Kihika Kimani: The master political clown

By Patrick Wachira

Had his dreams materialised, he would have become a legend of sorts, bequeathing parliamentary seats to two of his wives and two sons.

But like acclaimed international author, Harold Robins, says "dreams die first" and politicians know this only too well.

At the time of his death in 2004, aged 74, he had ‘married’ eight women and between them, they had brought forth 41 children.
Dixon Kihika Kimani

Dixon Kihika Kimani, he of the change-the-constitution movement fame, died a pale shadow of his former self, having bestrode the political landscape and represented three constituencies in a chequered career that ended in something of an anti-climax.

During his times, he was one of the few politicians who could charm President Moi into uproarious laughter in a few seconds.

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Political circus

Who else could parade hordes of dreadlocked youth at Afraha Stadium in broad daylight and tell a sitting President that they were members of the dreaded Mungiki sect who had confessed their sins and were seeking pardon?

During a public rally at the Jomo Kenyatta High School in Nakuru, one of those he helped found, President Moi was one of the high profile guests when Kimani rose to speak and quipped: "Mimi nilimjua Moi zamani wakati alikuwa na kachevrolet ka blue, sio kama sasa ako na magari haya yote mengi (I knew Moi long ago when he was driving a small blue Chevrolet, unlike now when he has a huge motorcade!)".

The crowd roared with laughter.

Kimani, who shot into national limelight through his notoriety for hurling epithets at real and perceived enemies, served as MP for Nakuru North (1974-1979), Laikipia West (1992-1997) and Molo (1997-2002).

But his watershed moment was when he and a clique of central Kenya political hegemony hatched a scheme in 1976 to bar then Vice-President Moi from automatically succeeding President Jomo Kenyatta upon the latter’s death.

It was just like him not to have given the matter serious thought until he was reminded by one of his cronies, Njenga Karume, that the issue of succession was not a matter of debate but was laid down in the Constitution.

"Where would Kikuyu leaders be?" he posed when told Moi would ascend to power automatically, to which he was reminded that the law said so.

"Why don’t we do away with that ridiculous clause?" he asked.

He and his cronies were jolted to reality by powerful Attorney General, Charles Njonjo, who reminded them that it was treasonable to imagine "and encompass" the death of the President.

The group trooped to State House to ask Kenyatta about their fate.

His belligerence, especially at public rallies, was legendary and was frequently known to tell his enemies that those who would not toe his line would forever have chapatis on their pants, which meant their trousers would be patched heavily as a hallmark of abject poverty.

And he would brag at public venues that he owned huge tracts of land, courtesy of the 30,000-member Ngwataniro-Mutukanio Land Buying Company, which helped thousands of migrant settlers to occupy Rift Valley.

Kihika would tell a crowd, for instance, that he owned enough land to enable him marry a wife every six months if he wished to, since he had enough wealth to pay for them. "Hata sasa nikitaka naweza kuchukua wanawake tatu, nne, niende nao kwangu kwa sababu nina mali (Even now, I can take away three or four women and marry them off because I have wealth)," he would say.

It appeared this was a sort of pastime because he accumulated eight wives, all of whom he settled in his many farms scattered all over Nakuru and Laikipia districts.

On one occasion, journalists were called in for a news conference at his Engashura residence, which he was in the process of transforming into a university, when then Standard photographer, Raphael Munge, saw him take into his arms a baby boy, barely three years old.

Bemused that a man approaching 70 could be the father of a toddler, Munge asked Kimani: "Ona gaka no gaku mutongoria? (You have fathered this one, too, mheshimiwa?)

Kimani’s response was so acerbic it is still talked about in social places in Nakuru. He posed, after a dramatic pause: "Tondu niwe undeithitie gugaciara?" (Have I asked for help from you on that matter?).

Thus an encounter with Kimani was something to be remembered for a long time. It was as if he had a ready response for anything that came his way. His verbal gymnastics were legendary.

He used Ngwataniro to rise to the heights of local and national prominence and spent funds from shareholders to conduct his political campaigns, making a foray that he exploited with maximum leverage.

Once, he was selling off a Peugeot 504 car he had acquired from a lecturer at Egerton University. When a Nakuru trader, Mbugua, expressed interest, he laughed off the whole idea and told him in Kikuyu: "Ukwenda gakari gaka nduire thuragiria? (You want this car, in which I have been farting?)"

Three of his wives, Margaret Wambui, Alice Mukuhi and Charity Nyambura, were at hand to transfer his body to Lee Funeral Home when he died at the Kenyatta National Hospital of diabetes-related complications.

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kihika Kimani njenga karume president moi molo Charles Njonjo