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Home | Local News | Fifty dairy cows almost got Former Cabinet Minister Maina Wanjigi fired

Fifty dairy cows almost got Former Cabinet Minister Maina Wanjigi fired

Former Cabinet minister Maina Wanjigi. Photo: James Mwangi
It has been over 50 years since former minister Maina Wanjigi implemented a successful squatters’ settlement programme. The Nairobian can reveal that Wanjigi’s bosses had allegedly hatched a plot to fire him after he declined to break the rules.

A millionaire-acre scheme spearheaded by Wanjigi in the 1960s then as Director of Settlement became home to over a million landless Kenyans, but Lands and Settlement minister Jackson Angaine was angry when Wanjigi refused to let him take 40 cows worth about Sh36,000 owned by the state for free.

So annoyed was Angaine that he not only attempted to beat up Wanjigi, but also asked President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta to reprimand him.

“He was hot-tempered and thought he would scare me to break the rules and allow him take the cows for free. He even attempted to engage me in a physical fight in his office but I walked away before he punched me. He wanted a slight provocation to beat me up,” says Wanjigi.

The former Kamukunji MP and Cabinet minister spoke about his icy relationship with late Angaine after The Nairobian shared with him a declassified document lying in the Kenya National Archives insinuating that he (Wanjigi) attempted to “belittle and overcharge” Kenyatta.

The document dated December 10, 1966 from a Lands and Settlement officer, Peter Shiyukah, and addressed to the permanent secretary in the office of the president, Duncan Ndegwa and copied to Attorney General Charles Njonjo, reveals a conversation between Angaine, his assistant minister Jesse Gachago and Shiyukah discussing how to kick out Wanjigi as Kenyatta had allegedly “instructed.”

Wanjigi got wind of the document on April 20, 2017 when this writer sent him a copy. He was shocked:

“For 51 years, I didn’t know such a document or ploy existed. But I suspected that Angaine and officers close to him disliked me. He told me he would have me sacked, but the realisation that Shiyukah who was a close friend was part of this conspiracy is shocking.”

The document alleges that there were instructions from Kenyatta to have Wanjigi fired for billing him (Kenyatta) Sh50,000 for 50 cows, yet the president had demanded to have them at half the amount.

“ The president instructed Wanjigi to find him 50 dairy cows which he was willing to purchase at a price fixed at this meeting (November 25, 1966) of Sh500 each. It later turned out that he billed mzee for the cows at Sh1,000 each without prior consultation with the president,” reads the document in part.

Another accusation was that he attempted to block Kenyatta from buying a pyrethrum drier in North Kinangop by engineering a cooperative organisation with area farmers to buy it instead.

The letter goes on: “Mzee gave an order to him that his farm in the Kinangop area be fenced and that the employed labour within the scheme be used for these services. Mzee 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 jobs in the scheme.

He was also accused of allegedly sacking officers from Kiambu and replacing them with people from Murang’a and Nyeri. Shiyukah urged Ndegwa to execute the purported sacking without “making embarrassing Mzee by whatever method employed in carrying out his orders”.

Wanjigi however says it was a mere fabrication that could not have been entertained in State House or by Ndegwa. “It seems it was fabricated to hide facts about divisions between Angaine and me, but why Shiyukah kept it a secret until his death baffles me. We remained close friends but with Angaine it was a cold friendship, even when I became a Cabinet minister,” says Wanjigi.

Angaine was a close friend of Kenyatta, but the president ignored his pleas to have the dairy cattle for free after he told him he too paid Sh18,000 for 20 cows. This infuriated Angaine who vowed not to take it easily.

“I was called to State House to collect the Sh18,000 cheque. This angered him and he vowed to push me out of the Lands and Settlement ministry. He tried to convince Gichuru and Mackenzie to push me out but they declined, saying that I acted within the set rules,” he recalls.

Wanjigi was appointed director of settlement in 1964 with a responsibility to settle a million people, a majority of them being squatters, and also ensure increased agricultural production in the newly-settled areas.

The programme was supervised by Settlement Management Trustees headed by Finance minister James Gichuru, Agriculture Minister Bruce Mackenzie and Angaine. Wanjigi was answerable to the three, but says Angaine wanted him to disregard procedures to benefit his selfish interests.

The programme allocated five acres and two cows to each squatter, but some, like the late Cabinet minister Robert Ouko, Angaine, Mau Mau freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi’s wife and many institutions, were apportioned 100 acres, a farmhouse left by colonial settlers and 20 cows.

Angaine was apportioned 100 acres in Timau, Meru, but opted to replace the 20 cows with hundreds of poultry against professional advice. “He thought it was a quick money maker, but lost all the birds to Newcastle disease. It was sad but his attempt to take the cows forcibly could not be entertained” he says.

Angaine drove to where the cows were kept in Nyandarua and ordered junior officers to move 40 of them to his Timau home. But when Wanjigi got wind of it, he instructed them to ignore him.

“He scolded me, wondering how a junior officer could challenge his authority. He went to Kenyatta when I told him to get a loan to buy the cows. He instructed Shiyukah to write fabricated accusations to State House, but he (Shiyukah) declined when they learnt Kenyatta was not willing to meddle in my work” he says.

He adds that, “Angaine realised he was not winning when we distributed all the animals. I think that is when they thought of concocting lies in that 1966 document, but before they executed it, I was moved to the ministry of Agriculture as deputy director in 1967.”

Unknown to Angaine, Wanjigi and Kenyatta were close friends way before independence when (Wanjigi) was moved from being provincial assistant director of agriculture in Nyeri to start the settlement programme after Mau Mau fighters threatened to disrupt independence day celebrations if they were not allocated land.

“Kenyatta toured Nyandarua every Friday to inspect the settlement process. We remained close till his death” he says.

Wanjigi served as Kamukunji MP from 1969 to 1988, and as minister for Tourism and Public Works, a period he came face to face with Angaine only during Cabinet meetings. Wanjigi is now the chairman of Kwacha Group of Companies Limited.

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