Linus Kaikai: Rita Tinina, This Is It!

Linus Kaikai with Rita Tinina

Linus Kaikai with Rita Tinina during a past 'NTV County Edition' production.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • We had agreed to ‘catch up soon’ with Rita, one of the kindest and finest human souls. It was never to happen.
  • In journalism, a good attitude matters and Rita always displayed the finest. This made her the jewel of the newsroom.

We, human beings, are perhaps the only of God’s countless creatures granted knowledge of the inevitability of death.

But on a day like this one, we are in a most cruel way reminded of just how pointless and worthless that knowledge is. In its wake, death assuredly leaves us defeated and frustrated, bitter and helpless.

On days like this, we tearfully turn to God our maker with a myriad of questions; questions which we soon realize will not be answered on this side of our existence.

As a Christian fraternity, we shall later this week be reminded of the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

At the peak of his torture on the cross, we shall be reminded this Friday at around three o’clock, of Jesus agonising cry “Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani,” we know what that means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In the sharpest edge of suffering and in the deepest end of our grief, we too get there as our faith is tested to the limit and we ask God why or even where were you?

To the Family of Rita Tinina, we share your pain and stand with you.

We humbly come to you at this time like Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite— the three friends who visited Job after all the losses he suffered— and like them, we acknowledge that no words that we speak today will be adequate to take away your grief.

My last encounter with Rita was a month ago right outside Holy Family Basilica— next to the bookshop to be precise. It was Ash Wednesday, the first day of this very Lent season.

Rita was a devout Catholic and a stickler for the church’s deep traditions and its elaborate liturgical calendar.

And as the high-pressure nature of Ash Wednesday masses here would have it, our encounter was brief. We agreed to ‘catch up soon’; it was never to happen.

Nevertheless, I will always hold many great memories of one of the kindest and finest human souls.

In her core, Rita remained in Nairobi as close as possible to the earnest wishes of any mother— a good child and a meaningful adult. Always proper, always well put together.

The villager in me is now stepping up… and yes, those like me born and raised in the rural always tend to judge people on these streets by how much Nairobi has destroyed them!

And trust me, nothing beats a rural eye, a ‘shags mundu’ in ‘impact assessment’. Rita withstood the polluting side of Nairobi and died intact.

Success, fame and money did not distort who she was at the core.  So, where others get panel-beaten by what we villagers call ‘ulimwengu’ or what you Nairobians call ‘character development’, Rita navigated this complex urban maze and flourished almost entirely out of the unfailing nutrients of a good upbringing.

I want to mean this as both a sincere tribute to Rita and a compliment to the family that brought up Rita. It is her strength of character and clarity of purpose that made every other story about her possible.

One such big story is the story of her success in her career as a journalist. Rita was one of the reporters in the NTV newsroom when I joined the Nation Media Group in 2009 as Managing Editor of the broadcasting division.

We had interacted many times before, especially in the field covering news; but this became our first time to work together in the same newsroom.

I quickly got to learn more about her journalistic attributes such as strong scripting skills and yes, her legendary ability to beat deadlines.

But one attribute always stood out for me; her disposition, and her general professional attitude. In journalism, this is a big deal.

A good attitude matters and Rita always displayed the finest. This made her the jewel of the newsroom.

In a reporter, every newsroom leader looks for reliability and Rita personified reliability.

She became one of my natural choices when it came to big stories that required both depth and a dependable turnaround. 

Rita’s greater possibilities came alive in 2010 when we started pushing the limits of LIVE television news among other ambitious editorial experiments at NTV.

As the Nation Media Group marked 50 Years Anniversary, we rolled out our first start-to-end outdoor bulletins LIVE from the KICC.

NMG journalists pay tribute to Rita Tinina

Later in the year, we had the referendum on the constitution, with our rolling coverage starting three days ahead of the August 4, 2010 referendum.

In her referendum day sign-off, Rita’s three words somehow ring sad today: ‘This Is It!’.

It was after the 2010 referendum that Rita was introduced into anchoring news when we launched a live-on-location three-day TV magazine weekender called The County Edition.

For the toil and sweat it took, I will not at this point separate the story of Rita from that of every member of one of the greatest broadcast newsrooms ever assembled in Kenya’s media history.

Rita’s County Edition colleagues share every bit of the glory; as does the entire team that spectacularly and comprehensively covered the South Sudan Independence referendum and the Uganda Elections immediately after.

I am certain that Rita’s spirit, floating above us right now, draws most of its smiles from those amazing experiences; and I am also sure that Rita’s spirit is proud of each one of you. 

I will not avoid talking about Rita’s physical attributes. As a journalistic, editorially ascertainable fact, Rita was very beautiful.

Secondly, she was smart mentally and physically. Rita was an impeccable dresser. Fashion was her friend.

She favoured serious business-like suits with trendy, feminine cuts. There would be an occasion for a jeans trouser for the rough newsgathering terrain but the bottom line— Rita was always smartly dressed.

One time, the persistent villager in me dared advise a member of my team to ‘try dress like Rita’. The next day, I bumped into the staffer and she asked me whether ‘she is now dressed like Rita’.

Her head and neck movements quickly alerted my instincts that this was not a question; but an invitation to war.

To my younger colleagues managing newsrooms, learn how to communicate with ladies— don’t you dare draw those direct parallels even in the name of Freedom of expression!

At this point, I still struggle to believe this is all about death, and indeed the death of Rita Tinina.

So, I’d best take it back where we began— and that is God’s own doorstep.

In probing the depths of the mystery of death, we may have to settle on some assumptions like maybe, maybe, maybe God grants us life as a loan.

And just maybe, the loan that is our life doesn’t even have a repayment schedule, and maybe God can recall the loan as He wills!

On Friday, this coming Good Friday, we shall be reminded of that final cry before Jesus died on the cross; Father, unto you I commit my spirit.’

And to God we commit the spirit of Rita Tinina enole Yiapan‘.

- Linus Kaikai is the Group Editorial Director at Royal Media Services.