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Githeri man: Life has been tough

Martin Kamotho (with a plastic bag of githeri) queuing to cast his vote at Kayole polling station on August 8, 2017. [File, Standard]

Humility, resilience and unconventionality won Martin Kamotho fame in 2017.

An image of him queueing with a plastic pack of githeri firmly clutched in his left hand went viral on August 8, 2017, when Kenyans took to the ballot to elect their next set of leaders.

Kamotho, who was 43 at the time, won instant fame, earning him the moniker Githeri man.

He looks back to that day, when his democratic duty exercised at the Kayole polling station introduced him to the world of recognition, but at the same time flung him to depression, ridicule and regret.

Riding on his fame, many corporates promised him heaven. Some used his pictures on their advertisements, others offered getaways, some gave him cash and land, but none accorded him a lasting solution to his chronic economic woes nor a nostrum to his money management naivety.

Today, Kamotho, who is 48 years old, says nothing has changed in his life for the better. If anything, things have worsened – economically.

Githeri man shot to fame in August 2017. [File, Standard]

“There is nothing that has improved in my life since 2017. All the well-wishers and people who posed for pictures with me five years ago have disappeared,” he told The Standard during an interview at his Kayole home on Thursday, July 28.

His facial expressions were visibly in tandem with the frustrations that he was voicing.

Hopeless, regretful and hurt, Kamotho said things would have been better for him, if more concrete assistance – such as a money management skills and business administration skills –  would have been accorded to him.

A Head of State Commendation (HSC) holder, Kamotho is a stark contrast of his fellow recipients of the award in 2017.

He said in 2017 after receiving the HSC decoration, he was called to State House, Nairobi where President Uhuru Kenyatta gifted him Sh100,000.

Where that money is, or what it was used on, Kamotho doesn’t know.

However, multiple reports suggested that he battled alcoholism, a condition that saw him being admitted to a rehabilitation centre in Kiambu County in June 2018. He was discharged from the facility six months later, in December 2018.

Githeri man, however, relapsed, if reports by his neighbours are anything to go by.

Some corporates, seeking to gain visibility, offered Githeri man cash, clothes and trips after he became famous during the 2017 polls. [File, Standard]

The 48-year-old hopes to pick himself, survive the tough economic times wrought by inflation due to high food and fuel prices.

“Things are tough for many people. In my neighbourhood, if you ask someone to lend you Sh20, no one claims to have the money. I’m however optimistic that the situation will improve,” he said.

Kamotho hopes to help in changing Kenya’s economic trajectory by electing responsible leaders in the August 9, 2022 General Election.

“I still dream of a prosperous Kenya. I’ll, therefore, wake up very early in the morning, like I did five years ago, to vote for leaders who will steer the country efficiently. Today, everyone in Kenya is encountering tough economic times,” he said.

His biggest regret, he says, is “getting fame that faded as fast as it grew”.

“In my neighbourhood in Kayole, they nicknamed me ‘governor’ besides the more popular Githeri man tag,” said the father of three.

His advice to Kenyans as the elections fast approach is “vote wisely”.