Last week we remarked upon the fall and fall of provincial administrators and recalled a time when DCs and PCs were demigods.
It is an issue we revisit today due to public demand.
Take the case of Joseph Kaguthi, the deceptively soft-spoken retired provincial commissioner. As many will recall, he was a man with steel in his back.
When he reported for duty in Nairobi and softly gave notice to bar owners whose premises were on road reserves and pavements to ship out, everyone yawned and went back to sleep. But they were rudely awoken when, on expiry of the notice, the man turned up with an earthmover and flattened their structures — beer bottles and all.
So powerful was Kaguthi that Simeon Nyachae, a Cabinet minister and himself a former powerful PC, caused a stir when he publicly asked President Moi to transfer him from Nyanza Province.
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Those days, a PC was not someone you joked around with.
But that is exactly what a car owner did when Defence minister Ali Yusuf Haji, then Rift Valley PC, flagged him down. The good administrator’s car had broken down and he needed a lift to an urgent meeting. But the car owner was having none of it. So far as he was concerned, he had his own urgent errands and they did not include ferrying provincial commissioners around.
His belligerence landed him in the cooler. He would probably have served a jail sentence if the Attorney General hadn’t, this once for a good cause, pulled out a nolle prosequi from a desk in his chambers.
But if that short-sighted driver got off lightly, Joseph Mwaura, a respected primary school headmaster didn’t. He probably should have known better than to swagger into a public meeting presided over by the DC sporting a bushy goatee.
Fred Mwango, the then District Commissioner for Kiambu, wasn’t amused. He quickly ordered his bodyguards to get a razor and ‘dry shave’ the cane-wielding headmaster right there, as his pupils watched.
But for all their vaunted power, these were mere toddlers compared to the men who lorded it over the provincial administration during the Jomo Kenyatta era. In Coast Province, for instance, Eliud Mahihu conducted himself like a regional governor. It is said that he once got so incensed by some acerbic comments about him from the ‘people’s watchman’, Martin Shikuku that he came looking for him at Parliament Buildings with a cocked pistol.
And, legend goes, Isaiah Mathenge, as Rift Valley boss, would regularly erect roadblocks and have Daniel arap Moi, then a whole Vice President, stopped and questioned by lowly policemen.
He retained this arrogance into his retirement to the extent that when Moi, then President, lashed at him during a public rally in Nyeri, he remained seated and stared arrogantly into the distance.
His ‘disrespect’ caused a major raucous within Kanu ranks. The practice then was that when the Head of State mentioned your name, you jerked up to your feet and remained standing like a schoolboy.
And lest you forget, members of the provincial administration were the returning officers during national elections, meaning they were the real king makers. Sadly, that power is gone — with the wind.