Friday, July 7 started just like another normal day at the office. I was in a meeting in a colleague's office in Harambee House 4th floor, Nairobi, discussing security preparedness for the August 8 General Election when, at around 9.30am Mary, secretary to the late Interior Cabinet Secretary, Joseph Nkaissery, buzzed and informed me that the CS wanted to see me right away.
I excused myself from the meeting and went to the 6th floor where the CS's office is located. The General, as we used to call him, was in an ebullient mood.
"Ero, habari yako?" (How are you) came his trademark greetings. After the greetings, we went into discussions and making plans for the following week.
This lasted for about 30 minutes. As I was walking out of the CS's office, I remembered I needed to remind him that I would be traveling out of the country on official engagement that evening to which he responded; "Hiyo ni sawa sawa kabisa. Kazi lazima ifanywe... (That's perfectly in order. Work has to be done)." He wished me a safe trip to the US and instructed me to work on the issues we had agreed upon and give him a full report upon my return in a fortnight. Such was Maj Gen (Rtd) Nkaissery; always humane and dedicated to work.
When I walked out of his office on that Friday morning, I had no idea that I was seeing my boss for the last time. Come evening, flight KL 0566 took off from JKIA. We landed at Schiphol Airport on Saturday morning and after a short layover, we boarded our flight to Detroit, USA.
It was at this point while in the trans-Atlantic plane that I switched my phone to quickly check on messages before the plane took off. The messages I got from colleagues in Nairobi were completely shocking. For a moment, I thought someone was playing a silly and insensitive April Fool's Day joke.
But then I realised we weren't in April but July 8. The news was unbelievable, implausible and numbing because throughout the period I had worked for Nkaissery, he was always full of vigour and positively infectious energy.
As the plane took off for the US, I found myself recalling the moments with the CS. As a retired General, Nkaissery was evidently a firm and resolute leader who had no patience for mediocrity or lateness. He also had a larger than life presence. When he entered a room during meetings, everyone would know 'the boss' had come. He had a majestic and ramrod walking style which announced to all and sundry his military background, which he was particularly proud of.
Away from the public glare, he was a fun-loving, often easy-going and caring boss. My mind flashed back to November 2014 when I went to inform him that my mom had passed away and after consolation, he asked me "How old was she?" I told him she was around 77 years and he responded "That was still young. Was she sick?" After I had explained that this was the first time she had been admitted to hospital, he responded, "You know some of these elderly people hate being admitted to hospital. Even I can't remember the last time I was in hospital..." After this, he asked me if we had a huge medical bill and might require his support.
My mind went back to the Great Rift Valley Lodge where we had a team-building event last year. I recalled the CS leading us in early morning military-style jogging and exercise every day for a week. During out-of-town or out-of-country engagements, Nkaissery would insist on having dinner or a drink with his staff where he would crack jokes regaling them with tales and adventures of his military life.
I am yet to come to terms that indeed Nkaissery is no more. You were a good man, a good boss and a patriot who loved his country and tried to do everything you could to ensure the country is "safe and secure before, during and after the elections", as you always liked to put it to us during briefings. Fare thee well boss. May the good Lord rest your Soul in Eternal Peace.
The writer is spokesman, Ministry of Interior and worked as communications adviser to Nkaisserry
ALSO READ: Jubilee Party candidate dies in car crash