picture of Jomo Kenyatta as symbol to be used on the new Kenya currency, then the governor is to be reminded that Jomo Kenyatta did not fight for freedom individually. There were very many other unflagging freedom fighters that deserve a mention above Jomo Kenyatta; Markhan Singh, Arap Manyei, Koitalel Arap Samoiea, Elijah Masinde of Dini ya Musambwa, Oginga Odinga, Paul Ngei, Ramogi Achieng Anego, Macharia Kabachia, Masinde Muliro, Ngugu Karumba Tom Mboya, Mekatilili Wa Menza, Joash Walumoli,Dedan Kimathi wa Miciuri and very many other men and women that chose the path of self-immolation as the price to pay for Kenya’s freedom from British colonialism. Thus, Njoroge is supposed to put the photos of all these freedom fighters on the new Kenya currency but not only photo of Jomo Kenyatta. This could have been the best direction for Governor Njoroge if at all he was serious and committed to the virtue of recognizing freedom fighters.

If Governor Njoroge is recognizing Jomo Kenyatta as the first President of Kenya, then he is mistaken. It was a consensus among the sober, elderly, and state conscious minds of that time that arrived at a merit to let Jomo Kenyatta to be the first President of Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta did not become the President because he was the most qualified in terms of suffering in freedom struggle or anything. Other people were equally qualified, but respect and merit directed the then Kenyan society to give a chance to Jomo Kenyatta to lead the first post-colonial government in Kenya.

Even Governor Njoroge was to go by simple common sense and realize that Jomo Kenyatta’s picture, statues and name has been over-used and exhausted in public use. For example, there is statue of Jomo Kenyatta outside the parliament in Nairobi, Kenyatta international conference center, Kenyatta University, Jomo Kenyatta University, Jomo Kenyatta international airport, Kenyatta national hospital, Kenyatta streets in all Kenyan towns, Jomo Kenyatta grounds in Kisumu, Jomo Kenyatta beach in Mombasa, several Jomo Kenyatta schools and an old dumble-down toilet in Kaloleni estate in Nairobi on which a street-urchin had written on its brick-wall that, ‘this is Jomo Kenyatta international Toilet!’

They were not ethos of democracy that made Kenyans to put the name of Jomo Kenyatta on every street and every institution. these were the acts of fear on the hand of the ruled Kenyans and acts of ethnic narcissism on the hands of those that were ruling Kenya. Political psychology identifies political narcissism as a vice. It is the virgin grounds for germination and thrive of the political systems that shamelessly perpetrate social and political exclusion. Narcissus an extremely self-conceited beautiful character in Ovid’s philosophical poetry was in love with himself beyond realizing that his fellow citizens of Rome qualify to be human beings. This is why I suggest that Governor Patrick Njoroge has to read the Metamorphosis a collection of poems by Paublius Ovid in which Narcissus was a character and a poem.

Personally I feel an excluded Kenyan whenever I see the picture and the name of Jomo Kenyatta on every street, every school, every college, every coin, every bank note, every national holiday, every hospital and on every public structure. I find it a trial on my sense of nationalism and a stretch on my psychology of inter-ethnic relations. All these hurt feelings emanate from my historical experience that my father and my grandfather paid severely by deaths and other ineffable losses for being involved in the anti-colonial struggle against the British in western Kenya. But their names are now, they are in abysmal oblivion for their mistake of being politically in-correct during Kenya’s post-colonial times. And this is the same situation of social quagmire in which are wallowing the sons and daughters form the families in Kenya with Mau Mau and Dini ya Musmbwa ancestry.

National heroism is not a reserve for political opportunism. A name from another distinguished public servant can be used as a national symbol. Currently Kenya enjoys potpourri of genuinely famous names, ranging from Lupita Nyongo, Victor Wanyama and so many others. Their names are also symbols of national dignity and political freedom. Recently, Vladimir Putin was renaming public insitutions, he asked the people to nominate the names with a condition that the person to be nominated was not supposed to be a politician. The Russian writers like Anton Chekov, Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, Nikolai Gogol and very many other eminent Russian scientists were nominated. Thus Moscow of today has its streets, airports, and other public institutions bearing the names of Russia’s literary and scientific ancestors, this is a benchmark enough ffrom which kenya can borrow a leaf when it comes to social practice of heroes and hero-worship.

Alexander Opicho writes from, Lodwar, Kenya [email protected]