Today’s feature is on Manaseh Nyainda, a man who, as we were initially organising for this interview, addressed me by my surname, said he absolutely loves it, then we laughed, and had our rapport instantly cemented.
As I walk into The Node, in Westlands, I instantly spot Manaseh, because he’s the guy with his head bent towards the table, wholly consumed by his phone. I also know it is him because in that posture, he looks exactly like he does on one of his profile photos on Facebook.
As we make our order, Manaseh asks for a hot drink, no snack. Shortly after the waitress leaves, Manaseh tells me that he only takes one meal per day, dinner.
I’m trying to understand what that statement actually means, or to clarify if I’ve heard him wrong, but he confirms that I haven’t. Manaseh, for most days, only has dinner as his meal of the day.
Manaseh and I make more chit-chat, and I tell him I’ve noted, from his social media posts, that he likes hanging out at the InterContinental Hotel.
He admits to liking the hotel, confesses to being in awe of how beautiful and quiet The Node is, and proceeds to tell me something profound about life’s progression, vis-a-vis one’s preferred area of, “Hanging out.”
To conclude his point, he says, “One should definitely live within their means, but you also have to be strategic. Because where you hang out determines where you’ll go.”
With a conclusion like that, what else is there to say? We get started with the interview, as I try to find out more about him.
Manaseh is a lover of all things policy. He’s also into governance, systems, and education. On social media, he is, however, more popularly known for his strong opinions on politics, current affairs, and to an extent, life in general.
Embracing both paid and volunteer positions, Manaseh has worked with ODM’s, national elections dispute tribunal board; he has also worked with the Orange House; as well as with NASA as part of its digital communications team. (All political entities)
In person, Manaseh could best be described as, among other things, soft spoken, quick tongued, non-conforming, and true to himself.
He is also a straight-shooter whose words are occasionally raw. Some of his responses make you pause a little.
Manaseh studied at a Baptist primary school, and, some distasteful hiccups notwithstanding, found his way to Kapsabet High School – a general schooling experience he doesn’t speak too fondly of.
Manaseh’s mother is everything to him, but his was a father who was a no-show for a huge part of his life. He has three siblings.
On his upbringing, Manaseh somberly describes a testing childhood, one mired by challenge after challenge, this including: episodes of being chased away from school due to lack of school fees, the squandering of finances by a negligent father, and the loving, unrelenting, due-diligence of an ailing, often bed-ridden, mother.
Most of his followers on social media refer to him as Nyainda, but for this interview, we decided to stick with his first name.
In this feature, Manaseh talks about it all: a past childhood, present passions, future dreams, career idols, and why it’s okay to be different, and to own it.
Manaseh, how old are you?
You’re just 22? And yet such a critical thinker when it comes to all things politics and current affairs…
Yes, I have such great passion for politics and policy.
Right. I take it you’re currently studying?
What are you studying?
Journalism, and, Public Policy and Adminstration.
Are you studying both courses concurrently?
That’s ambitious, what do you hope to do, or become, once you’re done with your studies?
I’d want to do anything that would help make my life better. I don’t have any specifics in regards to that, but my ultimate dream, would be to work in State House. That, that’s my ultimate dream.
I wish I could work in State House, I think about working in State House every single day.
What position would you like to have in State House?
Any, really, but the ultimate one would be to do what Dennis Itumbi does. (Laughs)
I won’t even bother hiding it, I look at where Dennis Itumbi has come from and what he’s been able to do with his career and I feel incredibly inspired. What he does currently, that’s what I want to ideally do in future.
(Laughs) How is he in person by the way? You interviewed him, right?
Wow, I can only imagine what that must’ve been like. Good for you Aoll! Not many would ever have such an opportunity to interact with someone like Dennis, and to be allowed to discuss personal life stories so candidly. Keep it up.
Thank you Manaseh. Going forward, what do you hope to do with your Journalism qualifications?
The knowledge in Journalism will help me become an efficient communicator. I plan to use those communication skills to pass on every information that is related to Policy.
So, you don’t want, like many other Journalism students, to become a reporter or news anchor?
(Laughs) No. I don’t want to do any of that. My life is all about Policy. I eat, live, and breathe, Policy.
Tell me a little about your family, how many siblings do you have?
We are four children. I have a brother, and two sisters.
And, your parents, did you grow up with both?
My mother is my everything. Aoll, my mother? (Shakes head) That woman is my all. I call her my first girlfriend. I love her in ways I cannot begin to describe.
How is she, your mother?
(Smiling) She’s okay. She’s battled arthritis for a very long time, and she’s had severe bouts of the illness, it took a toll on her a number of times, but she kept fighting, she still does. Her strength is something I admire every single day.
I don’t know how one person could be so strong and still manage to raise a family in such shaky circumstances, but she did.
And your father, how is he?
I don’t have much to say about him.
He vanquished. We adjusted. It is what it is.
I think I detect a bit of resentment in that response, do you think you’re resentful of him, your father?
I don’t know if resentful is the word, but I don’t care much for him.
He’s done some very questionable things in our lifetime, he’s left my siblings and I in dire situations in the past, and there are times he could have really come through for us, but chose not to.
Having gone through all that and come out on the other side in one piece, those are not things that one easily overlooks,
When was the last time you spoke to your father?
That must have been in Form Four. I didn’t have fare to go home from school, and he showed up and gave me Kshs 100.
Since then, he’s been lying to us about how he’s going to show up and help in one way or the other. He’s never shown up. And we stopped waiting.
Are there questions that run in your mind of him? For example, why he left? Why he hardly showed up, things like that?
