When Amason Kingi was a fourth year law student at the University of Nairobi in 1998, Mr Mwai Kibaki had served as an MP for 35 years, 10 of them as vice-president.
The Othaya MP had contested the presidency twice and was serving as Opposition leader.
So huge is the age difference and political experience between the two. When Mr Kibaki was being sacked as vice-president in 1988, Mr Kingi was in primary school.
Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa was barely 19. When Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba was born in 1975, Mr Kibaki had served as Cabinet minister for 10 years, mostly in the critical Finance and Strategic Planning docket.
The economist was appointed vice-president in the Moi government in 1978 after the death of founding President Jomo Kenyatta.
Today, Mr Kingi and Mr Wamalwa, politicians young enough to be President Kibaki’s sons, are ministers in his cabinet while Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who has distinguished himself as a Kibaki right hand man, is 30 years younger than the President.
A review of the membership of the Kibaki Cabinet returns a picture of a lonely man in the twilight of his otherwise long and checkered political career.
The Commander-in-Chief is spending the last years of his political journey without the comfort of men and women of his generation, some having fallen out of the way due to the vagaries of Kenyan politics, retired or by natural attrition.
With the recent deaths of his age mates Njenga Karume and John Michuki and the exit from the political stage of former Vice-President Moody Awori and former Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae, President Kibaki, 81, has been forced to work with much younger politicians. (READ: Painful experience for Kibaki)
This is unlike former presidents Kenyatta and Moi who spent their last years at the helm with considerably experienced members of the so-called kitchen cabinets.
President Kenyatta was surrounded by the likes of his brother-law Mbiyu Koinange, James Gichuru, Dr Njoroge Mungai and Charles Njonjo while President Moi had Nicholas Biwott, Shariff Nassir and William ole Ntimama.
Today, at 82, Mr Ntimama is the oldest member of the Kibaki Cabinet. While celebrating the President’s life in politics, Mr Ntimama describes the Head of State’s current position as “uncomfortable”.
“Though he remains intellectually alert and physically strong, he lacks the benefit of the presence and wisdom of his age mates,” Mr Ntimama says.
The Heritage minister fears that the absence of the President’s old comrades leaves him surrounded by younger, restless and ambitious politicians who could misadvise or mislead him.
“The young politicians share no history with him. They are greedy for power and work for tribal interests at the expense of the country,” he said.
The situation also limits his level of interaction. “There is a gap because some age groups in Africa find it difficult to intermingle,” the minister added.
A former Cabinet minister in the Kibaki administration who spoke on condition of anonymity helped to illustrate President Kibaki’s situation.
“He is a man with a strong sense of self-confidence. He is like a sage. He listens to the young politicians whenever they approach him but he always gives the final word,” the former minister said.
The central Kenya politician who worked closely with the President in the first term said Mr Kibaki spends most of his time at State House “reading and listening to himself”.
According to the politician, the President reads biographies, history and the latest literature on world politics. “He detests gossip and small talk but whenever he opens up, he is admirably humorous and witty.”
Mr Maina Wanjigi, President Kibaki’s age mate and a long-serving MP in both the Kenyatta and Moi regimes, says the Head of State is “ruling alone”.
The old man who was Kamukunji MP at the time Mr Kibaki migrated from Bahati constituency to Othaya says a leader needs close friends and age mates “he can regularly consult”.
Mr Wanjigi invoked the Kikuyu traditional governance system in which elders would converge at mwaki wa boi.
Mwaki wa boi is the place near the entrance to a homestead where the elders would converge at twilight, chat around a fire and monitor livestock returning from the fields.
“They would see which one was limping, which was about to give birth and which was fat enough for slaughter,” Mr Wanjigi said. This forum always produced the community’s leaders.
“You could not emerge from outside the boi and become a leader,” he said, adding that President Kibaki lacks mwaki wa boi.
Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than events of 2005 when Prime Minister Raila Odinga led a rebellion which threatened to bring down Mr Kibaki’s government.
The President brought in Mr Simeon Nyachae and Mr Karume, among others, to cobble up a government of national unity which helped calm the storm.
Some attribute President Kibaki’s situation to his decision to spend his life almost exclusively at State House, cutting off many would-be visitors.
“The many hurdles one faces during a visit to State House are inhibiting,” said Kamau wa Nguithe, 75.
“Consultations with age mates would require an informal set up which State House does not provide,” said the former Nairobi Kanu branch member.
He says President Moi met many people at his Kabarak home at Kabarnet Gardens while President Kenyatta had sessions at his Gatundu residence.
The chairman of the Kikuyu Council of Elders, Mr Wachira Kiago, thinks Mr Kibaki is “overwhelmed by having to deal with people who do not understand where we are coming from as a nation and where we want to go”.
“When you lack history both about the country and other countries, you are limited on what you can offer. Most of the cabinet ministers can only listen to what Kibaki has to say. There is no healthy exchange of ideas,” Mr Kiago said.
He added that because of the huge experience and age gap between the President and his ministers, few of them can gather the courage to advise him.
Take the case of Finance minister Njeru Githae, a lawyer. The man from Kirinyaga had just got into his teens when President Kibaki, a graduate of the London School of Economics, was appointed Finance minister in 1970.
“It is highly possible that Mr Githae cannot give an alternative suggestion to a Kibaki idea. First, due to respect and second because he has no better idea. They have been reduced to ‘yes, yes’ men,” said Mzee Nguithe.
Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, the President’s principal assistant, is equally young and does not seem to fit in the age bracket that would interact with the President at the level of say the late Karume. Mr Musyoka was 10 years old when Mr Kibaki was appointed permanent secretary at Treasury.
President Kibaki’s life is a narrative of intellect, patience, resilience, some degree of luck and will-power of a man determined to achieve his political dream, if not self-actualisation.
In terms of political experience, the octogenarian who has been MP since 1963, has no equal in government today. His relationship with Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the young Kenyatta most dramatically captures is political journey.
When Mr Kenyatta was born, it is said that it was Mr Kibaki who proposed to Mzee Kenyatta that the boy be named Uhuru. As a young politician, Mr Kibaki was in the same independence Cabinet with both Uhuru’s and Raila’s fathers, President Kenyatta and his first Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.
In subsequent years, he would work with Mr Moses Budamba Mudavadi, the father of Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi. The three men are now caught up in a fight to succeed Mr Kibaki.