The day ex-Kanu youth winger leader confronted Mwai Kibaki at a bar in Nyeri

Peter Githinji speaks at his home in Karisheni, Kieni constituency, Nyeri county. April 25, 2022. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

A former Kanu youth chairman Peter Njogu Githinji recounted the day he confronted the late President Mwai Kibaki over his indecision to quit Kanu at White Rhino Hotel in 1991.

Mr Njogu, 70, popularly known as 'Maisha' in Nyeri politics, was a staunch Kanu leader during the one-party rule before he became an ardent supporter of Mr Kibaki after he shifted his political base from Donholm in Nairobi to Othaya constituency in Nyeri.

The former President's allies were piling pressure on him to quit Kanu and oppose the then-President Daniel arap Moi in a different political outfit but he was reluctant and wanted to fight from within, a move that angered his political associates.

Mr Kibaki was the then-Nyeri District chairperson while Mr Njogu was the Kanu youth chairperson and he too wanted the former president to abandon the party.

“To our amazement, Kibaki told a gathering that one does not throw way his shirt when it is dirty, which meant he wanted to use internal means to oust Moi but we knew this would not be possible,” said the former Kanu youth chairman.

Mr Njogu said Mr Kibaki commanded respect and his friends were not able to face him to criticize his idea of trying to fight Moi from within Kanu and they bought him beer to face the former president and castigate him for being indecisive.

“I confronted him and accused him of being indecisive. Although his towering figure frightened me, I was drunk and kept scolding him to make up his mind whether to support Moi or lead us to defect from Kanu," he said.

Speaking to The Standard at his Kieni home, the former councillor in the defunct Nyeri Municipality said Mr Kibaki’s confidants who included Sylvester Wang’ombe Nderi, Isaiah Mathenge and Ndiritu Ndegathi kept ordering more beer for him to continue scolding the former president.

Mr Kibaki's allies had unsuccessfully persuaded him to defect from Kanu.

“But he kept calm, he never uttered a word all through even as I continued throwing a tantrum to the delight of those who had dispatched me. After two weeks, Mathenge informed me that Kibaki had retreated to Mombasa to establish his new political outfit, Democratic Party,” the former Kanu youth chairman said

Mr Njogu said he was so proud upon learning about the political move that informed his decision to defect from Kanu to Democratic Party.

“I was among the first Kanu diehards to return my full Kanu uniform which included a tie and a branded Kanu jacket, a crown medal and my full member certificate to the party while most of the leaders decamped but kept the regalia,” he said.

Mwai Kibaki. [File, Standard]

Mr Njogu would later be elected councillor in 1994 when a man who was elected on a Democratic Party ticket was won over by Kanu operatives so that he could seek election on the ruling party ticket.

This was a strategy by government to weaken the opposition and to clip Mr Kibaki’s wings in Central.

“Kibaki urged me to vie on Democratic Party ticket and this was another showdown between me and the Kanu operatives. He personally signed for my nomination papers without knowledge that the district party officials had signed another paper,” said Mr Njogu.

Former Othaya MP Mary Wambui who was known as Wambui wa Kanu back then but defected to DP got wind that Mr Njogu's opponents were plotting to kidnap him.

“She found me at Central Hotel which is now known as Central Swahili dishes and ordered me to board her car with my secretary before she drove off. We were followed by a heavy contingent of police but she evaded them and took me to her house in Ring road,” recounted Mr Njogu.

“I stayed at Wambui’s house until in the evening when I decided to leave without knowledge that detectives were waiting for me outside the house. I had to jump from the moving car and hid in the bush to avoid being arrested,” he said.

The plan, according to the former Kanu official was to prevent him from presenting his nomination papers to the police bosses for clearance but it took the intervention of a Catholic priest who talked to the OCPD to give him clearance.

He won with a landside and represented Mt Kenya hospital ward at the Municipal Hall where he became a harsh critic of the government.

“I later learnt that Kibaki had received intelligence that I was a wanted person and had directed Wambui to rescue me. I was very fond of him and we could drink together at White Rhino and in Nairobi,” said Njogu.

As a result of supporting the opposition, Mr Njogu lost his five-acre piece of land the government had awarded him at Ngaringiro plot.

He said Mr Kibaki hated gossip and corruption and was passionate about uplifting the lives of ordinary Kenyans.

“He always talked economy. He was not like the many politicians who think elevating a friend is digging own political grave. He was never jealous and lived what he talked and talked what he lived,” Mr Njogu said.