The Citizen Television Cheche team was not prepared to interview Ngugi wa Thiong’o. The team that always holds topical discourses every Wednesday morning on the Citizen Television platform scored below public expectation when they engaged Kenyan Writer, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, on Wednesday 3rd of June 2015. This came out evidently in the observed narrowness and shallowness of the questions that the team asked Ngugi.
The team that includes David Makali, Mutegi Njau and the host, Uduak Amimo, did not ask Ngugi the questions that viewers expected. Instead, they limited themselves to the politics of language as a perspective of literature, a subject the team still failed to exhaust. The public expectation on matters of politics of language is that the team would have questioned Ngugi on his use of the Roman alphabet and Indian metric systems to write Kikuyu Literature. Why hasn’t Ngugi designed the Kikuyu alphabet or scriptural characters as a basic foundation for writing in kikuyu and hence literature in Kikuyu language? And why Kikuyu and not Kiswahili? These would have been more intriguing questions under the scope of language.
On the question of authorship, the team confined itself to five of Ngugi’s books. Even though Ngugi mentioned to the team that he has written more than forty books, the team persistently circumlocuted around Weep Not Child, The River Between, I Will Marry When I want, and Matigari. These are only some of Ngugi’s Books, but they are not the ones that catapulted Ngugi to the global literary stage. There are more of Ngugi’s works that call for imperative public discourse, such as Writers in Politics that discussed ideology; Globalectics, a Rene Wellek lecture that discusses global relations at a high level of logic; Decolonizing the Mind, the book that addresses post-colonial theory; and Detained, a prison Diary which peeks into the African cult of dictatorship as displayed in the Kenyatta-Moi era in Kenya. The obvious expectation of the viewing public, this writer included, was to have Ngugi reveal who is the ‘wizard of the Crow’ in his epic novel of the same title. Sadly, the team did not ask these questions.
The parochial scope of the questions posed to an intellectual mammoth like Ngugi by the Cheche team is nothing other than the sign of a poor reading culture. The team has not been following Ngugi intellectually. The confirmation of this position I am taking is to be found in the question that the television host posted on the screen for more than one hour during the interview. The question was; ‘what was your intention in writing Not Yet Uhuru?’ Perplexing. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, not Ngugi, wrote Not Yet Uhuru.
On the question of ideology the team was not forthright. On several occasions, Ngugi mentioned the socialist concepts of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ as the two tribes of Kenya, but none of the team members brought up Ngugi’s socialist ideological orientation, given his current stay in a capitalist country. Rather, the team through the host, Uduak Amimo, asked Ngugi if he would meet Raila Odinga or President Uhuru Kenyatta; a question that Ngugi shrewdly dodged.
The team was also silent on the relationship between Ngugi and Binyavanga Wainaina. Why Ngugi admires Binyavanga’s books, when Binyavanga is an outright perpetrator of queer literature, a literature of homosexuality. The idea is that the Cheche team did not interview Ngugi on the postmodern question of literature and gender.
However, credit goes to Uduak Amimo for exploring the question of literary succession. She asked Ngugi about the secret behind four of his children becoming writers – not doctors or lawyers. Indeed on literary succession, Ngugi has sterlingly performed. To the best of this writer’s knowledge, no other writer in the world has a family of successful writers the way Ngugi has Mukoma, Tee, Nducu and Wanjiku as shining lights.