Regional Kingpins: The Kanu men who help Moi to rule Kenya
Bahati MP Onesmus Kimani Ngunjiri will forever be indebted to former President Daniel arap Moi for introducing him to politics.
“Moi is my political godfather. He made me who I am today. I will never forget him,” the lawmaker says.
OKN, as he is popularly known, first met Moi in the 1990s. The second term MP told the Nation that he was dealing with a land problem “when some elders attempted to ‘arm-twist’ the plot from me”.
The elders had decided to evict him from the land.
“Just before they did so, I remembered that the only person who could come to my aid was Moi,” Mr Ngunjiri said.
As the President’s motorcade was heading to State House, Nakuru, from Kabarak one Saturday morning, Mr Ngunjiri waited for him in Kiamunyi.
He jumped onto the road, attracting Moi’s attention.
“The security men tried to drag me from the road, but Moi alighted from his car and told me to get into one of the vehicles in his convoy. We went to State House,” the MP said.
Mr Ngunjiri says Moi listened to his tribulations and ordered Nakuru DC Jonah Anguka to deal with the matter.
“That is how I saved my three-acre plot from grabbers,” he says.
“It showed Moi’s kindness. He was ready to listen to the poor.”
Mr Ngunjiri then decided to plunge into politics, vowing to support the ruling party Kanu.
Later, he became the chairman of Kanu in Nakuru District.
Mr Ngunjiri is currently allied to Deputy President William Ruto and is a member of the Jubilee Tangatanga team.
He describes Moi as loving and a man of God.
“For all the years I’ve known Moi, he never failed to attend service at the Africa Inland Church, Bondeni, when visiting Nakuru,” Mr Ngunjiri says.
He adds that the former president had a big and forgiving heart as he never held grudges against politicians who hurled insults at him.
“Unlike the majority of politicians, Moi was never bitter with anybody. He would not go back if he forgave you,” Mr Ngunjiri adds.
According to the lawmaker, many central Kenya leaders and residents may have thought Moi was a bad person, thereby hatching a plot to change the constitution and deny him the opportunity to succeed founding President Jomo Kenyatta who died in 1978.
Joseph John Kamotho
Having first been elected Kangema MP in 1974, his dedication to Kanu and a penchant to issue punchy statements in defence of the party is what Kamotho is remembered for by many.
Kamotho was a Cabinet minister and Kanu secretary-general. He held several ministerial posts, including Higher Education, Transport, Trade, Environment and Local Government.
Kamotho became the fifth secretary-general of Kanu — the ruling party since independence — in 1989 after the death of Moses Mudavadi.
He earned the distinction of the second longest serving Kanu secretary-general after Robert Matano who served from 1969 until his replacement in 1985.
As Kanu secretary-general, Kamotho was a rabble-rouser, a vocal and no-holds-barred spokesman of the governing party. He did not mince words when defending Kanu and Moi.
Kamotho was dumped unceremoniously from the government when he resisted the decision by Moi to anoint Uhuru Kenyatta the Kanu presidential candidate. He died in December 2014.
Jackson Harvester Angaine
Despite leaving politics in 1992, the self-styled King of Meru, Jackson Harvester Angaine, remained a Moi pointman in Mt Kenya.
Angaine died in 1999 after dominating Meru politics for more than four decades when he served as MP for Meru North West (North Imenti) as well as district Kanu chairman.
After Angaine lost the 1992 election, other leaders emerged in the region, but could not match the “king”. They included Kirugi M’Mukindia, Adams Karauri and Jackson Kalweo.
Angaine was among Mt Kenya politicians who spearheaded the constitutional change drive to bar Vice-President Moi from succeeding Jomo Kenyatta. He lost the 1979 poll to Nteere Mbogori before making a comeback in 1983.
As MP in the new regime, Angaine won back President Moi’s trust. He became Minister of State in the Office of the President in 1985.
Mr Kaburu Ndubai, who worked at the Central Bank of Kenya, says Angaine became very close to Moi.
“I saw how close they were during the annual presidential luncheons at CBK. Normally, no one would be allowed into the venue after the President had come in, but Moi ordered the gates opened for Angaine,” Mr Ndubai said.
If there is one Kanu politician who President Moi consulted widely during his 24-year rule, it is Wilson Leitich.
