Connect with us

News

“I don’t eat nyama choma, I eat a lot of veggies” ‘Duke of Kabeteshire’ Charles Njonjo turns 99

Published

on

BY OLIVIA MUNGWANA

Kenya’s Former Attorney General Charles Njonjo on Wednesday celebrated his 99th birthday.

Despite being just one year shy of the centenarian tag,, the Duke of Kabeteshire, as he is popularly known, still remains regal and enigmatic and also a celebrity.

In a previous interview, asked what keeps him young, Njonjo said he looks after himself.

I swim daily, I used to do 12 laps, now I do only seven. I also have a bicycle which I ride for 10 minutes daily, on top of the treadmill which I do for 10 minutes daily. I’m also careful about what I eat; I don’t eat nyama choma, I eat a lot of veggies,”  he told Business Daily in an interview

Njonjo, who featured prominently (and powerfully) in the post-independence politics of Kenya, was known for his “hawkish” brand of politics and is often touted as one of the wealthiest men in Kenya.

Below is an interview he did with Business Daily when he was 25 years.

To describe “Sir” Charles Njonjo as immaculate would be how the sky might attempt to describe the colour blue. It seems pointless and wasteful. But he seems to wear that adjective on his cuffs, doesn’t he?

At 95, he still remains regal and enigmatic— not to mention a celebrity; Kenya’s first Attorney-General for over 15 years, Member of Parliament for Kikuyu constituency, minister for Constitutional Affairs in the Moi government and, more recently, chairman of the East African Wildlife Society. Not to mention the prominent businessman tag.

Njonjo, who featured prominently (and powerfully) in the post-independence politics of Kenya, was known for his “hawkish” brand of politics and is often touted as one of the wealthiest men in Kenya.

In person, despite being five years shy of the centenarian tag, he refuses to be bowed by age (or man, for that matter). He remains resolute in his signature pinstripe suits and a blue checked shirt that he had on when I met him in his Westlands office. He was amusing, unapologetic, a straight-shooter, deliberate and astute.

What’s the story of that odd-looking bracelet on your wrist?

Oh this? This is an elephant bracelet. It’s a celebration and support of elephants. I wear it because I believe in the conservation of elephants. I believe we all have to save these animals for future generations.

What kind of a person were you in your prime; standing at the elbow of the bearded Jomo Kenyatta — the first Attorney-General of an independent republic, well-scrubbed in your pinstripe suit?

You know, I miss the discipline of that time. I miss the power I had, power that I could use for the common good. I miss the nation that we had then, a strong nation.

There is nothing that went on that we didn’t know about; we had the proverbial long arm of the law. We were always two steps ahead, we knew what conversation you had in your house the previous night.

What happened in Garissa recently would never have happened because we had total control of security.

READ ALSO:   The day Jeremiah Kiereini nearly killed Njee Muturi's father

What has changed over time for you, socially and politically?

What has really changed is this new Constitution that we have. It is good but at the moment, because we don’t understand it, it’s bad and it’s dangerous. It has brought a lot of misunderstanding, ambitions and greed for power.

All these governors and this paraphernalia that go with it; motorcade riders. It’s brought ugliness and pretence. The whole intention of our constitution was for government to be closer to the people. That hasn’t been the case.

Are you happy with the work of the Judiciary now?

No. (Pause) I think we have a lot of people there who are inexperienced. This is because of appointment of people who are not seasoned.

You were once a very powerful man. What did you learn about power and influence?

That you can use it and misuse it. I used it for good, I could have used it to destroy.

Did power change who you were?

No, it made me humble. Power can make you arrogant and ruthless.

How do you manage to maintain yourself like this at 95?

I look after myself. I swim daily, I used to do 12 laps, now I do only seven. I also have a bicycle which I ride for 10 minutes daily, on top of the treadmill which I do for 10 minutes daily. I’m also careful about what I eat; I don’t eat nyama choma, I eat a lot of veggies.

What is your greatest struggle in life now?

(Pause) I’m struggling about you and your Press. I get my paper at 6am and I read it until 7am and I just get depressed with what I read. Then I wonder why I bother reading this newspaper, to depress me? It’s a habit though.

Look, you have done well for yourself in life, but you still wear a suit every day and come here to work! When will you say this is enough, I won’t come to work anymore?

Maybe when I’m cremated. Otherwise I will wait until I cannot move a limb. As long as my feet can carry me, I will come here daily.

Do you think about death, do you fear dying?

No. Death is something you can face, why fear it? I don’t engage in that kind of thought and I don’t want anyone to raise money when I die… friends meeting at the cathedral… I don’t want any collection of money.

Just how much are you worth? Do you know?

I’m a poor man. I’m not worth anything.

I don’t drink much… if I’m to drink, it will be just a bottle of beer and maybe a cider, that’s it.

Ok, so you don’t drink. What’s your sin then?

My sin? (Thinks). I don’t sleep enough. I’m unable to do eight straight hours of sleep… that I regret because I’d love to have a deep sleep.

Because I’m thinking… and I’m worried… (Pause)… I’m thinking of things… you know, like what will you write about me after this? I debate with myself in bed.

