Funerals have become a theatre for political entertainment. I guess every aspiring politician keeps a diary of funerals to attend. Politicians will milk any publicity and funerals are a great platform.
Firstly, they are assured of numbers, which is how evening news is generated. Funerals also offer grassroots’ interaction that proves vital in painting a picture of an empathic leader. Meanwhile, mourners consider it a privilege when a prominent politician attends their distant cousin’s funeral.
The last time I attended a funeral of an important personality, we were kept waiting for two hours for the mourner-in-chief. A series of speakers were invited to the podium to delay proceedings in anticipation of a senior politician’s arrival.
The master of ceremony, who must have been tracking the politician’s trip schedule on GPS, kept us regularly updated. After a long while, the gathering was informed that the big man’s private plane had touched down at the nearby airstrip and preparation for his imminent arrival began in earnest.
The seating arrangements were disrupted because big men in Kenya show up with an entourage. A few-not-so-senior mourners were forced to grudgingly leave their sitting position to make room.
In no time, we heard a commotion as a section of the gathering rushed towards the entrance of the home to receive the esteemed guest. In the distance, dust billowed behind a trail of Prados with menacing bodyguards hanging by their sides.
The cheers that followed the sight of the politician strutting into the compound drowned a bereaved son giving a tear jerking testimony of his father’s life out. The politician brought a busload of other senior people and in one swoop the main tent was filled with a cast of pudgy faces. Only after they had settled, a good 15 minutes later, did the proceedings resume.
The gushing clergy had no objection creating an open-ended slot for the new set of speakers. Suddenly, his dream of making prime time TV had come. I consciously started looking out for press cameras, not wanting to be caught looking lugubrious.
Politicians have the script down. Platitudes directed to the bereaved were quickly rushed through and straight on to politics they went. Media cameras were placed in such a compelling manner that only the naïve politician would have passed up a chance to fling a newsworthy punch at their rivals.
Junior politicians spoke in a hierarchal pattern, warming up the stage for the main act. Eventually, ‘he’ got up to talk and the mood of the crowd was so expectant I was certain the dead man in the coffin was straining his ears too. Eventually, a lot was said, a political score achieved, after which he had to leave urgently for another important function.
The pompous grouping departed and over half of the mourners escorted them to their vehicles. After this, the clergy, close family and true friends of the deceased hurriedly rushed to conclude the final rites urged on by what appeared to be an impending rainstorm.
In the old days, politicians left the pomp at the gate and wore humility on their sleeves at funerals. They showed up on time, rarely spoke, unless they were on the programme, and stayed on until the final rites were done.