The Nairobi Expressway opens to the public today. While other dreams are free, those who’ve been dreaming of riding on the expressway will first have to validate their dreams at their nearest electronic toll centre at Sh350, an amount that might go higher, depending on how the shilling behaves itself in front of the dollar. It isn’t the best news for Kenyans who own coughing jalopies.
The Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) has told them to decide if they want to use the Sh350 to buy cough syrup for their cars, or record a Tiktok video on top of the expressway; to help Nema track down those who’ve been evading air pollution enforcement officers.
Early this week, MPs had summoned Kenha bureaucrats to explain why they shouldn’t be tied under the expressway to enjoy the free muddy bath from above like other road users.
The public had hoped they would take the summons seriously and use pie-charts to say sorry to affected motorists, but all they did was to report that the contractor had committed to restoring the condition of the road downstairs free of charge. Someone was about to let out a wicked laugh inside the interrogation room, had the Kenha chaps not added that it wasn’t a joke.
We will call him John Thomas Doe, because he embodies the collective public mistrust Kenyans have on their government. Until we see the nails the contractor shall be using, we shall not believe any word they tell us regarding the suffering the expressway has brought to users of our old road downstairs.
We’re skeptical about this promise after living in this country long enough to read the lips of policymakers. They’ve carried us children for the most part every election year after we gave them the impression that we were born yesterday.
If there’s anything we’ve learnt from public service announcements, it is that there’s nothing free in this country. Even the Free Primary Education (FPE) programme is being underwritten by the same Kenyans buying school uniforms at the price of uranium juice.
We might not have gone to tendering school, but there’s a reason the procurement degree programme isn’t domiciled in the Faculty of Rocket Science. A government that wants to build a road in the air must have in its team someone who knows the price of oxygen. When bidders return tender documents quoting the price of three lungs, there are enough procurement safeguards to cancel the tender until a new bid matches the right price.
We know our old road is cheap and any foreign lender can heal it at loose change. After all, even before the contractor came to drop welding flares on our cars downstairs, the road wasn’t in good shape. But restoring it to that old rugged cross won’t be free of charge. Even Christ had to pay for our sins with his life.
Either the cost of the restoration was included in the original tender document and MPs need eye allowance to check the fine print, or someone is lying through the teeth and it won’t be for the first time.
In this country, when you hear anyone promise to do things for free, you may need to check outside the window for signs of campaign posters, because even the weatherman is paid to check the rain clouds that God has given us for free.
We understand it’s an election year and everyone is back to factory settings.
Even those who accused the Building Bridges Initiative of creating positions that don’t exist in the law, have also gone back to partitioning juicy drumsticks for themselves while leaving the watery soup for Mama Mboga to boil their vegetables in. In six months’ time, the collective disappointment will be complete.
Mr Oguda comments on topical issues. [email protected]