His Twitter handle has an auxiliary verb in it; it had to be an auxiliary because a doing verb would be too politically incorrect and controversial, especially because the surname he bears is his fathers. It helps remind him he has to do what he says. He hopes to own a media house one day. The way to go about it, he reckons, is to build his credibility on social media, where he has a big following. Cyprian, Is Nyakundi spoke with TNLM’s Kevin Motaroki about his activism online, and why he isn’t afraid of stirring up controversy, as long as it brings out the truth.
What propels you? How do you wake up every day and decide, ‘I am still doing this, I am going to give them – the masters of graft, thieves, bad leaders, etc. – hell? Is there a (background) story to your passion?
In high school, I began confronting rogue prefects who used to harass those in lower grades; they stopped. I did the same in college, where the rogues were bigger and more powerful, which earned me an expulsion standing for students.
It was a tough period when that happened, but it only served to strengthen my resolve and provided the perspective I needed to forge on and go against when that is what is needed to bring positive change.
I have always abhorred injustice and impunity. I am propelled by the desire to see a better Kenya. My passion is made easier by the fact that almost all the media establishments have become part of the (economic and political) cartels.
I believe the older generation didn’t do enough to address the issues that now beset us, and it is time for the youth to make the change we desire. Our attitude as a society needs to change, and that change must begin somewhere, with someone. I choose to be its agent. It is not about giving hell to bad leaders and masters of graft; it is about holding them to account.
Do you feel like giving up sometimes – like when your family is targeted as happened early this year? Do they ask you to stop? How do you respond?
It’s interesting that you should ask that.
It has always nagged my mind that what I do could affect those close to me. That it finally happened is reprehensible on the part of those who carried it out.
It is cowardly when someone in power targets my family just so he can trade them for myself, in in a civil issue that was conveniently criminalised to sugar-coat that vile action. Sadder is that some saw the need to defend what happened to me and my family. They should understand this isn’t about me; it is about a system fighting to keep its dark power, and this could happen to them too. But they can take comfort in the fact that if that happened to them, I will speak for them if I can – because I am all for speaking for the voiceless, whoever they happen to be.
So, no, I do not give up, it’s not in me. I believe in what I do, I know it helps align our governance structures, and I believe in a better country for all its stakeholders.
Does your work pay your bills? Is there a “real”, formal job or business?
Yes, some. Bloggers earn money by linking their sites to Google Adsense or any other revenue generating forums. Mostly, I make money by doing social media consultancy for individuals and organisations through my company, Onward Africa.
Our problem is that we have too many stupid people, and too many easily offended people. The intersection between these two sets is too large, and the contradiction in what they articulate is visible
If it didn’t pay your bills, would you still do it?
Absolutely! When I started blogging, I didn’t know or expect I’d make one money out of it. In fact, it is only when people started contacting me with questions and offers about what I could do for them that it dawned on me I could make something out of it.
Look, I was going to do it out of my passion for good governance. The biggest mistake one can make in this arena is to blog for money. You will fail terribly.
You must be opposed to the Computer and Cyber Crime Bill...
The recent debate in parliament is indicative of what it is about. As MPs debated an unconstitutional cyber-law primarily targeting bloggers but masked under identity-theft, the move enjoyed bipartisan support from people who have hitherto supported free speech. As it is now, every wave of change has come with a new set of contradictions.
Parliament and our so-styled right-wing fascists – including religious-degenerates and sanctimonious, self-righteous imbeciles, (Twitter’s “moral police”) paints us the real picture. Our problem is that we have too many stupid people, and too many easily offended people.
The intersection between these two sets is too large, and the contradiction in what they articulate is visible. People who benefited from free speech, later become part of the censorship bandwagon.
There is no denying the power of social media today – as an advocacy tool, as alternative media, and as an information-sharing platform. It has caused revolutions and felled dynasties, as in Tunisia in 2011. What impact, do you reckon, has it had in Kenya – if you were to quantify that? Do our campaigns online yield the desired results? Do the “bad guys” think about it and say, “I don’t want to be the subject of an online campaign.” In other words, aside from what people tell you, do you feel you make a difference?
This question deserves a discussion of its own. Social media is sweeping mainstream media downstream, because it is believable and has a human aspect to it, particularly when you look at interactions and conversations.
