A Son’s Open Letter To Deadbeat Dad – A Vocal MP

An ongoing session in parliament
  • Dear Father,

    Or, should I say, honourable member?

    I follow you on social media, and on the news. As an MP, you’re never far from controversy. I have a disgusting clip. You are hurling chairs, brawling at a funeral in Busia.

    When they create silly memes and troll you as an airhead MP, I nod. It’s messed up, but I enjoy some inward gratification.

    It’s hard to defend a deadbeat father. I’d hate and despise you on a thousand fronts, but I do not. I grew up.

    An ongoing session in parliament

    I’ve met a couple of people like you – despicable, but ambitious. They’ll leave a trail of blood and heartache in their wake to achieve their ambitions.

    On the day I reported to college, my mother gave me a piece of a black and white photograph. It was curled on the edges and slightly blurred. I could see a man in tight, flared trousers and a cotton singlet. He had a crew cut – the kind popular with soldiers. I had perused her old albums, but I couldn’t place this man.  

    She had said, matter of factly: That’s your father. 

    Well, it had hit me in the chest like a sledgehammer. My mother must have been in the missing part of the photograph. You were sprawled on a metal bed, with a thin mattress. It’s a Kodak shot of my mother’s hostel room.

    There’s a wall pin-up of The Beatles in a concert, dated 1988.

    I had nagged her for details, but she’d skip around corners. But I needn’t be a rocket scientist to figure it out. It had started in the hallowed grounds of The University of Nairobi.

    When my mother landed as a fresher at UON, you were a flashy senior with political ambitions. That was in the 80s. You were vying to lead the student’s union. As a wide-eyed fresher, my mother fell in with the heady euphoria in those days and joined your campaign team. You had won the tight campus elections and also won her heart.

    My mother hadn’t returned for her second year. She was then pregnant, with me. I was born in August 1990. You, on the other hand, graduated that year with a political science degree.

    The last time you called, I was only 2 or so. You’d landed a big job at some bank in Kisumu. You later made manager and ran into some scandal. You had resigned – and joined politics.

    I’m now 31.

    My mother had only scissored herself out of the photo. I’d have burnt it.

    So, father – wait, honourable MP – do you know what happened to your pregnant girlfriend when she dropped from college? She was excommunicated.

    The community had sold cockerels and cereals in church fundraisers to send her to university. The first girl to achieve this feat. She had no one to run to. She had started living on the streets – Nyeri Town.

    Heavily pregnant, she’d do odd jobs in Majengo slums – cleaning laundry, and – Mungu ni nani? A kind nun had spotted her. She’d put her up at a monastery. I was born there, in a monastery.

    It kind of explains the lucky breaks and breaks of good fortune I’ve had since. The nuns had then set up a stall for her – she’d opened a grocery.

    That tiny grocery on the corner, has attained in 3 decades what you’re unlikely to achieve in this lifetime – or, the next – as a career politician. 

    It fed us. It paid for a shanty in Majengo – split in half with a soiled curtain. It later moved us to a bigger house. A house with a steel door! My mum’s afro gradually retained its former glow – if you can remember. She’d have won a title in her campus days.

    She worked like a woman possessed. Hell, she even bought me a BMX – on my 6th birthday. This is a daddy’s role, right?

    My mum seldom spoke of you. The bullies called me out for using her name as my surname – Wambui

    She’d say: “God is your father. Like Jesus Christ.”

    I’d say: “Jesus Christ had Martin, the Carpenter!”

    She’d rub my head in a cute shut-up-and-eat way, and say: “It’s Joseph, not Martin. And your father is bigger than a carpenter.” 

    As I got into high school, she’d sit up during news bulletins. The Rainbow Coalition – Narc – was winning the elections – with a landslide. So did you. 

    She was following your story. But I didn’t know.

    After O-levels, I got admission to your old college alumnus. I also learnt who you are. I was half-proud, half-disgusted. A lot of times I was broke, broken and hungry – surviving on God’s mercies. I thought often of looking for you, but, held back.

    If you hadn’t cared, all these years, why would I look for you?

    I managed to graduate. Political Science, First Class Honors. My mother bundled the community that had excommunicated her into two buses for my graduation. She was so proud.

    I waited for her to say: “That’s your father’s brains” – she didn’t.

    As I seek to start a family, a lot of inspiration comes from you. In absentia. As a deadbeat. To be a better dad to my kids than you were. There are a few questions I’d ask, on the run:

    How do you sleep knowing there’s a son striking it solo in the wild? Are the nights long?

    Do you think of my mother? She loved you enough to sacrifice her studies and future. Do you ever suppose to seek her out and check on her welfare?



    Image of fingers typing into a keyboard
    Image of fingers typing into a keyboard