As we wish him a happy birthday, it is not lost on us that he entered politics accidentally, and was later immortalised as Kenya’s second president. A lover of education, the retired president wanted nothing but to be in the teaching profession when Moses Mudamba Mudavadi was Education Officer in Rift Valley. He assured him his salary would be intact if he represented his region at the Legislative Council to replace Vet John Ole Tameno (Jomo Kenyatta’s cow doc) who was spending too much time hitting the bottle. Moi agreed “to try briefly” in what would later turn into a 40-year-political odyssey.
Here are tidbits from biographer Andrew Morton’s ‘Moi: The Making of an African Statesman.’
1. Skins and unga for sale
Former president Daniel arap Moi’s early business ventures (with Reuben Chesire as partner) included selling animal skins, paraffin, posho mill, general store and transport. They owned the Rift Valley Transport Company.
2. First gear
He dispensed with formal driving school and instead his friend, Paul Chemirmir, taught him how to drive a Land Rover, whose number plate read: KFF 82.
Moi’s first house at Timboiwo, Sacho, still stands.
4. Daring the lions
His baptismal name, Daniel, was inspired by Daniel of the Old Testament, who was thrown in a den of lions by King Darius for defying a decree not to pray to any other god except him. It was was also inspired by the song ‘I dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone.’
5. Teachers’ power
He spearheaded and saw to it that Samuel Ayany, Stephen Kioni and Ignatius Mkok formed the giant Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) in 1957.
6. Well done, not spicy
He loves lean, almost overcooked lamb meat, wimbi ugali and other traditional foods, without spices.
7. Undisputed beberu
He represented Baringo Central Constituency without facing a single opponent for 30 years until Amos Kandie showed up during the 1997 General Election.
8. Powerful threesome
Former President Moi shared a single room in Pumwani with Ronald Ngala (later Minister of Cooperatives and Social Services in the Kenyatta government), Justus ole Tipis (later Minister of State and MP for Narok North), and Jean Marie Seroney (later Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and MP for Tinderet). ‘Pumu’ in the mid ‘50s was one of the few areas Africans were allowed to rent houses in Nairobi. But Seroney would annoy his roommates by cooking meat with a lot of chilly daily!
9. Haki yetu!
He was registered as student number 503 at the Government African School, Kapsabet in 1940. He played as a defender in the school team. He also led a strike in the school over bad meat when he was head prefect!
10. Cattle for Bible
He drove cattle for 10 kilometres in exchange for a Bible. Later in life, he would recite whole passages off-head while on long flights in the presidential jet.