Getting anything done in this city can be quite the task. The process is more painstaking if and when a government office is involved. The bureaucracy inherent in the public system makes everything proceed at a snail’s pace. Sometime last week but one I was invited to attend a conference outside East Africa which meant that I have to apply for a passport.
That meant that I had to go to the immigration office. I loathed the idea even before thinking about the experience. I imagined the queues, the corruption, the endless waiting and I almost turned down the offer. On second thought however, I decided to be done with the whole process as I knew once I was done there was no going back.
So I took off from work and headed to town; a brown envelope in hand, a checklist of all requirements and a skeptical mind.
The sun was up. It was a bright mid-morning in Nairobi. I could smell the sun rays hit my head as I walked to stage. Having completed everything online, I knew the process would take just but a few minutes to complete once I was done with the venality that came with the procedure.
How wrong I was. My name had an issue. All along I thought I had the perfect name until immigration happened. I had to swear an affidavit in addition to having one of my KNEC certificates certified by an attorney. They didn’t recognize degree certificates. Not with MKU and Nairobi Aviation around the block.
Nairobi has more advocates than street children. The only difference is that you see the latter everyday but when you need the former you have to go up endless flights of stairs if they are well off enough to own an office. Otherwise you will meet in a coffee shop and be done with your business. After Ahmednasir’s article on The Nation on rogue attorneys, advocates and lawyers I became quite skeptical anytime I was required to deal with one so you can imagine the hustle in getting one I can trust.
In an effort to be done with the issue once and for all, I find myself with a recently graduated attorney (went to KSL with a high school classmate) in a KBS bus headed to Upper Hill. This is the home of most law firms. We alight at Community and walk to their law firm. It is hidden like most of them; behind 19 corners.
The place is dark because lights have just gone off.
Then she came out. She was the one supposed to serve me. From the seriousness of her grip, I could tell that she used a fork to devour chicken. Eye contact and all, I immediately knew that she was some hotshot in the office. When everyone else sat on the open floor office space, she had her own space. I could tell she was headed towards having her name on the door.
She was inches taller than me. Not that I am short or anything, her heels accentuated her height. I felt small in her presence. Being the charmer I am, she was in smiles immediately she ushered me in the office.
The place was a library.
Files on top of files.
Ongoing and closed cases.
The only space left on her table had the desktop monitor and her class. She sat at the middle of these giant stacks of files that you could have mistaken her for one only that she smiled though not so often. When in such circumstances, I always have my A game on trying to keep the conversation flowing, depending on the issue at hand.
Sometime back I was told I am too mature for my age. What does that even mean? Do I look that old? Ladies, help a brother out. When you tell a guy that, how do you expect them to react? Most importantly, what do you mean?
So when she asks for my birth certificate, I am reluctant to hand it to her but I have to because I need her help. She takes it with her red polished nailed fingers (they don’t accidentally brush against mine), looks at the year I was born, looks back at me and I can definitely tell what she thinks of me.
She is the Pearson this side of the Sahara. Confidence 10 and number of Hons in her business card definitely tell that she is no joke. Even with all that, she serves me gracefully ensuring that all that needs to be certified is, all stamps and oaths check and then she ushers me out of the office. She doesn’t ask for a penny from me.
The middleman takes it all.