|Mwalimu First Lady Margaret Kenyatta|
By Oscar Obonyo
Mama Ngina is the name of two women, special to Kenya’s fourth President, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta. One is Kenya’s first First Lady, who is the mother of the President, and the other, the current First Lady, who is also a mother to a daughter called Ngina.
No doubt, the two lucky women will have an enormous duty to shape the presidency of their son and husband. But the real challenge lies in the hands of the younger Mama Ngina, or Margaret Wanjiru Kenyatta, who has to design and shape her new status.
Since there is no clearly defined role of the First Lady, the President’s spouse is prompted to chart her own niche.
This has been the case since the first First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta, widow of founding President Jomo Kenyatta.
And even as she projects her own identity and creates space for her new status, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta’s activities will mainly be weighed against that of her immediate predecessor, Mama Lucy Kibaki.
Unlike Mama Lucy, who was more visible and outgoing, former teacher Margaret Kenyatta prefers a quiet life in the background of the famous Kenyattas. Incidentally the last two First Ladies have a teaching background.
The same is also true of Mrs Ida Odinga, wife of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who was a co-principal to retired President Mwai Kibaki in the Grand Coalition Government and Mrs Rachel Ruto, wife of Deputy President, William Ruto.
The teachers, it would appear, have over the time set up strict marking schemes and good standards for their partners – a factor that may have contributed to their political success. It is now the chance of Margaret, a Bachelor of Education graduate from Kenyatta University, to draw up her marking scheme for President Uhuru.
In accomplishing this task, incidentally she has a partner from the noble profession, in Mrs Rachel Ruto. Same as Margaret, Rachel graduated from Kenyatta University with a Bachelors degree in Education in the 1990s.
The two have an enormous task of pushing their partners to match or outdo what fellow professional colleagues, Lucy and Ida did by egging on Kibaki and Raila.
One of the pioneer students of the prestigious Alliance Girls High School, Lucy trained as a teacher and taught in several schools in Central and Nairobi before quitting.
Ida, on the other hand, studied at the University of Nairobi where she met her husband, Raila, who was a lecturer.
She taught at Kenya High School before she was hounded out of the job by the Kanu Government, owing to her husband’s liberation politics.
Alongside former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka’s wife, Pauline, the two served in the last Government as quasi First Ladies, enjoying certain perks and privileges.
Ida, however, declined to take the monetary package, while Pauline diverted the same to charity.
But like the then First Lady, Lucy, the official functions of the three ladies were not clearly defined. Lucy took up the crusade against HIV/Aids as a pet project. Similarly, Margaret will have to define her office and special duties. Described as a very private person, little is known about the First Lady, a daughter to former Kenya Railways Managing Director Maina Gakuo.
Uhuru married Margaret in December 1989 and they have three children, two sons and a daughter – Jomo, Ngina and Jaba.
Presently, she runs a chain of private businesses, but her new status as First Lady will thrust her in public life.
Her mother in-law and Kenya’s first, First Lady, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, was equally a quiet and humble individual.
The same is true of the second First Lady, the late Mama Lena Moi, wife to retired President Moi. Lena was hardly known to most Kenyans.
President Uhuru has been trying to expose Margaret to the public. During his last presidential campaign at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park in March, Uhuru pleaded with her to “say a word” to the audience. She shyly declined. And ahead of his swearing-in, the President designed a public role for his wife to hold the Bible for him. This, Uhuru explained, would enable the First Lady to constantly remind him of his pledge to Kenyans.