Love or hate him, Samuel Mwangi Thuita touched the hearts of many, and in equal measure, stepped on many toes.
From a real estate broker and political underhand in Eastlands, he rose to be the chairman of the troubled Embakasi Ranching Company in 2010.
He was to later cling on to that seat despite numerous attempts to dislodge him, until June 29 when he silently died in his house, a few hours after leaving a government function.
Those who knew him well are full of praise for his philanthropic trait and for being an ardent supporter of his community’s culture, while those who tussled with him admit that they can now freely breathe.
According to Kiambu Governor, Ferdinand Waititu, the deceased was a man of all seasons and took battle right to the doorsteps of his adversaries.
“Mr Thuita was not a pushover by any means. He was a real warrior who dealt with his challenges head on. He was not the kind of a guy to postpone a duel of any nature. He loved a good fight much as he loved his peace. It was instant battle to win or lose, and many are the times he won. In fact, I hardly believe that I am here to bury him. I had conceptualised him as immortal…but now he is dead, it serves to remind us that we are all mortals,” he eulogised during the burial ceremony of Mr Thuita at Mutithi in Kirinyaga County.
Born 81 years ago, he abandon formal learning at Standard Seven.
After years of hassling as a trader, he moved to Nairobi in 1969, got into several businesses and in 1972, gained a foothold in the land buying and selling business, taking advantage of his political connections to gain favour among land barons, which saw his clout quickly grow climaxing with his election as chairman of the Embakasi Ranching Company.
To retain his position that controlled the now 40, 000 declared acres of the ranch, with disgruntled shareholders writing to the Ministry of Land to complain that indeed their wealth is more than 100, 000 acres, Mr Thuita edged his way out of attempts to dethrone him with cheek and vile, in the process instigating several court cases against his detractors.
He increased his bodyguards to 50 in 2017 at the height of numerous mysterious murders against officials of land buying companies.
The most spirited trial to dislodge him came in 2011 when former Nairobi mayor, Dick Waweru vied against him.
He commenced a well moneyed campaign and commentators were sure that at long last Mr Thuita had met his match.
“But I was surprised to get a court order a day to the election date indicating that my campaigns were illegal since Mr Thuita was legally in office until 2014,” said Mr Waweru.
Upon sensing that his hold to power was under threat since the number of disgruntled shareholders had grown to 10,432, registered as Ruai/Embakasi Welfare Group which was vowing to dislodge him, Mr Thuita commenced a campaign to bring the welfare’s leaders to his fold.
“Within a month, the welfare group was a shell since its vocal leaders had mysteriously decamped to Mr Thuita’s camp. I abandoned any further attempt to vie against him. I came to realise that Mr Thuita had designed a formula to be the chairman for life,” added Mr Waweru.
It was in January this year when Mr Thuita faced with his most threatening challenge to his power when a delegation to the President lamented about ‘evils’ in the ranch that had seen many shareholders lose their parcels of land in a double allocation, swapping and deletion from the register racket.
The President said that he would dismantle the ranch by February 1 and issue title deeds to all shareholders.
Mr Thuita, in his nature, did not take it lying down.
“While he publicly announced his support to the President’s directive, silently he was implementing a plan to sabotage the presidential programme. He started by refusing to waive off survey and titling fees as directed by State House. Instead, he imposed levies that were to see his board rake in a cool Sh337 million as a send-off package,” said Joseph Njenga, the current Ruai/Embakasi Welfare group chairman.
Even when the President directed that a technical office to disband the ranch get a working office in the ranch’s Ruai headquarters, Mr Thuita reported to it that he did not have the shareholders register, saying that it had been seized in 2012 by the anti-corruption agency.
An angry Mr Uhuru Kenyatta was to on May 31, while in Embakasi, issue a three-month ultimatum to Mr Thuita to ensure that he cooperated with ministry officials dispatched to disband the ranch.
“But Mr Thuita commenced an underground network seeking to hold an Annual General Meeting that was to hold elections and get a term extension that was to last until 2021, hence effectively locking out government interference,” said Mr Njenga.
Mr Thuita, a first born in a family of six, he was father to 13 children, three of them deceased.