What do you least like about Sir Charles Njonjo?

(Pause). I like myself… no, I really do.

READ ALSO:   Kibaki and Njonjo: Neighbours who don't get along

Have you been a good father?

Because I have looked after my kids well, I have seen them through their education; one is a barrister, the other is a scientist and one is a veterinary doctor. They have turned out well, I think. I have given them what my father gave me, an education.

What was your limitation as a father?

(Laughs) You know, sometimes these kids argue with me, saying dad, this is not right, this isn’t supposed to be like this… my son was arguing with me last night from the UK. He doesn’t agree with what I say and I can’t force him, because that’s his position.

But him arguing or not agreeing with you isn’t your limitation, is it? What is yours?

That I can’t flog him… (chuckles)… I mean I can’t beat him up.

You would prefer to beat him up?

(Chuckle) No, I prefer to talk to him but he wasn’t listening, but in the end, I won the argument! (Laughs).

Do you have an inheritance plan in place, or will we be treated to a public circus of kids fighting for their father’s wealth when he’s long gone, like we have witnessed in the Kirima and Karume cases?

Yes, yes… we have sat together and they know what they will get and inherit. There is a will they can’t challenge and I advise our people to write wills because what we witness with the people you have mentioned is sad. If they were to come back to life today, I don’t know what they would say!

Why did you marry so late?

Because I couldn’t find a girl I could live with.

You? All those girls you must have met in Kenya and abroad? Not one single one you could live with?

All those girls [and] I couldn’t find one I could live with. It took me a long time but eventually, I found one and I married her at All Saints Cathedral… she was in the choir.

Were you looking for a choir girl?

No, she just happened to be in the choir. (Laughs).

Is Kenya worse now than it was in the 1960s?

Yes, even your shilling is worse off.

Your suits are an urban folklore. Is it true that you once had a suit that had your initials —CN — inscribed in the stripes?

Yes, I used to have that suit; bought it in London, tailored in London

That’s what I like — not a plain one like yours. (Grins)

I don’t even wear blazers, I did all this for you. Don’t you think I have tried?

Yes, you have tried but next time you come here without a tie, I will show you the door.

How many of those suits do you own?

What has been your greatest loss in life?

My greatest loss was the death of President Jomo Kenyatta. There was a man I followed and trusted and that’s the man who used to lead the country with a rungu(club) but at least we were united.

I could go to North Eastern and come back. You try and do that today, you’ll be back a corpse.

READ ALSO:   The day Jeremiah Kiereini nearly killed Njee Muturi's father

Who is your closest and most trusted friend?

Today? (Pause) I trust myself. It’s difficult to say, apart from my own family, the only man I trust is Richard Leakey. I hope he saves our wildlife with his new appointment (as chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Services). (Pause) Who is the editor of your paper?

That’s a lady… no, this is not the man who I’m thinking of who writes for you people, a nasty fellow who wrote an untrue story about my involvement in the CMC scandal.

You see, CMC Motors was a company started by Europeans to sell vehicles and the way they were doing it in those early years was that European employees used to get paid part of their salaries here and part in England to supplement their salaries and to maintain their way of life, but also to keep them interested in working here.

Some directors were being paid from overseas but your people picked that and said that was wrong. But it wasn’t only CMC that was doing it during that time. Many companies in East Africa were also doing it to maintain their European staff.

You must be referring to the audit report by Webber-Wentzel…

The audit by the South African company? (Dismissive wave). No, nothing to do with that. That money was kept in England and was done by the book. I didn’t take trouble replying to that news report, I treated it with contempt.

What is the most common question people ask you when they meet you?

They don’t ask me anything, they are usually intimidated. But you are a brave young man, asking me all these questions, I commend you for that. Thanks.

I’m not, I’m a factual man. I don’t imagine romance. I’m not going to engage in fantasies and things like that, nothing.

When you once went to Ronalo Foods in town for lunch with Raila, a cross-section of your tribesmen felt, at that time, that you were jumping in bed with the enemy, they felt betrayed…

(Long stare) Don’t Kikuyus eat ugali?… (Pause) Don’t they? Why can’t I eat ugali with Raila without it being turned into a cinema?

What are you reading now?

How do you fill your time?

I visit my coffee farm in Kiambu every evening. I also have a goat farm for milk. That occupies my time.

Where the devil lives, you don’t want to be on Facebook.

It’s a social media platform where people connect with friends and share things.

Is it a gathering of people at night? I don’t know these modern things. I don’t even know how to use a phone like this one you are using to record me… my phone only keeps numbers.

How much do you have on you right now?

What do you mean? As we speak?

Yes, in your wallet. I want to know how much a man like you walks around with in cash.

Let me check… [fishes out a wad of cash —guesstimate Sh10,000 — held together with a silver money clip].

(Laughs) Okay, this interview is over. You have enough.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

News

Bid to replace Chiloba hits a snag, yet again

Published

on

The recruitment of new a CEO for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has hit a snag yet again after the human resource firm picked by the commission to help in the exercise rejected the offer.

The ongoing process is the second attempt at hiring the commission secretary after the first failed when IEBC took too long to act upon the applications.