Mr Leitich, 84, who is best remembered for telling Kanu youth wingers to chop off the two fingers used as a salute by the multi-party crusaders in 1992, was Moi’s confidant.
“As far as Nakuru was concerned, Moi never made major political decisions without consulting me,” Mr Leitich said.
He added that even before President Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy William Ruto, merged their outfits — The National Alliance and United Republican Party — to form Jubilee at Afraha Stadium, Nakuru, Moi called to discuss the issue.
“I attended the TNA-URP merger. Soon after, Moi sent former MP Mark Too to call me. We went to his Kabarak home and I briefed him on the events at Afraha,” Mr Leitich said.
“President Moi was happy with Uhuru and Ruto and kept referring to the President as ‘arap Kenyatta’ during our discussions. He urged me to campaign for Uhuru’s re-election.”
Mr Leitich said Moi was a disciplinarian and would not entertain wrangles in Kanu.
“I’m disturbed by the confusion in Jubilee,” he said. It makes me miss Moi, as he [Moi] would not entertain that.”
“Reconciling the Jubilee factions of Tangatanga and Kieleweke will be the best send-off we can give President Moi,” Mr Leitich said.
Nahashon Waithaka Kanyi
Nahashon Waithaka Kanyi was first Tetu Member of Parliament and held powerful ministerial positions in the Moi government, including Internal Security.
Kanyi began his political career as Mt Kenya Hospital Ward councillor in the early 1970s.
He was the longest serving mayor of Nyeri Town, from 1974 to 1983.
In 1988, Kanyi was elected Tetu MP and went on to serve as Information and Broadcasting minister.
The constituency was created the same year Kanyi was elected.
Moi later moved Kanyi to the Interior Ministry where he was to serve until the fist multi-party elections in 1992.
He lost his seat to newcomer Joseph Gethenji.
Kanyi temporarily retired from politics.
He flew to the United States and returned in 1997 in an attempt to revive his fading political career.
Kanyi contested the Tetu constituency seat once again and, like before, lost. He faded from the Nyeri and national limelight.
His predicament became the first of an electoral “curse” that has seen no Tetu MP re-elected.
Kanyi was 81 years old when he died on July 19, 2017.
One of his wives contested the Tetu parliamentary seat in the last General Election, but lost.
Former minister and Runyenjes MP Kamwithi Munyi was a Kanu crusader.
His love for politics saw President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt — an Afro-Arab nationalist — allow him to open a Kanu office in Cairo.
Munyi was a political ally of President Moi, who made him an assistant minister and later Minister for Cooperative Development.
Munyi dominated politics in Embu for half a century.
He was the second Cabinet minister from the larger Embu District, the first being Jeremiah Nyagah, who retired from active politics in 1992.
Munyi had been in Parliament since independence, save for the 1983-1988 term when he was replaced as MP for Embu East, later renamed Siakago.
He collapsed and died while having breakfast at his nephew’s house in Karen, Nairobi, in February 2006.
Munyi was in the list of Cabinet Ministers who reportedly received huge sums of money and vehicles from Goldenberg scandal architect Kamlesh Pattni in 1992.
James Njiru, the Kirinyaga Kanu supremo of the “Kanu Moto” fame, will go down in history as one of the most controversial figures in the Moi government.
The former Minister for National Guidance and Political Affairs, considered a demi-god by many in his Kirinyaga backyard, once rode in Moi’s limousine to illustrate his “power” after a trip to Kinoru Stadium, Meru District.
This was after Moi boarded a military helicopter to Nairobi.
Njiru was later to be summarily dismissed after this “blunder”. Riding in the President’s limousine was unheard of.
Flamboyance and wayward political power proved to be Njiru’s undoing politically.
Njiru came into the limelight in 1969 when he became the second Ndia MP after beating incumbent Njagi Kibuga.
Upon being re-elected in 1988, Njiru became the Minister for National Guidance and Political Affairs, a docket created to tame Moi’s critics.
His assistant was Francis ole Kaparo, who later became National Assembly Speaker.
He died in June 2013.
By Kimani Ngunjiri
Additional Reporting by Francis Mureithi, Kennedy Kimanthi, Nicholas Komu, David Muchui