Dear Mr President,
It’s my humble duty to share in your disgust at the state of indiscipline on our roads. I agree with you that we are perhaps the ‘worst’ in the world, though; I am not sure what you’d say if you went (not as President) to Nigeria’s Lagos, Egypt’s Cairo or Pakistan’s Islamabad.
I am even surprised that you know about how careless our motorists can be, yet, whenever you want to use the road, any road, it is cleared hours before you step into your limousine. Nonetheless, I am glad that you know what we go through and that it makes you angry.
You sounded really peeved at the way drivers get “excited” for ‘doing’ the Nairobi-Nakuru (you called it ‘Nyaikuru’) stretch in less than an hour.
Seriously, a motorist who achieves such a feat experiences a super feeling. He tastes, for that hour, what you Mr President, enjoys everyday --the speed at which your motorcade moves.
There’s a day I met you at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. I don’t think you remember. You had just come back from some meeting abroad.
Though you may have been jetlagged, I think, you didn’t tell your driver to mind the reading on the speedometer. Sir, my colleagues and I squeezed our car at the tail-end of your motorcade --just after the white Land Rover Defender 110.
That day, from the airport to Nairobi’s City Centre, we took three minutes. One, two, three minutes. This was Mombasa Road and it was about one o’clock during the day.
Sir, I was excited, very excited. If you ask me why, I’d say that I had broken a record. Who wouldn’t be happy for breaking a record? Ask David Rudisha or Samuel Wanjiru.
Since that day, when the driver averaged 140kilometres per hour, I have never had a similar thrill on the roads. But to you, in a top of the range Mercedes, you didn’t feel a thing. I hear such vehicles are doubly comfortable.
So, when yesterday, you were irritated that people drive at super speeds and think they’ve achieved something big, I just kept quiet. I think Kenyans emulate the life that you live. I think they like the affluence and they desire clear roads. When they get one, they celebrate. That’s why they drive fast.
Now, tell me, why would you make smooth roads and expect Kenyans to drive at a snail’s pace? You just got rid of the potholes in nearly all the major highways. We can’t drive as if we are trying to dodge potholes. Can we?
Sir, a little bird told me that you drive at high speeds because of security reasons. Is it true? If it is true, do you know that we’d also love that fleeting sense of being secure?
But I got your point. Speed kills.
Sir, on another note, there’s the idea that your able lieutenant, John Michuki, introduced to curb this madness that has you so worked up.
You recently appointed Mr Amos Kimunya, your golfing buddy, to be in charge of the transport ministry and complete what Mr Michuki had began. And the first thing he said was that, he’ll enforce the road safety rules. You remember the idea about speed governors locked at 80kph, safety belts in all passenger service vehicles, and uniforms for matatu (public minivan crew), certificates of good conduct and all that?
He ordered the traffic police to do a crackdown.
But then, there was a disconnect: The minister in charge of all policemen, Prof George Saitoti (the internal security boss) did not follow up on it.
He left the police commissioner Mathew Iteere to yap about it, but nothing rigorous --at least going by the 2003 experience-- was done.
The policemen have been boxed in to collect between Sh50 and Sh100 from every matatu. It is ‘kawaida’. Occasionally, the police organize crackdowns (they call them operations), call the media, we shoot the footage, get bytes from the traffic commandant, an angry passenger whose journey has been cut short and life moves on.
Occasionally, a passenger complains loudly about the bribery, then the graft-busters from the Kenya AntiCorruption Commission go out and wrestle bribe-taking officers to the ground. Again as the media we’re there to take the footage.
Sir, now that I have this chance to write this letter, may I also remind you that you have repeatedly ordered swoops on unroadworthy vehicles, but all along someone has ignored you, by simply not implementing your decree.
Then there’s also another thing: your Cabinet approved a concise plan to rid the city of congestion. You are targeting matatus and personal motorists and want them outside the city. Your minister in charge of Nairobi’s development, Robinson Githae, says, we need a “dedicated bus lane” before that can happen. Do you agree?
We can’t wait to see what change January will bring. But before January, make us comfortable by implementing the laws. If Prof Saitoti doesn’t walk the talk, report him to the First Lady. She seems to know how to handle him.
One more thing sir, don’t stop building smooth roads just because I said they are an incentive for us to drive faster. I know, you don’t get moved easily, but at least you got the chance to indulge me.
As we celebrate the first ‘Mashujaa Day’, I hope you won’t forget to tell your driver to stick to the speed limits on the road to and from Nyayo Stadium.
Happy heroes day!
Your faithful citizen,