Book Review – Presidents’ Pressman: A Memoir by Lee Njiru

The newest political book in the market is set for launch in Nakuru City, today, 31st July 2022.

Nakuru is Lee Njiru’s homeplace and also the place both Presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Toroitich Arap loved dearly.

Lee Njiru, a journalist served Kenyatta and Moi as their Pressman.

Though he had a short stint with Kenyatta, he reveals a lot of juicy details about his presidency.

I’m yet to read the book, but, first, I know some details about Kenyatta’s life and also, there’s no need of waiting to read it so as to write a review.

Nation Media Group already got the exclusive rights to serialise the book. They’ve done it perfectly.

I’ll just share some things the media has written about the book.

President Jomo Kenyatta

We were told that Kenyatta died suddenly on 22nd August 1978. But Njiru reveals the true accounts leading to that day. He believes that Mzee Kenyatta’s life could have extended had he not been forced to attend a public function in Msambweni, Mombasa.

“On August 21, 1978, Mzee Kenyatta had lunch with all Kenyan envoys abroad at State House, Mombasa. It was after lunch that things became terrifying.”

“Mzee missed his way out of the dining hall and entered the caretaker’s office. He caused a commotion among the junior staff as the room was littered with dirty utensils. When Kenyatta was redirected to his sleeping quarters, he could not make it upstairs without a pause.”

“After witnessing the agony suffered by Mzee Kenyatta, I was convinced that Peter Mbiyu Koinange or former Provincial Commissioner Eliud Mahihu or Alexander Njoroge Gitau, the Comptroller of State House, would cancel the pre-arranged Msambweni function but they did not. I believe that Kenyatta’s life would have been saved if immediate medical attention was made available,” Njiru claimed.

The former press secretary pointed out that Kenyatta attended the function despite his health concerns. He later headed to a makeshift washroom at the back of the VIP dias after he fell ill. Njiru accused the late Mahihu of not heeding Kenyatta’s signs but instead requesting him to have a clarion call of Harambee at the function.

“I thought it was callous of Mahihu to subject Mzee to this ordeal. But it was the loudest roar I heard from Kenyatta during the period I worked for him. Unfortunately, it was the last,” Njiru noted.

President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi

Robert Ouko’s murder

Njiru tells the story from his boss’s perspective.

He claims that Daniel Moi was shocked by the murder of the Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko.

In the public’s eyes, Moi and his fixer Nicholas Kioyator Biwott were invoked so as to stop Ouko’s rise. Ouko was becoming a favorite for president as per Western govts.

Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni

Those that lived through the 90s might have had stories of how Moi and Museveni never saw eye to eye.

Turns out they started as buddies.

Moi gave Museveni a room at state House as his command post.

Mzee Kassam, as Museveni was known in secret/rebel circles later became President of Uganda after ousting Milton Obote and Tito Okello.

Moi the Pan Africanist?

Apart from helping Museveni, both logistically and monetarily. Moi also helped the other rebel or opposition movements in Africa.

Many times Joshua Nyongolo Nkomo, a Zimbabwean revolutionary from Matabeleland and founder of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), would pass through Nairobi and stay at Embassy Hotel on Tubman Road, off Koinange Street.

Somehow, Moi would know of Nkomo’s presence and his dire financial needs. He would then call me to his office and give me a bundle of American dollars and instruct me to take them to Joshua Nkomo secretly. Nkomo would then thank me in English and some broken Kiswahili.

Moi knew that Nkomo’s tribe, the Ndebele, was smaller than that of Robert Mugabe, another revolutionary who was Shona. But Moi believed that Nkomo had to be nurtured in case Mugabe was killed by the ruling white minority.

President Moi would also send me to take money to the leader of South African Pan African Congress, Mr Clarence Makwetu. Although the Pan African Congress was no match for Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC), Moi was suspicious that the South African racist Boer regime could kill Mandela in Robben Island where he had been imprisoned. In this case, Moi felt obliged to help in nurturing an alternative leadership. In any case, Makwetu had been a fearless revolutionary who had been imprisoned in various parts of the country for agitating for the emancipation of the black people in South Africa. (Read more: The EastAfrican)

Witchcraft to stay in power.

The Nation Media Group serialisation reveals how people went to great lengths to stay in power.

Farts in the President’s office: A senior lady at State House was caught with her pants lowered and busy farting in President Moi’s office. She was directing her farts in all directions. Luckily, the farts were not productive; just a crackling noise, like that of gunfire. The lady’s loose morals were in the public domain. She feared that President Moi might get the information and have her transferred. That is why she got the advice of a witch doctor. She was lucky that she was caught doing this unpleasant ritual by a fellow tribesman. They settled the matter their own way. (Read more: Nation Africa)