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Men only: Why Moi was the ‘mightiest’ of men

Readers Lounge By Tony Mochama
Political power aside, let's talk about Moi's character, because it is character that Maketh the Man (Courtesy)

Former President Daniel Arap Moi finally went to be with the Lord at the grand old age of 95.

Whatever one thought of him, good or bad, one thing is a fact. Mzee Moi was a mighty man, and here I am not talking, at all, about political power.

‘Men Only’ is talking about character, because it is character that maketh the Man.

To start with, Daniel Moi as a young man was not afraid of change, which is what led him to become a man of power and destiny.

When opportunity knocked at thirty – after a chap called Tameno became too alcoholic to represent the Kalenjin community in the LEGCO – young Moi jumped at the chance, resigned his headmaster post in Tambach and traveled to Nairobi, and into history.

Known as a disciplined gentleman, he was the perfect antidote to Bwana Tameno’s manenos!

Secondly, Moi was not afraid to go against the grain, but in a pragmatic way.

Returning from a trip to London (where they had gone with Ronald Ngala as Legco representatives), Moi returned in the May of 1960 to find that one James Gichuru, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Tom Mboya had taken top posts in KANU, with a plethora of Kikuyus and Luos under them.

This was anathema to the more ‘marginalised’ smaller tribes like the Mijikenda and Kalenjin at the time.

On the Saturday of June 11, 1960, Moi held a rally at Chepkorio and explained to 6,000 Kalenjin why KANU was not the way to go, for the time being. Together with Ron Ngala and Masinde Muliro, they brought six other tribes together and formed KADU.

Thirdly, the late Daniel T Arap Moi was not a man to crack under pressure, however great it was.

Jaramogi’s ego and Marxist ideas/ideals had led him to falling out with Jomo Kenyatta, and cost him the Vice Presidency. Joseph Murumbi, a brilliant half Goan, half Maasai man, had taken over as VP, but lasted only the last half of 1966, finding politics too filthy a game, especially after his pal, the nationalist Goan Pio Gama Pinto was assassinated.

For over a decade, he rode out the machinations as the Vice President before becoming President (Courtesy)

Murumbi may have had the mental mettle, but Moi was made of far tougher metal. He was titanium.

For over a decade, he rode out the machinations and then became president.

Forgiving at first and ready to ‘re-habilitate’ foes of the former regime, Moi released political prisoners detained by his predecessor.

But four years after his ascension to ultimate power, there was an attempted coup by some junior upstart called Hezekiah Oyugi and his jumping jack Air-force colleagues, which the Army quickly crushed.

President Moi then took advantage, in the aftermath, to clean out the Augean stables and get rid of powerful ‘pretenders to the throne’ like his former ally Attorney General Charles Njonjo.

Let me be unequivocal here – I’m glad Mzee hung the five military usurpers, because if you study African History in the 1970s and ‘80s, you realise these ‘Seargent Doe’ types would have taken Kenya down the s*** hole of military dictatorships, juntas, counter-coups and Civil Wars. Moi kept Kenya stable, say what you may, and there was no way to make that omelette without breaking a few egg-heads.

But when the winds of change swept over Africa, and the world, President Moi did not hesitate to repeal Section 2(A) and return the nation to multi-party politics. Because he was shrewd, he won those elections, and the next one, and so ruled till 2002.

For me, as a former constitutional law student (under current Makueni governor, Kivutha Kibwana), I adore leaders who respect the Constitution, even more than those who thump the Good Book.

Unlike so many of the other Big Men across Africa, like Bwana Mugabe for example, Moi knew when to let go. He even showed up at a very hostile Uhuru Park in 2002 (I was there as a college reporter for Makali’s eXpression Today weekly) to formally hand over the sword of power to his successor.

My deepest sympathy goes out to Senator Moi, Madame Zahra, Leila, June Moi (a regular MO reader) and the rest of Le Familia. As for Kenya, we have lost a legendary figure, who shaped quarter a century of our national life.

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