AN EAST AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE
GIVE it to the young 29-year-old Kenyan lawyer-turned TV personality. She had it all. With her charm on TV for a couple of years, Esther Arunga may have never known how powerful she was or how she would capture the imagination of Kenyans until she suddenly resigned from KTN to live with some low-life preacher more known for his music than his spiritual talent.
When the news of Arunga broke out, she set the agenda and dominated the stage right from the start. She was the news, pure and simple. All the other characters masquerading around her merely got mentioned simply because they were hanging around her.
For Arunga, the young woman that was brought up from a well-known and well- off family, it was this strange incident of leaving home to live with strangers in a hideout church in Runda that caught the imagination of Kenyans.
For seven days since the news of Arungas quitting the lucrative and high profile job at KTN, she dominated the local media and all blog networks like no other Kenyan or East African for that matter had done in years. For the first time, all politicians that thought they were newsmakers were on the back banners. And the day she ventured out for a rare press conference with her so-called spiritual mentor, one musician called Nimrod Hellon Onyango, it was not the priest that hit the charts, but Arunga.
By the close of the day, blogs around the world had recorded 20,000 hits and counting if one checked on news websites, discussion groups and online individual bloggers. My own blog recorded 40 hits within the first six hours of posting her story.
Compared to our political heavyweights, the nearest that came to her was a top politician with 140 hits in 24 hours.
As I write this piece, the news of Arungas quitting her job and joining this hitherto unknown church has gone through twists and turns, including a police raid in their hideout in Runda Estate in the dead of the night.
Following that raid, a number of people have been arraigned in court on charges of engaging in unlawful cult-like practices and are currently out on bail, except for one Quincy Zuma Timberlake Fizzle Dogg, who is still in custody on another charge of fraudulently obtaining money from some people on false pretences.
The names of leading lights in this Finger of God church have been intriguing indeed. We have names like Zuma that reminds us of the dancing South African president.
The name Quincy can only remind us of Quincy Jones, the legendary American music producer that is a household name in Hollywood and the rest of the world. Timberlake is obviously one of those unique American names associated with high drama. What does not come out clear is why anyone who claims to be a Kenyan would have all these names plus Fizzle Dogg!
If you add Joseph Nimrod Hellon to the drama that put Arunga in the limelight, one can only imagine that people who have several strange names that they use simultaneously can only mean trouble to the unsuspecting followers.
However, the most intriguing part was yet to come. When the names of televangelist Benny Hinn and star singer Whitney Houston were thrown into the mix as possible partners in the saga, the plot thickened indeed, especially when wild claims were made that there was a business dispute between Hellon Onyango and Whitney Houston involving nearly $300m. It was at this point that one could be forgiven for smelling a rat.
For some of us who only came to know that Joseph Hellon Onyango existed just the other day during the Tusker Project Fame, a man we could not associate with any meaningful wealth and power, to claim links to big names like Whitney and Hinn could only mean one thing. These two men have been dropping names to get by and using religion to smokescreen their activities.
More importantly, a real true Christian Church does not have to shroud itself in mystery, attack other cults to get along or stop the marriages of their followers for whatever reason.
Real church leaders are supposed to be counsellors of the young and troubled minds. They are not supposed to exploit them at their weakest moments.
In this part of the world, if you meet a local with names such as Zuma, Quincy, Timberlake, Fizzle, Dogg, Nimrod, Hellon or Vineyard; and some of them are Kenyan businessmen doing business in South Africa, but live in London, run for your life! You are on a cliff!
But again, we in East Africa must have watched too many Nigerian movies of late to learn a few tricks from our brothers in the West. Let us hope the Arunga story has a moral story for us to learn from in our region.