Duncan Khaemba: Rita Tinina, it is not well

ta TininaRi

The late Rita Tinina. She took every new task with greater enthusiasm than the previous one.

Photo credit: Courtesy

Last Sunday, at 11 minutes past noon, I received a 48-second phone call from my colleague Melita Oletenges. I answered the call and asked him if he was preparing to anchor the 1pm news bulletin.

He replied by asking me, "Which bulletin?" He had checked the system and there was no news rundown, so he asked me to look for Rita Tinina, who was supposed to be producing the bulletin.

I asked him to look for her at her desk. Or maybe give her some minutes as she was probably walking round the newsroom. I had nothing to doubt that she was not in the office, because she was a very punctual person. 

Something told me to call her immediately and my two calls went unanswered. It was now 12.13pm. That’s when I knew it is not well.

Then NTV's output editor John Mwaura called me at 12.16pm and we talked for a minute and fifty-nine seconds. We both panicked.

Mwaura told me, "Please look for Rita, we have been looking for her since 11am when Mogaka (from the administration office) raised the alarm that he had not seen Rita who is always in the office by 9am. He had called Janet Chapia who in turn called me".

He ended the call by asking me to find her.

The previous Thursday, when Rita, Tenges and I decided to go for lunch together, she received a phone call and then, in her usual style, told us "one minute, let me find you downstairs".

She went back to her desk to get her car keys to give to her eldest sister, Hellen. They were supposed to travel together to their rural home in Narok, but Rita pulled out, saying she wasn't sure about her body as she had some minor aches and pains.

I knew Hellen was the person I needed to call first but I couldn't, so at 12.23pm I called Bob, a friend, and he confirmed the devastating news. It is not well.

The first person I called was NMG editor-in-chief Joe Ageyo. When I broke the news to Mwaura, he was shocked.  I also called NMG's broadcast editor, Dann Mwangi.

As I processed the shocking news that we were all in denial about, I called NMG Hubs Managing Editor Bernard Mwinzi, who was Rita's neighbour, and he couldn't believe it, saying it couldn't be true.

I told him to go to her house. He found a distraught sister, Hellen, making frantic phone calls and couldn't believe what he saw.

RT, you were that one dependable friend and colleague who touched so many lives. Glowing tributes are pouring in from friends and colleagues in the media fraternity, from leaders across the board, and from everyone who knew you. Because of your good deeds, which you never wanted to be magnified, there's a sense in the air that we're celebrating the rich legacy you've left behind. 

Before long, news of her demise was all over. Colleagues across the media fraternity arrived, everybody deeply worried as others kept calling who ever they knew is on the ground. It is not well.

As for me, we’ve lost a dependable cog, team player and voice of reason. You were extremely professional, efficient link ants, and delivered your assignments with military precision but now you are gone for good. It is not well my friend.

Your sense of fashion, your concern for everyone, your generosity to a fault will be missed by many. You are a person who used to religiously buy food for a lady with a child who used to beg on the streets near the I&M building in Nairobi CBD until the day you discovered she was pregnant and she disappeared.

In the office, you used to tell me that it was our duty to buy lunch for the interns whenever we went out for lunch; you were generous to a fault. You remembered and reminded me of that. The words of Gramps Morgan's song "PEOPLE LIKE YOU" make me think that he was thinking of you when he sang this...

"If you give a little more than you take, And if you try to fix more than you break, If you are the kind who takes the time to help a stranger in the rain. There is a place up there for people like you. If you stand up for those on their knees and give a voice to those who cannot speak, if you shine a little light, give sight to those who have lost their way, there's a place up there for people like you. I've heard that up there the streets are made of gold, and when you get there, there's a hand to hold... I believe that when your days down here are over, there's a place up there for people like you. If you walk around with your heart on your sleeve... And if you try to be the change you want to see... If you lay down your life for love so that someone might be saved. There is a place for people like you.

Every tribute I read brings tears to my eyes. Your swift departure, like lightning, has hit us like thunder. It is not good, RT. When I finally found the courage to follow Dann Mwangi into your bedroom where you lay unresponsive, I was completely broken. Hellen, your sister, was lost for words as she reminded me of every phone call you and I had and the hearty laughter you gave and whenever they asked you what it was, you replied "si ni huyu Khaemba" (it's Khaemba).

I think she wanted to manage me because it is not good. You really appreciated and cherished your family. As for your daughter Malaika, I can't even find the words. She was your heartbeat and vice versa. Like you, she was time sensitive and whenever you gave your arrival time, she would call on the dot to ask where you were.

On our last lunch date, you were preparing to take your annual holiday over the Easter holidays, having completed your two outstanding productions.

You were going to host your family for your daughter's birthday on the 5th of April. Now your family mourns your death. Your golden voice, your diction, your characteristic short haircut, your humility and generosity are no more. You are gone forever. It is not good.

As we go through this turbulent, dark period, I seek solace and comfort from Whitney Houston's song "I LOOK TO YOU", whose words may give us strength.

"As I lay me down, heaven hear me now. I'm lost without a cause, after giving it my all, winter storms have come and darkened my sun, after all I've been through, who on earth can I turn to? I look to you, I look to you. After all my strength is gone, in you I can be strong. I look to you, I look to you And when the melodies are gone, in you I hear a song, I look to you When I'm about to lose my breath, there's no more fight Sinking to rise no more, searching for that open door. And every road I've taken has led to my regrets. And I don't know if I'll make it, nothing to do but lift my head I look to you, I look to you, yes And when all my strength is gone, in you I can be strong I look to you, I look to you".

May your soul rest in perfect peace, just as you left us peacefully and quietly in your sleep. Farewell my faithful colleague and friend who became a confidant. It is not well.

Yours, DK, as you always called me.