WANJURAH: Why Uhuru’s appointment of high school bully has stirred anger in me

WANJURAH: Why Uhuru’s appointment of high school bully has stirred anger in me

I may not have heard about him for over two decades but seeing his name on the list rattled my heart.

My reaction was a mixture of surprise and anger. Surprise that he had somehow turned into someone worth of a Presidential appointment. Angry because my heart still festers at the painful memories of his unparalleled brutality in our Burieruri High school days in Meru County.

The State House statement said he was now a member of the Miraa taskforce. In fact, he is apparently good enough for some leadership role even within the taskforce judging by the appointment.

It had to be him because there was something about his full name that stood out. Then, and now, it sounded funky yet scary like a beautiful but dangerous criminal. I guess this was accentuated by the nastiness of its bearer.

When the rest of us were shortening our “boring” names into something sexier, he was cool with his. He used to insist on being addressed in full.

Any “Mono” who failed to mention his three names and end with “esquire” would be inviting big trouble. And I mean “big” literally because the default setting of any encounter with him was trouble.

Like Musau Ndunda- he of the Kenya National Parents Association- he seemed to be always angry about something. He had a similarly shrill voice that he must have been sensitive to because he was always shouting even when addressing someone next to him.

To date, I have never known whether the anger was his true character or an acquired trait meant to make him more feared.

I often reflect on his character especially for its diabolicalness.  That he was a consummate sadist is beyond doubt.  In fact, I am convinced that his was a psychiatric case that was excused for normal high school bullying. I have enough personal and collective reasons to loathe him for life.

But it is also undeniable that he was a gifted mind with an uncanny ability for original and creative punishments.

My ordeal began when, as a new student, I was assigned the same dormitory with him. When the night fell, I duly retired to bed. The dormitory arrangement was hierarchical in a way that saw Form One students beds being the nearest to the door. The farthest end belonged to Form Fours, the “egwugwus”, or the masked elders as borrowed from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

Being the last in on that day, my bed was understandably the first. As I went to sleep, I noticed other Form Ones were standing on the aisle next to their beds as if in a parade. I was too tired and sleepy to give it a thought. I would live to regret my failure to inquire on the apparent ritual.

I had barely slept when a stinging slap woke me up. With my mind still foggy, I opened my eyes to see a pitch dark, wiry boy with Afro hair screaming at me.  He was speaking in Meru and since I didn’t understand the language then, I had no idea what he was saying or why he was angry.

Learning that I was not Meru intensified his rage. Had I paid the “foreigners” tax to him? Was I not informed that no Form One could go to sleep before he inspected a guard of honour? Did I know that every new student must sing him a lullaby on the first night and sign up to his masseurs club? Had I been advised on how to address him properly?

The whole thing sounded like a bad joke.

Although I had fortified myself to expect some bullying, this was turning out worse than anticipated. To underscore that he meant business, he slapped me again. He then removed his belt, tied it around my neck and pulled me to his bed like a farmer would do to a reluctant cow.

That night, I had to secure my freedom from his “arrest” with my entire pocket money.

The following day, I reported my ordeal to the teacher on duty. But he denied everything and brought witnesses including the dorm captain to corroborate his version of the story. None of fellow Form Ones dared to stand witness to my claims. I went back to the dormitory to find my bedding stolen and my mattress soaked in water!

Coming unscathed from my accusations emboldened him. He seemed to relish bullying me although I wasn’t his only victim. True to his word, all “monos” had to take turns, two at a time, every night to lull him to sleep with songs and a massage.

On Saturdays, and depending on his moods, he would invite “monos” to a dating competition. We were to assume he was a hot girl in the neighbouring school with each of us given five minutes to try our luck. He would ebb and flow with excitement and boredom depending on his impression of your lines. If he liked your effort, you would be freed from his lullaby duty roster!

At other times, he would instruct us to imagine that he was a potential brother-in-law wooing our sisters. We would be required to write love letters to our sisters on his behalf saying all the right things. He would then summon us, read the letters loudly, laughing or screaming depending on his impression. The best letter would be rewarded with “leave” from the “Monos” parade for a week!

He had other eccentricities too.  He would force us to assume he held the keys to heaven with each one of us required to propose schoolmates for admission and rejection and the reasons thereto. He would then use the information to blackmail us by threatening to reveal whom we had recommended for hell unless we bought his silence with cigarettes.

Graduating to Form Two freed me from his agony. But for the next two years until his exit, I witnessed him subject subsequent Form One students to even more sadistic ordeals.

He was a small-bodied boy who would have been a sitting duck in a one-on-one contest. But by surrounding himself with the biggest and the meanest gang in the school, he remained untouchable, unrestrained.

A fairly serious scholar, he loved carrying along the “Abott”, the big Physics book. I however don’t know what he scored in his final exam. I was too happy to see his back to care. I doubt his grade was good enough for university.

What I gather is that he went on to become a big name in the miraa trade. I’m still so angry with him that I’m tempted to petition the President to revoke his appointment on account of his human rights abuses on so many of us in high school.

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Story By Jeeh Wanjura
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