Boxer Conjestina Achieng Appeals to the better Angels of our Nature
A while ago, the former Safaricom CEO, Michael Joseph, caught quite some flak from a cross section of us for the statement “Kenyans have peculiar habits,” what he said however was that we have “peculiar calling habits.” The former version is more popular because as a loaded statement, it allowed for us to be furious at this mzungu for calling us names.
Back then, Michael Joseph was the newly minted Safaricom boss and his company was just scratching the surface of what would become one of the greatest telecommunications success stories anywhere.
Upon deep reflection, many a Kenyan was quick to concede that, part of what MJ said was true of our very nature. Comedians made the statement or misstatement (depending on whom you asked) part of their regular shtick and columnists spared no ink in highlighting in black and white, numerous anecdotes drawn from our daily lives that reinforced that ‘peculiar’ moniker.
Part of our ‘peculiarity’ and not just as Kenyans but also as members of the human society, is our collective ability to forget and to do so in such a hurry.
It is this ‘selective amnesia’ that has led us, the Kenyan society, to perfecting the habit of celebrating our heroes and heroines only at the height of their success and to quickly forget them when they fade from the limelight and especially if they do so in humiliating fashion, or if they end up in abject poverty.
Numerous examples of such forgotten idols abound: freedom fighters, athletes, entertainers, scholars, visionary leaders, civil servants, clergy, teachers, and so forth.
Suddenly, just like a bolt from the blue, the media, motivated by a sense of duty, (some call it ratings), come to our rescue and jolt us from our collective slumber and we leap into action!
Confronted by what rival media houses advertise as a major scoop, expose, special feature, and other colourful adjectives for a five or ten-minute clip on ‘waliovuma’ or ‘where are they now?’ our erstwhile idols stare at us directly in the eye, and appeal to the better angels of our nature pleading, “please help us."
As if on cue, we become haunted by their plight, their sorry states. They look sickly, impoverished beyond belief, lonely, and alone. And we Kenyans once more are forced to remember!
One such idol we remembered or were reminded by the media not to forget is Conjestina “Hands of Stone” Achieng. Conje as she is popularly known broke into international limelight when she won the WIBF middleweight belt after trying those hands of stone on a Ugandan, Fiona Tugume.
From there, everyone took notice and especially the corporate types who brooked no delay in tying the Conje image to their brands.
Perhaps borrowing from the ‘Greatest’ Muhammad Ali, Conje coined a phrase to would be challengers, “come early coz I’ll finish early.” Kenyans followed Conje’s bouts keenly, packing to capacity the local venues where and when she did battle, savoring her win as one of their own. Interestingly, the word Conje, entered Kenyan urban lingo and many a tough girl adopted the pet name.
As with every tide, Conjestina would have her highs and lows. Perhaps the lows came too soon for as sudden was her entry into the limelight, so was her exit. And as usual, Conje joined the league of the forgotten Kenyan idols.
Saved by the news media, Conjestina Achieng is champ again. Her health issues and living arrangements long open to the public, she has received an uncharacteristic attention (for remember we forget quickly)
The outpouring of support for the ailing former aficionado pugilist ,Conjestina Achieng, has morphed the mainstream and social media into a powerful engine that is sparing nothing in their quest in raising funds to bring back the “Hands of Stone.”And it’s working!
To everyone involved in this noble mission, bless you. From the first lady Ida Odinga, Ambassador Yvonne Khamati, the beautiful women of Kenyan media, Nonini, the Godfather of Genge, the organisers and crew of ‘Boxing to save Conjestina,’ you and you and me fellow Kenyans, who have chipped our time, resources, prayers, and goodwill messages, well done!
In Conje’s own words, “let’s come to our collective selves early, coz we’ll finish early.” And in time to remember all those champions of our republic who not only remind us of our limitless potential but inspire us to be ‘peculiarly’ Kenyan in our ability to rise to the occasion when it matters, and that is……all the time!
By Joji Muwangi
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