Title: Deadly Money Maker
Author: Saga Macodongo
Publisher: Paulines Publications Africa
It is human nature to yearn for better life. This is the reason why people work so hard so as to improve their livelihoods. It is no longer strange to find people holding multiple jobs, if only to make ends meet.
However, there are a few who opt not to live by the sweat of their brows. These are the ones who prefer to cut corners in pursuit of the ‘good life.’
As a teacher at the Kenya Polytechnic, Judy Akinyi, felt the money she was earning was not enough for the kind of lifestyle she wanted for herself and her family. The fact that she was not content with whatever she was earning put her at a very vulnerable position.
Just as she was contemplating ways of supplementing her income, her mind wondered back to a friend who seemed to lead a thoroughly luxurious life. Akinyi wanted this woman to share, with her, secrets of success.
Just as expected, the other woman held the ‘keys’ to unimaginable riches. She only needed to part with Sh200,000, which would then yield millions. Her vulnerability thus exposed, Akinyi was ready to go all the way, in pursuit of riches.
And go she did. Today, she is a guest of the State, housed at the Lang’ata Women’s Prison, where she is serving the last of 11 years prescribed to her by a judge at the Kibera Law Courts.
While in jail, she decided to put pen on paper, and could well be the first Kenyan to have a book published while still behind bars. Deadly Money Maker, which she writes under the pen name Saga Mcodongo, gives the account of her life including her deadly encounter with the woman who was responsible for her incarceration.
The saga of the collapsed pyramid schemes goes to show how Kenyans, including educated ones are gullible when it comes to making quick money. Akinyi was no different. The lure of easy riches led her to taking a loan, money which she gave her friend, Queen.
Her dream of riches would turn into her worst nightmare. The money got ‘lost’ in unexplained circumstances, leaving her a thoroughly desperate woman. This was the sign Queen was looking for and she went for the kill. To get her money back she was required to run an ‘errand’ for Queen.
The errand involved delivering a ‘package’ from Pakistan. Akinyi had gone to deep to turn back. She had now been initiated into the risky world of drug peddlers. The trip to Pakistan, and back, was supposed to last five days. It was not to be.
Hoping all would turn out well, Akiyi told her family that she was going to her rural home for the five days. And so with a fake passport she embarked on a journey that would take her, not five days, but three months, and straight into the waiting hands of police at the JKIA.
In her luggage was 150 grammes of heroine. So instead of getting rich, she instead earned herself a lengthy jail term, and lost some money in the process.
Deadly Money Maker takes the reader into the murky world of drugs, and in Queen, reveals how ruthless drug barons can be. “She had contacts with key personnel in government and mixed with the high and mighty,” she writes. “… after giving me a long lecture on how secretive I had to be, she went on to tell me how she dealt with people who tried to be clever. “I kill them,” she said coldly.”
From her narrative, it would appear that Queen was extremely powerful and influential. But then, the bigger they are the harder they fall. The long arm of the arm soon caught up with Queen, and she later joined Akinyi at Langata.
And since her case involved trafficking drugs to the US, she had to be flown there. Akinyi was airlifted to the US, where she spent two months testifying against Queen, who was later handed a 24-year sentence.
Akinyi landed at Langata before the Moody Awori prison reforms, and her narration shows how much the reforms improved the place. Sadistic beatings by the prison officers were the order of the day.
The author says that at times prisoners were beaten till they passed out. She argues that the Kenyan Prison system, before the reforms had been inherited from the colonialists and that no efforts were put in place to improve them.
“I keep thinking how the colonialists left us to oppress each other with their old dehumanising rules, while they went back to develop their own countries, practicing none of the things they left behind with us,” she observes in the book.
Wanini Kireri, who during her time as the officer in charge of Langata, receives special mention in the book for the role she played in bringing about reforms at the institution. “In three months (after Wanini’s arrival), there were reforms all over the prison. Where there had been gloom and screams there was now laughter. The new officer in charge radiated sanity, and charity, and there was light at the end of the tunnel at last,” she writes.
Having shared prison walls with inmates who were also drug addicts, Akinyi witnessed first hand the deadly effects of the drugs, which she had wanted to traffic.
She explains that it is that feeling of remorse that led her to testify against Queen, although one cannot rule out the possibility that she did it to get back at her tormentor.
The book also has useful tips on how one can identify signs in a person who is abusing drugs. It also contains a section that describes the common drugs and the effects they have on those that abuse them.
Akinyi should be commended for gathering the courage to tell her story, if only to educate others, and steer them away from the destructive ways of drugs. The book, however well written has quite a number of unanswered questions.
Her explanation of how she ended up in the world of drugs is not entirely convincing. One gets the nagging feeling that she held back some information.
She is also not convincing about the disappearance of her money in the hands of Queen. Why didn’t she report the matter to the police if she hadn’t engaged in any wrong-doing before then?
Since she decide to reveal all, it would have been nice to know they related with her husband after her arrest.
The shortcomings notwithstanding, Deadly Money Maker is a useful addition to literature that touches on prison life and the drugs underworld