(Shakes head) No, I believe in individuality. He can do whatever he wants to do, that’s up to him.
What if he ever gets to a point, where he feels like he wants to come back and rekindle a relationship with you; would you be open to that?
If he ever gets to that point, good for him. But again, I peg this to individuality. He can do whatever he wants to do, and he should, but, personally? I’m not keen.
If he walked into the restaurant right now, and saw you by chance, what would you say to him?
I’m a huge believer in honesty, in saying things as they are. If he were to show up here, I’d express my disappointment in him. And then I’d go on with my business.
For a young person reading this right now, someone who doesn’t have much of a relationship with a parent, and they perhaps feel unwanted or unloved, how would you encourage them?
For me I always say, don’t dwell on perception. You feel unwanted, so what?
No, seriously? Like, what do you want to do about that? You shouldn’t care about what I think of you, or what the next person thinks of you. You are who you are, and you are enough.
This is also why it’s always important to let your mind do most of the leading in life, and not your heart. The heart should only be for pumping blood.
Seriously. I’m very serious by the way. Don’t dwell on your feelings. Move on with life.
Okay then, moving on with the interview, you are very vocal on social media, especially when it comes to matters politics, current affairs and the youth; when and how did this start?
I started being vocal on social media around 2015. And, again, I was inspired by Dennis Itumbi. (Laughs) Aoll, stop it.
I haven’t even said anything.
(Laughs again) I saw that look. (Still laughing) But yes, even though we have very different political stands and views, I was really inspired by Dennis. It was after observing what he does, that I decided to use whatever platform I had, to express my views and exchange ideas with other people. That’s how it all started, on Facebook.
You have such a huge following, and your opinions are usually very analytical, quite sober, and mostly unapologetic; do you get any critics? Any haters?
(Nods) Yes, I do. For sure. I have, over time, received some direct messages that have been very unsavory. But it comes with the territory, especially where politics is involved.
How do you deal with it, the criticism?
You just deal, you know? Again, mind over heart. You deal with it and move on. You can’t let it get to you. And you shouldn’t.
There are so many young people, who still don’t fully appreciate, how much the digital space can do for them; seeing as you are all things digital, what would you tell them, especially when it comes to opportunities?
You are absolutely right, the opportunities offered by the digital space are endless, and they could be monetary or non-monetary. One could have a social media page, or a blog, like this one, like yours, and make monetary gains from it. One can also make money through Adsense, partnerships, and the like.
But there are also non-monetary gains, like, for me, I really enjoy writing, so I use my platform for that, to express myself through writing. I also get invited to a lot of forums, and such meet-ups are invaluable to me.
We are in an age where you have to be strategic and know what you’re using the internet for. Don’t just buy data, browse, and leave it at that, figure out how else the internet could be beneficial to you.
With the many disappointments young people continue to go through, it can be easy to fall into the trappings of peer pressure and troubling vices, do you ever feel any kind of peer pressure?
What peer pressure?
No, seriously, I don’t have the time to involve myself with peer pressure. I cannot see you smoking and decide to smoke just because you’re smoking. What is that?
Also, if there was ever a time I was going to get involved with such, perhaps it would have been in my younger years, when life was extremely challenging, things were quite unstable, and I was still very impressionable. But now? No.
What’s been your lowest moment in life so far?
That would be when I was in upper primary school, and I saw my mum bedridden for about, a continuous six months. That was hard. (Looks at his cup)
We didn’t have basic necessities, we didn’t even have food, but, that wasn’t as bad as seeing my mum on a bed like that, and in constant pain. It was gut-wrenching. I don’t cry, but during that time? I cried Aoll. I really cried.
With the benefit of hindsight, what do you wish you knew five years ago, that you know now?
I wish I knew how impactful social media can be, and to use it wisely. I used to write all manner of careless things, but if I’d started writing constructive content then, my life would be so far right now. It’s my one regret, but now I know better.
And how do you hope your life will look like in your 30s?
Careerwise, I hope I’ll be living my dream. Personally, I don’t know, but I don’t think I’ll be married.
No. I’ve never understood marriage, and I wouldn’t want to be part of an institution like that.
I hear this a lot, that people tend to change their minds the older they get, do you think your opinion of marriage will change with time?
No. Why should my opinion change?
We have too many people who succumb to societal pressures, and those pressures, are the very reason we have too many miserable people living lives that are not their own. I’m not one to care about what society thinks. I do what works for me.
And you are unapologetic about that, about being different?
I am very unapologetic about who I am, and what I believe in. I am different in a lot of ways, but I don’t run away from it, from being different. I own it.
Are you dating?
What is dating?
I don’t have time to date.
So you have no interest at all? No interest in doing the whole coffee, or lunch, or getting-to-know-someone business?
Coffee and lunch, because I’m, “getting to know someone?” Me? Absolutely not.
I don’t have the patience to start dealing with phone calls, and someone asking me why I didn’t call them back. Or them asking me why I’m not home yet. Or them calling and saying they can hear noise in the background, and where am I? I don’t have time for all that.
Okay. So, if there were to ever be a girl somewhere who’s interested in you, I take it the number one quality they would need to have is to make sure they’re not nagging? Someone who gives you space?
Exactly! I like space. Lots of space. Lots and lots of space. (Smiles) If there’s someone somewhere who understands that, then maybe, just maybe, there could be some hope for us. (Laughs)
Alright, any last words?
Live your truth.
Thank you Manaseh, thanks for making time for the interview.
And meeting you was such a plus too! You’re very warm and engaging, but you also mean business. You’re such a professional, you really know you’re stuff when it comes to these interviews. Thank you Aoll. Thank you.