Dr Patrick Njoroge did not come out top in his first interview for the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) governor’s position in 2015.
He was beaten to the position by Dr Haron Sirma, a CBK insider at the time, by a solitary mark.
After an interviewing panel of eight from Public Service Commission (PSC) finished tallying their marks, Njoroge had a score of 77 marks, slightly behind Dr Sirma who garnered 78.25 marks.
A lot of counting is needed at the CBK, so every mark should have counted. But President Uhuru Kenyatta opted for an outsider and picked him to run the most important institution in the financial sector. The government would later put Dr Sirma in charge of the Debt Management Office at the National Treasury.
Despite a false start, Dr Njoroge, 57, has not disappointed. Four years later, he comfortably secured a second term and, in his own words, without waiting on the line for a call from State House.
He first got his favour with the public when it emerged that he had rejected the trappings that come with the job, among them a lavish home and top-of-the-range cars.
Besides taking a pay cut from his Sh3 million a month salary that he earned at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in line with his faith, he held no financial assets other than what was in his bank account.
The Yale University economist would quickly earn himself the moniker: “The Monk” (or “Pope” to others), perhaps from his high moral standing as a numerary in the Catholic organisation, the Opus Dei, and the discipline he would infuse in banking and forex trade.
Like a priest, an Opus Dei numerary is expected to remain celibate, but unlike an ordained priest, he lives ‘in the world’ and pursues secular occupations, an online Encyclopaedia Britannica says.
But it was only after he started cleaning up the banking system and punishing the law-breakers that he convinced the financial sector that he was the right man for the job.
Imperial Bank was the first to incur his wrath when, in a bid to deal with the theft that had gone on for years, he put it under receivership. This earned him enemies and friends in equal measure.
He would be faced by another challenge in Chase Bank, which was also facing imminent collapse. He had to move swiftly to avert a banking crisis by speedily finding a white knight for the lender to rescue it. One of Dr Njoroge’s achievements is helping a government that is on a borrowing spree to keep inflation in check through monetary policy.
But he has been criticised for having too much faith in the ability of banks to self-regulate after he supported their calls to have the law-capping interest rates scrapped. His biggest achievement has, however, been steadying the ship on the Kenyan currency by ending its volatility, which was a major undoing for the previous governor.
Having the shilling trade at a stable average of Sh100 against the dollar for over a year has spared the government the headache of spending extra billions in debt repayments. Dr Njoroge did this by whipping the financial sector and stop wanton speculation on the shilling that has seen banks profiteer from currency flip-flops.
He also stopped financial analysts from giving comments to the press that would cause panic-buying or fuel volatility of the shilling.
Before his appointment to the CBK, Dr Njoroge worked at the IMF office in Washington DC as an economist, where he rose through the ranks to become an adviser.
In the mid-1980s, he worked briefly at Kenya’s Planning ministry. He also served as an economist for a short stint in the mid-1990s.
On Thursday, President Kenyatta rewarded him with a second term in an appointment that also saw his chairman and deputy governor keep their jobs.
Through a special Gazette notice dated May 24, the President retained Mr Mohammed Nyaoga (chairman), Dr Njoroge (Governor) and Ms Sheila M’Mbijjewe (deputy governor) to continue serving with effect from June 18.