And Dr James Nyikal wept...crocodile tears?

What you need to know:

  • As the video of Dr Nyikal breaking down spread, some Kenyans sympathised with the 69-year-old paediatrician and former lecturer of medicine at the University of Nairobi.

Nyikal wept. Then a fellow MP said: “Where I come from, when an old man cries it’s actually a curse.”

Dr James Nyikal, the Seme MP, cried at a parliamentary committee sitting last Wednesday on hearing the plight of healthcare workers in the face of Covid-19.

“I don’t like this,” he said amid sobs. “You can’t do that to your doctors and your health workers. It is not fair.”

As the video of Dr Nyikal breaking down spread, some Kenyans sympathised with the 69-year-old paediatrician and former lecturer of medicine at the University of Nairobi.

But there were others who felt that in the five years he was the Director of Medical Services (2003 to April 2008) and even the few months he was the PS for Public Health and Sanitation (April to September 2008), he should have left a tangible mark in the Health ministry.

“He could be crying over his sins of omission or commission,” Sarah Kimani opined on Twitter. “He was once the Director of Medical Services.”


Commentator Daisy Amdany saw no reason to join in the weeping: “Dr Nyikal can cry all he wants but they are in there to sort out our problems and they have not. The real problem we have is a crisis of leadership.”

For a man who between 1990 and 1999 was the vice-chair of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, which regulates the practice of medicine in the country, his critics might be justified in asserting that he needed to push for reforms earlier.

Some might argue that his tears on Wednesday are no different from those of the legendary sly crocodile in Ndere Island National Park located in the constituency he represents.

But in Dr Nyikal’s view, the country’s topmost office needs to take the initiative. That is why he wished that the Wednesday session with Dr Chibanzi Mwachonda, the doctors’ union boss, was held in State House under the chairmanship of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“You remember my definition of the government? The President and the people he listens to. Those are the people we want to listen to this,” he said.

Speaking on TV later that day, the ODM MP, who was first elected to Parliament in 2013, mentioned the hoodwinking of doctors who went on strike a few years ago and were promised better terms, which have not been effected to date.

Proper remuneration

Noting that he knew a number of the doctors who have died of Covid-19 and the challenges medics went through due to lack of insurance cover and proper remuneration, he said there was every reason to be sad.

In the medical profession, doctors are advised not to cry over the plight of their patients. Dr Nyikal probably lived by the philosophy in his days as a paediatrician at the Kenyatta National Hospital from 1987 to 1996 and previous postings where he attended to patients.

But it appears that after he joined politics in December 2012 when he left his four-year engagement as the PS for Gender, Children and Social Services, the career change gradually reset the medic’s toughness instilled in him.

The group that saw genuine tears in his face on Wednesday thinks his breaking down should be a wake up call to those in-charge of doctors’ welfare; a call to improve terms.

His message stung: “Who said patriotism is suicide? You cannot ask a person to jump into a raging river to show his patriotism.”

In that group that commiserated with Dr Nyikal is Laikipia North MP Sarah Korere, who was with him in the session and who is the one who observed that such an elderly man crying is equal to a curse.

But with Dr Nyikal’s background, might those curses come home to roost?