Economy

Give me oil or give me fame, Turkana goes viral

Photo/Peter Warutumo  Girls from Kapese village in Turkana South District drawing water for domestic use on Monday, the day President Kibaki announced that Kenya had struck oil in Turkana, sparking excitement among Kenyans from all walks of life.
Photo/Peter Warutumo Girls from Kapese village in Turkana South District drawing water for domestic use on Monday, the day President Kibaki announced that Kenya had struck oil in Turkana, sparking excitement among Kenyans from all walks of life.  

When is Kenya joining Opec?”

That was just one of the many hilarious questions that Kenyans were asking each other on social networks when news broke on Monday that Kenya had struck oil in Turkana.

Many Kenyans posted their views, questions, suggestions and comments on facebook, twitter and even shares others through SMS.

As would be expected, majority were expressing interest in acquiring property, start businesses, vie for political positions in the hitherto marginalised Turkana region which has now been thrust into the centre of public debate - and jokes - thanks to the oil find.

“I have found the oil of my life in your heart,” one love-stricken soul gushed, waxing rhapsodic with a verse inspired by the discovery of the oil whose commercial viability is yet to be determined.

“We are selling prime plots in Turkana. Scenic and overlooking potential oil fields,” posted Bill Mburu on his facebook page on Tuesday.

Numerous other online platforms were abuzz with offers for plots in Turkana, with some of the projects christened Oil City – inspired, no doubt, by the grand models of the planned urban properties like Tatu and Konza.

“Plots For sale in Turkana. Perfect location with a view of the oil well. Only Sh100,000. Ready title deeds,” weighed in @Kasainebrian moments after President Kibaki made the big announcement on Monday afternoon.

Of course, he was playing on the healthy appetite that Kenyans have shown for property in recent years.

Some sought to align their counties to the oil-rich county of Turkana by invoking geographical proximity.

@MotoMotoo from Kitale town said: “Turkana has oil.... Kitale is about to be a big town!”

A search on facebook yields pages like ‘Turkana Oil Field’ and ‘ngamia oil reserve’ as Kenyans converge in the virtual kamukunji to discuss matters pertaining to oil and how all will benefit from the expected windfall in the dry, desolate and windswept plains of Turkana.

Interestingly, not everyone was searching for land and oil.

Those with a more romantic inclination were hunting for... you guessed it... soul mates. Suddenly, the girls from the North are now highly rated by Kenyan men.

“I want to marry...1st Qualification? The Girl Must be #Turkana,” tweeted @CharlWaf.

Cobbo3 joined the fray saying: “Someone is alleging that bride price in Turkana went up today after the oil discovery announcement. Tell me he is kidding.”

The rules in picking Mr Right was relaxed as far as the Turkana are concerned.

“I like men who are tall, dark, handsome (not a requirement) and THEY MUST BE FROM TURKANA,” wrote @MosesMuya on twitter.

But not just humorous words were doing the rounds on facebook and twitter. Pictures too were all the vogue.

One showed a matatu offering an express trip to Turkana - for only Sh3,000.

Another depicted a well-known Nairobi businessman dressed as a Sheikh, and he was pledging his support to the government in its efforts to drill for more oil.

But even as some were making light banter about the find, others were more somber.

“I believe the talk of the town is oil in Turkana. Will be competitive to be a governor in Turkana now,” wrote Simon Kariuki from Canada.

An optimistic @owigarj observed: “So now we have Konza City, Lamu Port and the big one, Oil in Turkana...it’s going to be one crazy ride to the promised land - Vision 2030.”

And @MarvinSissey posed: “Now that we may get oil which we had not planned for; could we bring forward Vision 2030 to say 2025?”

Another tweet believes the precious find heralds the end of resource-based conflicts in the North Rift.

“Oil in Turkana, Cement in Pokot, North Rift is saying goodbye to poverty and cattle rustling!” said @amon_gallis.

Until Monday, Turkana region was associated with hunger, cattle rustling, floods and poverty. Not any more.

It is now an object of national obsession. Even away from home, Turkana is already having a positive impact.

News of the find pushed up Tullow shares during trading at the London Stock Exchange earlier this week.

Before the oil find, Turkana’s most famous export was Ajuma Nasenyana – the Lodwar born 5 ft 10” model who has graced runways and fashion fairs in New York and Europe.

Now, her fame has been dwarfed by the latest developments from her home area.

When the story of the oil find broke, it generated a lot of interest on the social media with the topic #TurkanaOil becoming one of the top 10 trending topics worldwide on Twitter minutes after President Kibaki broke the news at a public function in Nairobi.

So heated was the debated that the ‘Turkana Oil’ story went viral on facebook and other online discussion forums like KictaNet as Kenyans celebrated the oil discovery in the land where homo erectus is believed to have set up a home over one million years ago.

hdavid@ke.nationmedia.com