Kalonzo Musyoka’s father key to his political career
Some weeks to the April 1985 by-election that saw Kalonzo Musyoka elected to Parliament, his family was sharply divided over his candidacy.
Mr Musyoka desperately needed his parents’ blessings to run for the Kitui North parliamentary seat, but his mother Malia Musyoka (now late) would hear none of it.
His mother thought that their only son, aged 31 years at the time, who was still a bachelor and struggling to start life after university was deviating into a risky venture.
Malia’s reason for worrying was valid — the immediate former MP Philip Manandu, who happened to be her cousin, had been shot dead by a policeman and she feared a similar fate could befall his son.
The mother was also sceptical about the chances of her son winning the election because two years earlier, Mr Musyoka had been beaten hands down by Mr Manandu during the 1983 general elections, where he came a poor distant fourth.
“Philip has been killed in this thing you are calling politics. I don’t think I’ll allow you to go there and die,” she flatly told her son during an evening family meeting while dismissing his political ambitions.
According to Mr Musyoka’s memoirs, Against All Odds, it took his father Musyoka Mairu, who died at Nairobi Hospital on Sunday morning aged 94, an entire night to convince his wife Malia to allow her son to run for the vacant seat.
“We argued with her late into the night. The following morning she agreed to bless me saying, even if you die at it you have my blessings and support. I have withdrawn all the harsh words uttered against your decision,” Mr Musyoka writes.
The book aptly captures the big role Mr Musyoka’s father played in endorsing his son to contest that first election, which launched a colourful political career that saw him rise to become Kenya’s vice-president.
The old man hoped that his ambitious son — who had graduated from law school — had the potential to rise to become a national leader who could liberate his people from poverty and earn global fame.
The Wiper party leader narrates that before entering the 1985 race, he had to obtain his parents’ nod and though his father agreed, he still could not run without his mother’s consent.
“My mother had enough reasons to worry because Mr Manandu was considered a strong politician and a close family relative. She felt politics had become too risky after his death and that I should put off my ambition,” reads the book.
Mr Musyoka narrates that were it not for his father, who believed in his ambition, perhaps he might not have run in an election that ushered a career in politics spanning more than three decades — 28 years of them as MP.
“My father was always solidly behind my political career but my mom’s initial concerns were also very legitimate. He convinced her to bless me and allow me to run,” Mr Musyoka told the Nation last week.
In the subsequent years, Mzee Mairu was to remain steadfast in his support for his son as he rose in Kenya’s murky politics, witnessing him serve in various Cabinet positions, culminating in his being sworn in as the country’s 10th vice-president.
Mzee Mairu’s first grandchild, Kennedy Musyoka, who is named after him, is now serving as a nominated member of the East African Legislative Assembly.
In October 2007, the old man stood in the Kasarani gymnasium to deliver the family’s endorsement during the ODM delegates’ conference that nominated Mr Musyoka to run for president.
In his Tseikuru village, which Mzee Mairu set alight when he brought in the first lantern from Kilindini, as the port of Mombasa was known then, he established one of the first dukas (shops) in the area, using the profits he earned to educate his children.
He stood for honesty, integrity, respect and hard work, virtues he inculcated in his son Kalonzo, whose daily routine at the shop became a key learning point in his formative years.
“He learnt not only bookkeeping and other financial matters, but how to treat and work with clients. Father and son became so close,” recalls Caleb Atemi, Mr Musyoka’s biographer, that whenever they visited Nairobi together to buy goods to restock his duka, his MP son would refuse to sleep in his own bed and join his father.”
Meanwhile, leaders from across the political divide on Saturday condoled with the Wiper party leader following the death of his father.
Mr Musyoka confirmed that his father had been ailing for a while and died while receiving treatment at Nairobi Hospital.