Long-serving Co-op Bank #ticker:COOP chairman Stanley Muchiri died last Saturday in Nigeria aged 72, marking the sunset of a man who had won many hearts in the cooperative movement worldwide.
He is best remembered as the long-serving director of Co-operative Bank in 1986, vice-chairman in 1993 and chairman in 2002, a position he held until his retirement in 2017.
He died while attending the ministerial conference of the International Co-operative Alliance, Africa (ICA-Africa) where he served as president since 2003.
So seasoned he was in matters cooperative that in 1988, then President Daniel Moi had summoned him to the State House in Nairobi and asked him to vie for a parliamentary seat in Murang’a to pave the way for his appointment as Cooperative minister.
According to Nahashon Mwangi, who is the late’s brother-in-law, Muchiri had warmed to the idea until his mother, Jane Njoki, now deceased, discouraged him.
“His mother dissuaded him from venturing into politics.
“She warned him that politics had killed her late husband immediately after the country attained freedom.
“That is how Mr Muchiri remained so influential at the grassroots but with no interest in politics. He so much valued his mother’s spoken word…he was a mummy’s boy,” he says.
Mr Moi’s interest in Muchiri was founded in the fact that he was the general manager of the defunct Murang’a Farmers District Co-operative Union that was so rich to a point of being the ready lender to the Central Bank in the 70s and early 80s.
Some Murang’a elites approached him again, led by Young Rwathia Professionals chairman John Kanene, to vie for Murang’a gubernatorial position in 2013. He turned down to the request.
“He cited his late mother’s counsel to avoid getting active in electoral politics. He instead threw his weight behind Mwangi wa Iria, saying he qualified on account that he had revived the then dead KCC to become a profit-making New KCC,” says Mr Kanene.
And when wa Iria formed Murang’a Co-operative Creameries (MCC) and regulated farm gate price of a litre of milk at Sh35, Mr Muchiri publicly endorsed him for a second term, which he easily won.
Upon receiving news of his death, Wa Iria eulogised him as “a unique gallant son of Murang’a, the best of his generation in matters cooperative and a national hero renowned for his passion in seeing the grassroots economy improve”.
Former envoy to Germany, John Kirore, says he remembers Muchiri as the man who from July 1974 committed his mind and soul to transform Murang’a into a mini “superpower”.
He says Muchiri believed in the strength of unity where he modelled coffee farmers into a giant cooperative society.
“All the rich history of Murang’a being the once coffee farming giant and home to vibrant cooperative societies can never be complete without citing Muchiri as among its star players,” he says.
Known to be strict while dealing with issues, that attribute saw to it that while he won many hearts in the coffee farming region, he also drifted so sharply with others who thought he would have done better by helping local youths get meaningful employment.
Lincoln Muiruri explains that Muchiri did not have time to risk soiling his social status by trying to force what was not compatible with his values and principles.
“Those who approached him to get assistance with jobs and had papers to support their declared professions were readily fixed somewhere.
“Those who sought assistance from him and did not have qualifications were disappointed. That was Muchiri for you,” he says.
But what he lacked in that scope was readily compensated in his celebrated philanthropic nature.
“He believed in dealing with legally organised groups. In all learning institutions where he was a board member, he is to be remembered for initiating development projects that will remain his legacy long after he is gone,” says Mr Muiruri.
Mr Mwangi, his brother-in-law, also remembers him as an “overgenerous man who even worried his family members by keeping his wallet wide open as he walked around”.
He says Muchiri would meet a needy case and without confirming the truth behind that need, “just fund it way higher than the correct budget”.
Muchiri’s brother-in-law says this trait necessitated a family meeting in 1996 where a team to oversee his charity at the grassroots was formed.
Muchiri was married to Jerusha Muthoni with whom they were blessed with a son and four daughters’.
The late Muchiri had since 1997 spent Sh106 million on funding education, political, religious and health needs in Murang’a, according to his family.
The widow eulogises the late Muchiri as “always busy working to make a difference in the world, starting with his nuclear family where he was the engine behind its many milestones in investments”.