Power play that saw Maina Wanjigi survive accusations of conning Kenyatta

– Maina Wanjigi served as director of settlement during Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s regime

– He once sold 50 cows to the country’s first president but was later accused by his boss, Jackson Angaine, then minister for lands, of conning the head of state in the deal

– Angaine claimed Maina was supposed to sell each cow at KSh 500 but doubled the price to fleece the president

– It later emerged the minister wanted a share of 40 cows but Maina refused, resulting in the conflict

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Retired politician and notable businessman Maina Wanjigi served as director of settlement during Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s regime.

Retired politician and businessman Maina Wanjigi. Photo: The Standard.
Source: UGC

However, around 1966, his boss Jackson Angaine, schemed to have him axed after a disagreement ensued over some dairy cows.

The late Angaine was the Minister for Lands and Settlement, a hot-tempered man who could easily start a fight if his wishes were opposed.

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Wanjigi, in a past interview, said the minister attempted to punch him after he refused to break some rules to allow Angaine get 40 government cows for free after Kenyatta bought himself 50 dairy cows.

Realising his tactics could not bore fruit, Angaine hatched a plan that would convince Kenyatta to sack Wanjigi.

The plot is captured in a strictly confidential document, now declassified, that TUKO.co.ke sourced from the Kenya National Archives.

The letter dated December 10, 1966, was written by Lands and Settlement Permanent Secretary Peter Shiyukah on orders from the late Angaine. It was addressed to the Head of Civil Service and Permanent Secretary in the Office of President Duncan Ndegwa and copied to then Attorney General Charles Njonjo.

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The details in the letter alleged that Wanjigi, the father of popular businessman Jimmy Wanjigi, belittled the president and purportedly overcharged him in the purchase of the 50 cows he ordered.

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Angaine claimed he had a meeting with the first president on November 25, 1966, and the president allegedly gave him a go-ahead to institute proceedings that would have Wanjigi sacked.

However, Wanjigi, in a 2017 interview with a local daily regarding the allegations, said he was not aware of such a ploy. He suspected no such meeting happened between Angaine and Kenyatta, saying his late boss was just looking for ways to frustrate him after he declined to let him have the 40 cows.

Angaine claimed the president complained that some months earlier Kenyatta instructed Wanjigi to buy him 50 cows each at a price of KSh 500 but the director billed the president KSh 1, 000 for each cow.

The former Kamukunji MP (1969 to 1988) was also accused of trying to block Kenyatta from buying a pyrethrum drier in North Kinangop.

“Maina engineered a Cooperative organisation which he favoured that it should be the body to purchase the drier as opposed to the president buying it…….the president eventually bought the drier, but he has further complained that Maina as a member of the pyrethrum board refused to allow mzee’s people to be allocated with a pyrethrum quota” the documents read.

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Another accusation was that Wanjigi sacked officers from Kiambu and replaced them with officers from his home district of Murang’a and Nyeri.

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How Minister Angaine plotted to have Kenyatta sack Maina Wanjigi over cows
Former minister Jackson Angaine. Photo: Kenya Archives.
Source: UGC

He was also accused of charging Kenyatta the work of fencing his (President) farm in Kinangop yet according to Angaine, the workers who were under the Ministry should not have been paid for that work.

“Mzee has complained that he has been charged fantastic sums of money for the labour used and yet they are regularly employed by us to do similar types of jobs in the scheme”.

The allegations from Angaine and Shiyukah appeared cooked as from the details in their letter it seemed they had difficulty in having Wanjigi sent home.

They admitted to the late Ndegwa that the accusations emanated from assignments given to the PS but were not what he was mandated to execute as PS.

“Since the accusations are not the normal civil service ones, I do not find any means of convincing the Public service Commission over the issues. It would therefore be in your power as the Head of Civil Service and at the same time Permanent Secretary, President’s Office, to cause Mzee’s decision to be implemented” They urged Ndegwa.

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While doing so, I would warn you that you should handle the matter quite cautiously so that while carrying out Mzee’s orders, we do not disturb the confidence the civil service has in the president. We should also not allow mzee to find him embarrassed by whatever method we employ in carrying out his orders. Please note that Maina is on permanent and pensionable terms,” he added.

Wanjigi said the founding father paid for the cows he picked and neither he nor Ndegwa confronted him over the allegations raised by Angaine through Shiyukah.

“I went to the State House to pick the cheque for the cows. Angaine witnessed it and I learnt he tried to use two other Ministers close to Kenyatta to have me sacked but it flopped” Wanjigi said.

Wanjigi rose to a Minister for Tourism and Public Works in the late Daniel Arap Moi’s government. He now lives a quiet life.

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Story by Jimmy Mwangi.

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