Tinges of humour, generosity that defined Moi’s life

Friday, February 7th, 2020 21:54 |
TOP: Former President Moi with Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka (right) in 1999 during the Kisumu ASK show. Above: Amani National Congress party leader Musalia Mudavadi. Photo/PD/FILE

Mukalo Kwayera @kwayeram

Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavai remembers the late President Daniel arap Moi cracking a joke at the start of what had been expected to be a tension-packed parley of Kanu regional leaders at State House Nairobi in the late 1990s.

The meeting had been convened to evaluate Kanu’s chances in the impending 1997 General Election. 

Those invited to the meeting included Cabinet ministers and senior oficials of the then ruling party Kanu, among them Mudavadi and Local Governmenet Minister and Masai political supremo, William ole Ntimama.

Everyone else arrived in time for the meeting save for Ntimama who came in more than an hour late, to the chagrin of Moi, who apart from being the President was an unmistakable stickler for punctuality and acclaimed disciplinarian.

Everyone expected Moi to openly express his fury with Ntimama’s poor time-keeping. However, he surprised one and all when he opted to handle the matter through a humourous but pricking bite.

Recalls Mudavadi: “We were all silent when Ntimama arrived. Knowing how Moi was uncompromising on matters to do with punctuality, we were expecting fireworks. Moi did not say a word even as he stretched his hand to greet Ntimama’s. He waited until Ntimama had sat down and wiped out his sweat.

After about a minute, Moi characteristically cleared his throat and then posed: ‘Bwana Ntimama, wewe umechelewa ukifanya nini? Ninaweza kuelewa kama vijana hawa hapa kama Musalia watakuja kwa mkutano wa maana kama huu wakichelewa kwa vile hao ndio bado wako na kibarua huko nyumbani. Mimi na wewe tulimaliza hiyo maneno ya kutafuta watoto kitambo sana. Kwa nini tuchelelewa kwa mkutano hata vijana wenye bado na kazi nyingi ya kutimiza kule nyumbani wafike kwa mkutano mbele yetu? (Mr Ntimama, why are you late?

It would be excusable if those in the younger generation like Musalia were to come to a meeting late because they still have a lot of work to do at home.

Me and you long left the brackets of reproduction, why should we come to a meeting later than these youngsters who still have siring responsibilities at home)”?

 His tinge of satire threw all present into feats of prolonged laughter. He did not wait for an answer from Ntimama. Instead, noting that anxiety had been swept off the faces of his visitors, Moi asked for an opening prayer and kicked off the meeting.

Besides cracking jokes, Moi also surrounded himself with a coterie of humourous politicians such Mark Too, Kihija Kimani, Mulu Mutisya and Ezekiel Baringetuny. 

Pay bills

That is one of the softer sides of the second President of Kenya who passed away last Tuesday morning. Generosity too was part of his defining characteristics.

 Pilots at the Kenya Air Force (KAF) - both serving and former - remember Moi with a lot of nostalgia.  In a conversation with People Daily, the airmen disclosed that KAF pilots often scrambled to ferry Moi whenever he toured various parts of the country .

An officer at the rank of General divulged that the “former President always took care of our pockets” whenever they moved with him.

 “He was too generous. If we travelled in the morning, whenever he alighted from the chopper, his first question was to know whether we had breakfast. He would give a directive that we be given decent meals while he goes ahead with public rallies.

On our return back from the trip, he would leave us with some lump sum cash or invite us to State House where we would have dinner with him and still give us some cash which he would say was for ‘maziwa na sukari ya mama na watoto’,” he said.

 Another General revealed that at times, the fallen President would call the pilots to State House and engage them in lengthy conversations from which he would seek to know each of the aviator’s personal details such as welfare of their families.

 “There are so many of us that Moi assisted to pay sschool fees, hospital bills, sponsored construction of permanent residential houses or funded the establishment of businesses... I

ndeed he was, in many ways, a father to all of us apart from being our Commander-in-Chief,” said the officer.

Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka has not a dissimilar experience. He first saw Moi at close range in the mid 1980s when he was an ‘O’ Level student at Kibabii High School in Bungoma county and later on at the National Youth Service when the then president went to preside over the passing out parade of pre-university students at Gilgil.

 However, it was when Lusaka joined the provincial administration that he started to meet Moi on a regular basis. 

Perform duties

“At one time, I was a District Officer in Kisii where I was the one tasked to hold the basket in which Harambee donations were being placed.

When Moi, who was the chief guest came to hand in his donation, he wondered whether I had not got tired after holding the basket in a standing position for more than one hour. I told him I was not.

He then asked me for my name. He told me to perform my duties with diligence...,” says the Speaker.

Reflects Lusaka: “When I came to know him at close level he still remembered my name. He was too generous. He would summon us to his home and enquire on all matters on the ground.

When the meeting was over, Moi ensured that you we were well fed and we did not leave his home empty-handed.”

Former Football Kenya Federation president Sam Nyamweya has fond memories of the late President. Nyamweya who—together with Deputy President William Ruto and former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo—were the faces of Youth for Kanu (YK‘92) that massively, albeit controversially, mobilised support for Moi’s re-election says Moi was an overly generous individual.

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