When he died on Monday, Lawrence Nginyo Kariuki had nothing to show for what politics had done for him, but politicians celebrated him as a second liberation hero and a successful businessman.
Nginyo rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty, dedicating his time for them but he died a sad man moaning what Kenya had become.
“I spent my money campaigning for the freedom struggle and even risked my life to improve the lives of Kenyans, but what we are witnessing today is wanton theft of public funds that goes unpunished on end.
“As such, the thieves continue stealing while others look forward to stealing once elected into office. They know no one will ever put them before a judge to answer charges. As for our children, let them know stealing is evil and God will always punish and make sure ill-begotten wealth is returned to its owners, the public,” he told a reporter last year during a televised interview.
Mr Nginyo was the founder chairman of TNA party that catapulted President Uhuru Kenyatta to power in 2013 during which he unsuccessfully vied for the Kiambu senatorial seat and lost to Kimani wa Wamatangi.
Neither his close association with Raila Odinga nor closeness with President Uhuru Kenyatta got him appointed to any State office but he gladly served as TNA chairman until its dissolution in 2016 to pave the way for formation of Jubilee Party.
While he enjoyed political publicity, Mr Nginyo steered his vast business empire that he delegated to his family members to run under his flagship company, Nginyo Investments.
He hardly spoke of his wealth but openly spoke about his successful farming, hospitality and real estate businesses valued at several billions of shillings.
His shrewdness in conducting business started in the precolonial period when he requested land to establish Ndumberi Golf Club and would proceed to serve as its founding chairman for years.
“I can aptly describe myself as a leading farmer, businessman, politician and a professional golfer,” he said on his personal blogpost-nginyokariuki.com.
A glimpse of his vast wealth was displayed when his company hired a Chinese firm, China Zhongxing Construction Company in 2016 to demolish a three-star 50-room hotel in Kilimani and upgraded it to a 150-room five-star facility, now managed by a global brand, Swiss Hotels.
His son, Anthony Kariuki then told the Business Daily that money spent on rebuilding the hotel, now renamed Swiss Lenana Mount Hotel, was sourced internally.
At his Kiambu home, Nginyo ran a successful export-bound agricultural enterprise where he grew tea and coffee on the vast Farlyndum Estate among other crops under irrigation since the sixties.
On the real estate front, Mr Nginyo Towers was his flagship brand where he maintained an expansive and fabulously furnished office on the topmost floor.
According to his oft-updated personal blog with pictures of his palatial Ndumberi mansion surrounded by lush lawns, Mr Nginyo hosted friends among them senior politicians, ambassadors, business executives. He owned several flats among them Githima Apartments, named after his birthplace in Ndumberi, Kiambu County.
Three months ago, a frail Mr Nginyo surprised friend and foe when he launched his latest investment, a multi-billion shilling mixed use development within Kiambu County that will comprise seven floor two-bedroomed apartments on several blocks. Each block has a basement to first floor parking bay as well as a rooftop tenants-only recreational garden.
He hit national headlines during the 1990s clamour for multi-party urging then President Daniel Moi to allow multiparty, saying he (Moi) was very popular and would defeat his opponents.
“As I left home for the Kanu delegates meeting at Kasasrani, I told my wife I might fail to return but what is in my heart must be spoken as it is good for the country. During the delegates meeting everybody shouted that Kenya would never become a multi-party democracy but I raised my hand and President Moi asked whose hand it was. Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, then a Cabinet minister said it was Nginyo from Kiambu,” he recalled during the TV interview with Kameme TV.
He enumerated all Mr Moi had done for the country but added that he would floor his opponents as Kenyans’ commitment to Nyayoism was unshaken.
“Give them those parties they want but I am sure Kenyans shall still vote for you in droves,” he recalled. A week later after making teh statement he defected to Ford, an opposition party.
The father of seven children, married to Margaret Wangari, Mr Nginyo once worked as a caddy during the colonial era and later pioneered amateur and professional golf representing Kenya in various tourneys locally and abroad.
He says Kenyans hardly elect leaders with people at heart but selfish leaders who only satiate amass wealth after election.
Elected leaders forget about their parties and concentrate on the political gravy train and this is best witnessed during debates of national importance that lack quorum but when their salary issues come up, it is a full house, he said.
“I would propose reduction of the number of MPs, MCAs as well as focus on key issues that benefit mwananchi. I would wish to see thieves of public funds jailed and their assets seized.”