Angry Nyong’o can’t stop being a study in contrasts

If there is one person who should appreciate the importance of a nurse and a good healthcare system, it is Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, the minister for Medical Services
Only last year, the good professor of political science survived a life-threatening cancer, thanks to specialised medical attention in the US.
Prof Nyong’o would announce he was recovering from prostate cancer as the country mourned Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai who died of ovarian cancer and novelist-doctor Margaret Ogolla, who succumbed to breast cancer — with doctors warning the disease was becoming endemic.
An accomplished poet and intellectual with enviable reform credentials rooted in the 1980s’ fight against the Kanu tyranny, Prof Nyong’o is a study in contrasts. 

As a reformist, he was one of the so-called ‘Young Turks’ comprising James Orengo, Gitobu Imanyara, Kiraitu Muringi, Paul Muite, Raila Odinga and Mukhisa Kituyi, among others, who advocated political pluralism and good governance.
Because of his commitment to what he loosely referred to as ‘ideals of social democracy’, he lost his Kisumu Rural seat in the 1997 elections for not kowtowing to Mr Odinga’s National Development Party that swept the board clean in Luo Nyanza.
No apologies, no regrets
Mrs Charity Ngilu, then the presidential candidate for the Social Democratic Party and whom the professor supported, nominated him to Parliament where he continued his firebrand crusade against the Moi regime and personality politics.
He has been a lover of books and a radical since childhood. This is best captured by a poem he composed as a student at Makerere University titled, Daughter of the Lowland:
I cannot let my testicle be crushed/ when I am wide awake/ By the ghosts of an alien clan/ In the half-lighted boom cave / No!/ When I unsheathe the family spear/ And unfeather the poison-horned arrow;/ When I expose the daughter of the low land/ To village gossip and contempt/ Then the books that I have read smash my testicles in my sleep/ my testicles have not been smashed by heavy books.
Students of literature have at one time or another interacted with this poem whose powerful use of phallic imagery tests the bounds of poetic licence.

Prof Nyong’o is an ODM ideologue and a consummate theoretician who never stops reminding Kenyans that he stands for all that embodies the national good. But his tenure at Afya House and stewardship of ODM as the spokesperson paint a different picture.
To many Kenyans, he has failed where even Moi’s semi-literate ministers excelled. Since the turn of the year, his ministry has been stumbling from one scandal into another, and the more Prof Nyong’o defends himself, the more he comes across as a gun full of smoke but no power.
Mention of the ministry arouses images of unrest, disillusionment, neglect and incompetence. So shambolic was the ministry’s reaction to the doctors’ and nurses’ strikes that some concluded the minister could have reserved his best for the supremacy battles with his Public Health rival Beth Mugo at the expense of his core mandate — but that’s another story altogether.
For many years, his professorial mien unnerved opponents, made journalists cower before the camera and earned him awe and respect.
His contempt for personality politics hoisted him above the chattering class. But now this peace has been disturbed, the ego pricked, and the discourse is no longer flattering.
Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale has threatened to bring a censure motion against Prof Nyong’o, accusing him of presiding over the loss of taxpayers’ money in a scheme to fund “phantom” hospitals by the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF).
Dr Khalwale, the chairman of the parliamentary public accounts committee, has asked Prof Nyong’o to resign over the scam.

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