Maina Wanjigi: Kenyan with indomitable can-do attitude

Former Cabinet Minister Maina Wanjigi. He died on June 28, 2024 at the Nairobi Hospital aged 92.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

A nation’s consciousness embodies the men it produces, as well as the men it chooses to honour and remember. Honouring the late Maina Wanjigi for his good deeds is redemptive.

His remarkable epic story is a Kenyan story, which bears the memories of the atrocities of imperialism on one hand and the post-independence ceaseless experimental struggles of nationhood building thereafter on the other. These memories are necessary. Wanjigi was supremely two things – a patriot and a Kenyan.

Notably, his death has coincided with an unprecedented insurrection that is rocking the sacred social and legal foundation of our country. His death symbolises the end of a generation as well as the beginning of another.

Hon Wanjigi was a remnant of Kenya’s greatest generation that liberated the country from the yoke of colonialism. This generation was united not only by a common purpose, but also by common values--duty, honour, economy, courage, service, love of family and country, and, above all, responsibility for oneself.

Even with the best intentions, their post-independence stewardship has not been without shortcomings, which the subsequent generations have been unable to overcome. Consequently, their revolutionary beliefs of a better Kenya remain an issue, 60 years later, which seemingly is agitating Generation Z (Gen Z) among others.

As immediate heirs of the new dawn of constitutional democracy, the youthful Gen Z has audaciously pledged its loyalty and commitment to the principles of good governance. Armed with sovereignty clauses of the Constitution and a sophisticated digital-driven mobilisation framework, Gen Z has called out the gross mismanagement of public finance through the ongoing peaceful demonstrations.

The mismanagement is a manifestation of the political culture, which over the years has weakened the legislative branch of government. Seemingly, Gen Z is willing to pay any price, bear any burden to institutionalise eternal vigilance of our young democracy that had conspicuously been missing.

To contextualise this tribute, I met Hon Wanjigi in his twilight years through a mutual friend- Dr Mbui Wagacha, who invited both of us for lunch at Muthaiga Country Club (MCC). The meeting metamorphosed to intellectual deliberation on contemporary policy issues facing the country including commerce.

He relished the intellectual rigour of the discussions such that out of his magnanimity as designate chairman, he committed us to a mandatory weekly meeting in MCC on Wednesdays at his cost. These weekly meeting ran from 2021 until early this year due to his ill-health.

In the course of our meetings, his towering intellectual prowess and good memory even at such advanced age, mesmerised me and stirred an appetite to learn more about him. He delicately and movingly narrated a circuitous, arduous academic journey in search of knowledge as a means to pursue virtuous leadership both in public and private sectors.

For me, what stood out were snippets of anecdotal evidence of his inspirational legacy on the conception and eventual birth of the Kenyan nation, including his illustrious career in public service thereafter.

To sum it up, Hon Wanjigi dreamt of many things that never were and asked why not. His impeccable record of many distinctions and accomplishments epitomises an indomitable can-do attitude anchored on moral beacon of humanity of not leaving no one behind. This is what set him apart from his peers.

As I bid the final goodbye to my best friend and mentor, his legacy is intact. He was a good and decent man, who saw suffering and tried to heal, who saw wrong and tried to right it and above all, who left no one behind. May his legacy of finding adventure in any situation endure.

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