Ever heard of the World Auto Reverse Rally? No? Well neither had I, until I came across the comical story of one Mr. Eric Awori who somehow managed to convince the entire nation that the championship actually did exist.
In 1985, Eric Awori a member of the well-known Awori family and a rugby player with Kenya Harlequins, was allegedly reported to have driven a car in reverse all the way from Mombasa to Nairobi. Yes, all grueling 500 kms of it. Then from Nairobi to Nakuru, then to Rongai and back to Nairobi once more. For this outstanding feat, Mr. Awori claimed he had broken the world record which was previously held by Gerald Hoagland . Upon having successfully completed his tumultuous quest, a jubilant Mr.Awori is quoted to have said , “I took it as a personal challenge. If this American could do it, why not me?”
Soon after in 1986, as if the public was not already strung up on his boisterous act, he announced that he had done it yet again, this time in a trailer-truck. ( the champ was finally here and here to stay) . The media provided extensive coverage of the starts and the finishes of the reverse maestro’s thrilling backward excursions but very little on the actual course of the journey. Brimming with all sorts of awards and praises Mr.Awori, later announced that he was to participate in the “620-km Kiwi Auto Reverse Rally “ which was to take place in New Zealand later that year.
After the announcement, several local auto-mobile and media companies fell in line, all of them eager to sponsor this one of a kind event, that was certainly bound to put the country on the ‘World Reverse Rally ‘ map. (As the only country on the map in fact). In February, the Kenya News Agency sent out a message that Eric had arrived safely in New Zealand where he had received a hero’s welcome at the Auckland Airport. With nearly 5000 people assembled to welcome this suave embodiment of strength, skill and stamina.
After his arrival, the media in Nairobi regularly received KNA dispatches faxed from “Auckland” telling of Mr.Awori’s steady progress and eventually culminating in the news of his inevitable, predestined victory. It is around this time that a local reporter begun to question the validity of the supposed Kenya News Agency international dispatches which always seemed to bear news of Eric’s wonderful conquests, yet there was no pictorial evidence of the event itself. And sure enough, a closer inspection showed that the faxes had indeed been sent from a Nairobi Telephone number linked to an office on Mama Ngina Street.
Prompt calls were then made to KNA who confirmed that they had sent no such dispatches and that no reverse rally had taken place. A dire truth that was soon seconded by the New Zealand High Commission who confirmed that no such event existed. To say that newspaper establishments and sponsors were red-faced in light of this revelation is an understatement. Safe to say that there is a thin line between honor and dishonor and Eric had not just crossed it, he had ran straight right past it. Media and Sponsors quickly went from applauding him to declaring him a fraud , filing complaints and demanding for his arrest.
Mr.Awori later turned himself in and was later in February arraigned in a Nairobi court on 12 counts of Fraud and served with a hefty fine. Now , I don’t know about you but I for one think that this was such a classic scam, enough to be declared a feat in itself. In a few months, Eric had managed to fool an entire nation and amass thousands of shillings in airplane tickets, motor vehicles and various donations. I don’t know how long he expected to carry on with the scam but luckily for us he did not have a solid escape plane and we have something to laugh and write about decades after he pulled it off.
Cheers to the history makers, both the likely and the unlikely ones, those who were born to do so and those who were not, those who had greatness within them and those who heaped greatness onto themselves 🙂 . History admits no rules only outcomes