REFLECTIONS

The gunnysack frock friend test

Last weekend there was a feature about powerful men who, once they lost their power, lost their friends

In Summary

• When you’re rich and powerful, how can you not tell the difference between a real friend and a hanger-on?

Former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero at a Milimani court on March 7 during the hearing of his abuse of office case alongside other individuals
Former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero at a Milimani court on March 7 during the hearing of his abuse of office case alongside other individuals
Image: FILE

The gunnysack frock friend test is something I devised to test who your real friends are. At the moment the idea is still at the imagination stage, but if it weren’t, it would be like this.

If I was rich and famous, hopefully because of an international TV drama series I wrote and not through politics or something else similarly shady, I would disappear for a while, let myself go, and intentionally miss a few meals. I would then come back looking like a homeless person dressed in a gunnysack monk-like frock, who in addition to looking like he’s missed many meals, smells like he’s skipped more than a few showers.

So there I would be, gaunt, beard overgrown and unclean, hair too, pretending that I’ve fallen on extremely hard times. I would then approach people who consider themselves my friends, and see which ones would offer help, buy me a cup of tea perhaps, and which ‘friends’ would act as if they’ve never met me in their entire lives. I know, I know, testing friendship sounds wrong, but…

I only bring this up because last weekend there was a feature in one of the local dailies about powerful men who, once they lost their power, lost their friends. The two individuals who featured prominently in the article were former Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero and former Devolution PS Peter Mangiti, both in trouble with the law, and consequently, fresh out of friends.

It’s a familiar story worldwide. A powerful and influential man, he’s rich, he’s famous, private club membership status, he floats in the rarefied atmosphere of prestige. People are always calling him for favours, business deals, to hit him up for money, to invite him to parties and weddings as the guest of honour. Then comes the unexpected fall from grace, and suddenly, all those friends who wanted to see and be seen with the powerful man disappear.

In the article, the former Nairobi county boss was not available to talk about how he feels regarding the friends who ghosted him after ‘Serikali’ zeroed in on his affairs. But Mangiti was available, and his opening words in the article were telling. ‘I am alone, my phone never rings anymore.’

Here’s what I don’t get, when you’re rich and powerful, how can you not tell the difference between a real friend and someone you just happen to know because of your job title. You don’t even need the costume and the getting into character that is required of the gunnysack frock friend test to find out. Just ask yourself, while having drinks with your fellow influential friends, are they the kind of people who hang out with nobodies? The follow-up question would then be, would they hang out with you if ever you became a nobody?

A more important question is, do you hang out with nobodies? Would you stick by any of the other people you’re sitting with at the private members’ club, if ever they fell from grace? Be honest.

It’s easy to tell who’s a friend and who’s not because what they’d do to you, you would probably do the same to them. You already know who’s what and where they’ll be if trouble ever comes because, like the quote says:

‘Show me your friends and I will show you your future.’ – Anonymous