Later he would advise Saitoti not to dream he would take over from Moi claiming he was simply the ‘heir presumptive’ and Biwott ‘heir apparent’.
Together with then NTV’s reporter Patrick Rukwaro, we broke the story of Saitoti’s fall in Kanu when Daniel ole Muyaa started lighting fires under his seat. Saitoti would later tell us outside Parliament: ‘Read my lips!” But nothing came from it until March 2002 when he lost his temper in Kasarani as Jogoo swallowed Raila Odinga’s Tinga (tractor).
From the movement of his lips and gesturing as he faced Moi, it was clear he was sending a clear message. I still think I read his lips right that day after failing many times.
I recall stories I did on Saitoti, including when Moi declared he would name a new VP after 14-month hiatus, with the rider; “halafu tuone kama ugali itaongezeka kwa sufuria zenu!” (so we can see if the ugali will overflow from your cooking pots!)
I also remember 1999 population census opening at Saitoti’s home when over tea, he introduced us to Mama Margaret and their son. We were surprised because the rumour mill had it he had no child. Most times they are just human like us, with their fair share of cares and worries. So you can imagine how life has been to Saitoti’s family, seeing him leave every day, not knowing if he would return – until last Sunday!
When I learnt details of Saitoti’s 1990 poisoning from one of his guards, I began understanding why he talked to you with the eye darting left and right. My pen may not have been kind to Saitoti as it may have been to others, but life put us on a collision path, where the things I wanted to write were exactly what he wanted kept under lock and key.
This is the Saitoti I mourn, together with Sirikal Ojode, who was fun in those years to bump into at that pub in Mima Centre, off Outering Road. I would later meet him occasionally at The Woods in Hurlingham where he would assure me of my security, his way of saying you do not have to leave in a hurry, because the Internal Security ministry was working well. And who headed it? Saitoti and himself.
Rest in Peace Prof and Sirikal.
The writer is Managing Editor, Daily Editions, at The Standard.