The mixed fortunes of instant fame for ‘Githeri Man’
Perhaps the sudden thrust into the limelight, and the fading glow that followed were in the end too much for Martin Kamotho, the man plucked from obscurity into an overnight sensation for eating githeri as he waited to vote during the August 7, 2017 polls.
In June, Kamotho, who has acquired the moniker ‘Githeri man’, re-appeared on public TV.
He was accompanied by Kiambu County Woman Rep, Gathoni Wamuchomba and others as he checked into Mama Care Centre, a rehab in Kiambaa constituency, after falling into alcoholism.
The directive to have him check into rehab was given by President Uhuru Kenyatta himself, according to Wamuchomba.
It had only been six months since Kamotho was awarded a Head of State commendation by President Kenyatta on Jamhuri Day last year in the wake of an unprecedented flurry of media and public adulation.
His photo hurled him into the stratosphere; talk show hosts tripped over themselves as they rushed to scoop him into the TV set while endless online memes flooded social media.
A real estate firm called with the offer of a piece of land while a tour company wrote a cheque for a luxurious holiday trip for the man of the hour and his family.
While it is still not clear whether Kamotho’s descent into alcoholism was a result of the newly found, bewildering fame, it is entirely possible to trace a line back to that famous photograph.
Happening into sudden fame-even when money is not a factor, experts say, often comes with mixed fortunes.
“It can be tragic, especially when one has never handled such a huge amount of money, or attention,” says Veronicah Mugi, a psychologist.
“You either emerge a better person or end up ruing the opportunity, end up in a worse condition than they were.”
For some people, the sudden exposure to celebrity and renown is akin to a “high-the euphoric feeling triggered by the intake of a drug,” adds Ms Mugi.
“To suddenly have the experience, the attention come to an end may cause one to experience withdrawal symptoms.”
His celebrity status turned light on the state of the local media, exposing an unsettling, almost fraudulent side to a section of the industry.
Why, wondered many people, would otherwise respectable media houses dedicate hours of prime time to an individual minding his own business-chewing food from a plastic bag?
The vitriol was relentless.
“There is a patient who was carted from his hospital bed to cast his vote yet there’s no mention of him,” someone raged.
The ultimate denouement was the introduction of the lexicon ‘githeri media’, an indictment on cheapened reportage by the industry.