The process was stopped by the Employment and Labour Relations Court on May 20 after the IEBC was found to have flouted the law in the requirements for applicants.

Alpex Consulting Africa Limited (ACAL) surprised the commission when it communicated its rejection of the award last Friday, the day it was supposed to sign the contract.

The firm cited, among other reasons, the fact that it was not involved in the advertisement for the position, that the applications were handled by the management, which is conflicted, given that acting CEO Marjan Hussein is also eyeing the position. It even suggested that IEBC’s image problems arising from past elections were ‘a turn-off’.

The rejection is one of the many setbacks the search of new commission has suffered. Of the 11 firms the IEBC had pre-qualified, only four submitted their bids. The other seven, including PwC Kenya and Deloitte, did not respond.

READ ALSO:   The day Jeremiah Kiereini nearly killed Njee Muturi's father

Daily Nation

Continue Reading

News

My wife is disrespectful, controlling and won’t go to church

Published

on

My wife and I are about the same age. We’ve been married for two years, within which she has become very disrespectful of me, and does not care how I feel about it. I’ve resisted her desire to control me, a factor that has led to many unresolved issues in our relationship. She thinks only about herself. I feel somehow trapped in this marriage because of my Christian faith and my son. We can’t agree on anything, so we basically quarrel about everything. She has stopped going to church and spends her time watching TV at home. She has shut herself from people at church who would have helped us. There is really nothing left to fight for in this relationship.

Hi there,

A loving relationship is founded on mutual support. Such support encompasses values like honouring and respecting each other and each other’s views. It is also founded on healthy communication. It’s clear from your email that your marriage lacks the support it needs to thrive.

I, however, don’t think that all is lost. Even though your wife may have hurt you, it’s essential that you open a door of communication so that you can talk about the issues hurting your marriage. When you get this chance, don’t just talk about the hurt and disappointment, also talk about the successes and happy moments you have had to remind yourselves of the possibilities.

READ ALSO:   Kibaki and Njonjo: Neighbours who don't get along

You may need to probe your relationship from several angles: First, did your wife show these signs albeit in a small way before you married or early in the marriage? I’m of the conviction that she could have shown some signs of a controlling nature and it could be that you either did not notice these signs, or you ignored them.

Second, could something have happened early in the marriage that triggered her shut-down? For her to cut off everyone in church, particularly those who could help is worrying. Your assurance and acceptance of her, rather than taking a hardline approach could help her open up.

The two of you also need to revisit how you met, how you view each other, and how the evolution of issues affecting your marriage came about. For example, how you view each other will affect how you receive teach other’s input into what is affecting your relationship.

In turn, how a couple views each other reveals whether they are willing to validate and affirm each other. The gap that exists between you and your wife now is testimony of a sour relationship and lack of mutual support. A decision to see your wife with the same eyes God sees you with could help tone down the animosity you feel toward her.

READ ALSO:   The day Jeremiah Kiereini nearly killed Njee Muturi's father

Source:Nation.co.ke

Continue Reading

News

Blogger Robert Alai arrested

Published

on

Police have arrested the controversial Nairobi-based blogger Robert Alai for allegedly sharing pictures of policemen who were killed in Sunday’s terror attack in Wajir. Alai has been reportedly driven to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations Headquarters for questioning.

On Monday, Police Spokesman Charles Owino warned internet users against circulating the images terming the act unpatriotic and supportive of the actions of Al-Shaabab.

A statement from the police read in part: “The unfeeling act of posting pictures of our fallen heroes is online by one blogger is very unfortunate and inhuman. This is glorification of terror which is tantamount to supporting the same. It is also a cold-hearted display of insensitivity to families of the deceased, the NPS fraternity and the entire nation of Kenya.”

This was then followed by a warning by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission which called on Alai to pull down the graphic pictures of the dead police officers.“Whereas Mr Alai has the freedom of expression, such publications can be interpreted as propaganda for war which is not protected under the Constitution of Kenya,” The NCIC noted.

However, Alai  yesterday accused the government of neglecting the police. He vowed not be silenced by the criticism.He tweeted: “I will continue to speak out for the poor police officers who are neglected and their allowances taken by “wakubwa.” We must give our men and women who die wearing uniform, respect, dignity and honor they deserve. We shouldn’t treat our cops like dogs. I am angry!!”He also slammed the NCIC for not fighting for the plight of the police officers.“Ever seen NCIC condemn ethnic appointments in govt? Even seen them address the real issues preventing cohesion like the now fights in Marsabit? They are after silencing people addressing real issues. Police officers have asked me to help highlight their issues,” he added.

READ ALSO:   Kibaki and Njonjo: Neighbours who don't get along

Alai burst into fame after he published graphic pictures of people making love in Kakamega’s Muliro Gardens. Over the years, Alai and has stepped on many toes through his fearless exposure of social evils.At one stage, his uncompromising tenacity compelled State House to rope into its communications whereupon he became a familiar figure during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s open forums at the big house on the hill, awarding him Head of State Commendation for raising pertinent social issues.

Source:Standard.co.ke

Continue Reading

Trending

error: Content is protected !!