Day I hosted Uhuru and Ruto for lunch in my humble home
Kajiado County politician Musa Nteri Kapaika is a man who lives within his means. And so when Kajiado West MP Moses ole Sakuda informed him that he would host Very Very Important Persons for nyama choma in two or three days, he took it in his stride. So much so, he says, that he resisted every urge to buy any new utensils.
Mr Kapaika never knew who his guests were, although he says he had a feeling that they were no ordinary people. And so it was on Tuesday when President Uhuru Kenyatta was returning from state duties in Arusha, Tanzania, that he and his deputy William Ruto stopped over for lunch at Mr Kapaika’s home.
And while most of us would have turned the house up-side down and spared no shilling to make the presidential duo comfortable, Mr Kapaika chose to serve them food on the same utensils his family uses every day. Even the meal was what he would ordinarily prepare for any other special guest.
But the visit, he says, pleasantly surprised him and left him with memories he will keep forever.
He is a member of the Kajiado County Assembly representing Purko Ward, but for a moment he admits to getting a feeling that he was elevated beyond this level.
“It is not everyday that a president and his deputy decide to pay an ordinary man like me a visit. I felt humbled and this is a day that will forever be inscribed in my memory and even that of my family,” he says.
“How often do people host a president? It is rare because even during campaigns, you hardly see personalities of this calibre having a meal in such an open place,” said Mr Kapaika, who also played host to Mr Ruto in 2012.
The 53-year-old father of 18 and husband to two was elected to the Kajiado County Assembly on a URP ticket.
There were no sparkling silverware, chefs or waiters in starched uniform, just a table laid out for the President and his deputy. In the pictures, the President is seen drinking soup from a metallic mug – similar to the ones commonly used in many rural homes across the country – and which had clearly seen better days.
“We do not have glasses or special cups and I was not going to scratch my head so much over this. It was not a show-off and I believe what was important was the cleanliness of the plates and cups.
At some point, there were suggestions that we send for better cups in the shop but I declined,” he says. He’s happy and satisfied that the President and his deputy enjoyed their meal.
“The metallic cups are what we had for soup. We were not going to buy new utensils just because they were coming. We wanted to be ourselves,” he says.
The food — nyama choma, soup and rice — was prepared by elders and not women.
Kapika told Lifestyle that in Maasai culture this signified the importance they attached to the visit. There were a handful of presidential aides overseeing the process as part of security protocol but the actual preparation was done by the elders.
And they did it like they’ve always done. The meat was roasted over an open fire. They also prepared special soup.
“The soup was made from goat ribs and tongue with some herbs such as orkonyil, osanangururi and oloirien. These are common ingredients that accompany nyama choma. This made it a proper Maasai meal,” he said.
“The herbs improve digestion and kill any germs that might be present in food,” he said.
Some 14 goats and five cows were slaughtered for the presidential feast that many residents from near and far enjoyed after the VVIP guests had left.
While preparing, he only had sparse information.
“As much as I could guess that some key leaders in the country were coming, I never imagined that both President Kenyatta and his deputy would be here. It is such an honour,” he said.
MP Sakuda, who is the President’s point man in the region, says he had information as early as Friday that the Head of State would be paying them a visit.
“On the request of elders, we had the confirmation by Friday that the president his deputy would be having lunch with us,” he said. “Knowing that a traditional feast awaited him here, he skipped lunch prepared for him by the East African Legislative Assembly in Arusha.”
He says Mr Kapika’s virtues in the community made him the obvious choice of hosting the VVIPs.
“We chose Mr Kapaika’s home because of his reputation as well as the close proximity of his home from the road. In the interest of time, we did not want the two leaders to travel into the interior parts of the county,” said Mr Sakuda.
Nicknamed “Mbuyu” by his children, a name that even the President referred to him by, Mr Kapaika says one does not need to be very wealthy to be a blessing to others. He says that although he is not educated, he has reaped the fruits of humility in life.
“In the President’s case, I cannot say I was a blessing to them because they can afford their lunch anywhere, but I believe that we can always bring a smile to our friends and neighbours who may not afford the kind of things we are blessed with,” he said.
When Lifestyle met him in Nairobi after the presidential visit, he refused to come to our offices for an interview, neither would he listen to our plea that a hotel or restaurant would do.
His reason? “Why should I come to your office or a hotel when my daughter has an office in this town? Let us meet there.”
He was referring to his niece Dorothy Mashipei who is the director in charge of policy communication at the Deputy President’s office.
On arrival, he greeted Ms Mashipei but not with a handshake. Instead, she leaned towards him and he laid his hands on her head.
“This is how elders greet children. Her level of education does not matter, her age matters,” he said.
Ms Mashipei described her uncle as a father figure in their family. She says he is always humble and also very influential in Kajiado politics.
“He is kind and most of us have benefited from that. Unknown to many, he is like a kingmaker in Kajiado politics, especially in the constituency,” she said.
Mr Kapaika described the atmosphere at his home as relaxed.
“We love visitors so much. No-one would harm the two gentlemen. The usual rigid protocol was abandoned for the 30 minutes they were at my home. The only notable activity by the bodyguards was when a few of them came close to the fire place to see how the elders were preparing the food,” he told Lifestyle.
“They occasionally helped with the cooking but it is the elders who had the say on what was going on,” he added
Since the visit, he said, he has been receiving many visitors who are mostly locals who want to know what he did to catch the President’s eye.
“I have no answer because if it is being a committed URP member, there are many members I know who qualify more than I do. I see it as a favour bestowed on me by the two leaders and I am grateful for it,” he says
He describes the presidential duo as humble.
“I have never seen such people. One would expect them to wield power given their high office but instead they have chosen not to. They freely interact with people from all walks of life,” he says.