As cases in point, Kenyans on Twitter made CNN apologise after referring to us as “hotbed of terror”; Chase Bank was brought down by social media, and it is because of social media pressure that former devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru resigned.
Social media campaigns like #147IsNotJustANumber causes changes in the security sector owing to public
outcry, championed by those on social media. No one is too big or too mighty; those who say during the day that they don’t care for it cry about it in the cover of darkness.
Many organisations are terrified of social media because one tweet can cause a PR disaster or bring down a company. Social media is powerful and I believe all companies must have a crisis monitoring and mitigation team that does “social listening”, to help prevent crises that may very well put a company or an individual out of business.
I believe I have made my own contribution to the social media space – from exposing the National Bank saga to the elaborate con that was Safaricom Cheza Games – and anyone who has any doubts only need visit my pages and site online.
Do you think you should be regulated, in whatever form, however little? Would it blunt the impact of your effort if there was a law to determine what you can and cannot post online – or how to post and not post?
No, we do not need regulation. We have laws. If one feels offended, they can seek legal redress. In fact, social media platforms have strict policies and double regulation is counterproductive and may be a subject to censorship and abuse!
We in mainstream media are often accused of “utterly failing” in our role as the Fourth Estate, of watering the standards of journalism and skewing facts to suit whatever objective we happen to be serving. Is the alternative an uncensored social media machine, as it has been asserted?
Mainstream media has interests, many of them business-related. Its owners must think like businessmen, lawyers, and as citizens. For this reason, it becomes really difficult to expose or criticize a company or organisation that spends millions on adverts. As they say, it’s illogical to bite the hand that feeds you. Social media has broken this barrier because most scandals and stories are exposed without getting filtered in any way.
Do you think such a machine – an uncensored social media – can compel mainstream media to reform? What makes it any different?
Social media has put considerable pressure on media establishments because they no longer break news and stories. Social media is not a media police, and it (media) works very differently from social platforms.
Social media is about influence, and your presence online is huge. Do you believe in everything you do? How often do you look back and say, “I probably shouldn’t have posted/tweeted/endorsed that…”
I believe in freedom of expression, and no matter how misled or accurate my views are, I have never had any regrets. I measure what I post, so I can stand by it. I believe in what I do, and believe I can express myself freely. We have to nurture this space and learn to tolerate each other, even when we do not agree.
How do you make sure the power and influence you have doesn’t get in your head, as to cause you to deviate from your chosen path?
I think having focus is important in this field. Kenyans don’t like people who brag or feel they are superior in some way; this only serves to erode credibility. Personally, I don’t do what I do for accolades; I do it to make a difference.
From your interactions online, what do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?
That I do not have a conscience. Often, I sympathize with those I criticise, but I have to do it because we must have points of reference if we are to attain real change. It is never personal.
What don’t people know about you that you’d like them to?
That I am a big fan of rugby and love to watch the game. I am also very friendly and fun to hang out with.
What is the plan – your plan? What is your vision?
My plan is to grow the Cyprian Nyakundi media empire, change society and tell the stories that are often buried.
Who is Cyprian? What makes you tick?
I am a young man who views things differently, who wants Kenyans to change their thinking and mind-sets. When I see what I highlight or focus on get acted upon to make a positive difference, that is what keeps me moving, what makes me tick!
You are online a lot of the time, and it must get exhausting sometimes… How do you unwind?
Social media is part of my life. Tweeting and blogging is basically texting, which is not very exhausting; it is fun, actually! If you love what you do, it can never be exhausting.
What’s your philosophy on life?
Everyone needs to engage in government, to have a say in how they are governed. I live for making Kenya a better place with my contributions through my online work.
What kind of leader are you?
A transformational on, because I want to change and better the world. I also champion for quality life, and yearn for a better world. Social media has made me interact with many local and international leaders. I have met people like Bob Godec – and others – with whom I have discussed many issues, including the growth of social media and its power.
What are you reading now?
Yes, I do. I love to imbibe knowledge. I am currently reading “Principles” by Ray Dalio.
Most profound book you ever read?
That has to be “Rules for Radicals” by Saul Alinsky. This book has tips on how to do lobbying, with pointers to tactics one can use to achieve different goals.
I recommend it to upcoming activists and lobbyists. (