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John King'ori: The mayor who coined the word 'Kanjo'

 John Mwangi King'ori was the eighth Mayor of Nairobi since independence. [PHOTO: FILE]

Mayor John Mwangi King'ori, whose last trumpet called on Friday, January 22, 2021 served Nairobi residents as mayor of Nairobi for two years between 1996 and 1998. King'ori was the eighth mayor of Nairobi since independence. His tenure was marked with rib-cracking humour, which served as a form of entertainment for residents. Backed with a very modest academic background, he struggled to remain relevant in an office whose functions sometimes required modernism and sophistication.

When caught up in an English speaking or oriented environment, King'ori, the man from Karatina, never shied away from communicating in the same language the public thought he couldn't. With a straight face, he could mumble and fumble around words and phrases. Watching him doing this on TV was thrilling to Nairobians. Indeed, the media too enjoyed his interviews.

Do not grow vegetation that are taller than vegetables

Some of his one liners and memorable phrases were delivered when rebuking Nairobi residents. At one point, King'ori told Nairobians to cut grass around their dwellings and not to plant maize within the city boundaries. He, however, allowed them to plant food crops but warned, "Do not grow vegetation that are taller than vegetables."

When asked whether he was scared by councillors who were opposed to him, he quipped, "How can I be scared by mere kanjoras.. I is the mayor". Infact, it is King'ori with his heavy Kikuyu accent who may be credited for coining the word "kanjo" to mean "council". The word stuck and became the slang word representing most often the county askari. After an attempt on his life by suspected hired goons, King'ori embarke on a martial arts training regime. He actually remarked, "I saw the bullet coming and dodged it like this" as he demonstrated how he did it . He enrolled for karate lessons and would proudly show his prowess regardless of skills level acquired. He went ahead to open a fully equipped gymnasium in his Accra Road hotel.

King'ori was witty and never shied away from giving media interviews or pressers at short notice. He used to open his statements with the phrase, "I is the mayor...you can visit me in the para (meaning parlour)..."

A typical rags to riches guy, King'ori started off as a councillor before becoming the mayor of Kenya's capital city. Kingo'ri who died at 75, took over from the flamboyant Stephen 'Magic' Mwangi. He leaves behind two sons and two daughters.

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