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Ex-minister faced rough and tumble of life after retiring

POLITICS
By Edwin Nyarangi | February 2nd 2021

Ford-People presidential candidate Simeon Nyachae during a rally at Voi Stadium in November 2002. [File, Standard]

When Simeon Nyachae retired from the civil service as chief secretary at age 55 on February 6, 1987, his intention was to focus on managing his vast business empire.

In his autobiography, Walking through the Corridors of Service, published in 2010, Nyachae said politics was the last thing on his mind. He had decided to rest for a while before fully taking over the running of his investments in the country and abroad.

Nyachae said he decided to travel overseas to relax after three decades in the civil service, but while in Japan, he learnt that some politicians had made derogatory statements about him.

“I learnt that some Gusii leaders had met at Kebirigo Town in Nyamira County where they made attacks on my personality in what I learnt was a wide sinister motive aimed at not only undermining me, but also my business investments in a scheme that also involved other senior politicians who did not like the way I worked as a civil servant,” he wrote.

Detailed brief

He came to discover that while he was chief secretary, his openly protecting civil servants from attacks instigated by politicians rubbed the latter group the wrong way. They saw his retirement as payback time, he said.

“My detractors alleged that I intended to use my wealth to dominate Gusii leadership and thereafter undermine the Kanu government. Fortunately their plans to undermine me before my community failed, after which it became necessary for the political system at the national level to undermine my business activities,” Nyachae wrote.

He said he came to learn that some senior government officials had come up with a detailed plan to undermine his businesses, and soon, he could no longer get import licenses for spare parts for his flour mills, or edible oil machinery.

Further, his Sansora Bakery in Kisii town was visited almost daily by public health officers who alleged unhygienic conditions.

Nyachae said farming operations at his Mau Narok Farm in Nakuru County were also affected. It was a requirement that all harvested wheat be delivered to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) or the Kenya Farmers Association (KFA). But the wheat he delivered to NCPB was declared to be of low quality, while that supplied to KFA was given a fair grading.

Additionally, the milk he supplied to the Kenya Cooperatives Creameries was regularly downgraded, yet non-parastatal companies that purchased, processed and marketed the same milk did not find any fault. He suspected all these machinations were an attempt to cripple him financially, he wrote.

“Before my retirement, I decided to gift myself a good car having worked hard both in government and in my business ventures. I decided to import a Mercedes Benz 500 for my personal use, with the car being seized by custom officials for no clear reasons, with this happening simultaneously as the rallies in Kisii to malign my name,” Nyachae reported.

The former minister explained that his son Charles Ayako, a lawyer, went to enquire about the seizure of his vehicle. A customs official bluntly told him there was no way someone would be allowed to have that car in the country unless they wanted to have powers similar to those of the president.

Ayako then filed a suit in court challenging the holding of his father’s vehicle without a valid reason and the Attorney General was served with summons, Nyachae chronicled.

The vehicle was released seven months after it was seized, and by the time Nyachae got it, it had been vandalised, forcing him to order spare parts from Germany.

These developments, he said, forced him to join politics with the express purpose or protecting his investments. He also wanted to fight injustices meted out against people who were not singing the tune of those wielding power.

Nyachae made his debut in politics in 1988, applying for a nomination ticket to vie for the Nyaribari Chache parliamentary seat.

“Although my name was in the printed list of applicants when the national committee for nominations met, my name had been deleted. I have never known who actually directed for the deletion of my name from that list. The deletion locked me out of the 1988 General Election, after which I decided to concentrate on my businesses,” said Nyachae.

In 1992, President Moi convinced him not to leave Kanu, even though he was being courted by the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (Ford) and the Democratic Party (DP).

Breakfast meeting

The former minister had a breakfast meeting with the president at his Kabarak home and was assured nobody would interfere with his businesses, the autobiography reports.

Later that year, Nyachae was elected as the Nyaribari Chache MP on a Kanu ticket, and Moi appointed him Minister for Agriculture. He was later transferred to the Ministry of Water in 1997. He was appointed Finance Minister after his re-election in the 1997 General Election and served until 1999 when he resigned.

In his book, the former minister said he left his government job as a matter of principle after he was moved to the Ministry of Industry, contrary to the narrative some politicians were spreading at the time that he quit because he had been moved to a less prestigious ministry.

“In the year 2002, I decided to contest for the presidency using the Ford-People party ticket because I believed in leadership that positively serves the people, with my focus being on how as a government we will be able to improve the lives of Kenyans since I believe that our country is our very first gift from God who created us in his own image and likeness,” wrote Nyachae.

During his 15 years as MP, Nyachae wrote, he had a committee that identified projects in his constituency that he would fund from his salary and personal resources. This, he said, was his way of appreciating his blessings, and led to the improvement of health centres and schools.

In 2005, Nyachae had hip replacement surgery and decided to retire from politics.

He said he communicated his decision to his party leaders and supporters, but they sent delegations to his Nyosia home in Kisii to urge him to reconsider his exit.

He vied in the 2007 polls, which he termed a reluctant move, and lost. Nyachae said he did not regret the outcome of the election, where he lost to Robert Monda, as he had wanted to retire from public life and manage his investments.

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