While some Kenyans who were in primary school when Moi was President only partook of Maziwa ya Nyayo, I was fortunate to partake of other freebies as well, courtesy of the former president.
I started my primary school education at Milimani Primary School, located near Adams Arcade in Nairobi.
It is here that I tasted Orbit chewing gum for the first time, thanks to Moi. It is also here that I saw him in person for the first time.
On this day, his motorcade unexpectedly stopped by the school during lunch hour.
A man, perhaps an aide or bodyguard, emerged from one of the many vehicles in his entourage holding an armful of white square boxes wrapped in transparent sheets of polythene.
In them were packets of chewing gum, which the president, who had emerged from a different car, proceeded to hand out to us over the school fence. You should have seen us excitedly scrambling for the unexpected treat. When the boxes were empty, he got back into his car and just like that, the motorcade snaked away.
That incident took place many years ago, therefore my image of Moi then is fuzzy.
Fast forward to secondary school, to my alma mater, Kijabe Girls High School, where the former president made a stop almost every term. And when I say stop, I mean exactly that.
If my memory serves me right, he never lingered for more than 30 minutes, which is baffling because you could say that my former high school is located in the middle of nowhere.
Though the winding steep road leading to the school has since been tarmacked, making it much more motorable, then, it was more a series of frustrating potholes that made the journey there a long nightmare, a discouraging experience that no one looked forward to.
It therefore made no sense that he would make the time-consuming uncomfortable journey only to stay for just a few minutes. And yet he did.
Funny, the visits were impromptu. And they were always on a Saturday, when we had no classes. The teacher on duty, caught unawares, would hurriedly round us up to give him an audience.
He would stand before us surrounded by his entourage of men, (I never once saw a woman) and give a short speech, which must have been centred around the importance of education, though to be honest, I don’t really recall what he said because I would be too mesmerised by his imposing presence to internalise what he was saying.
There was also something about his eyes that was discomfiting.
Anyway, we all lived for these visits because he never came empty-handed. He came bearing money, lots of it.
Bundles and bundles of notes. Enough to earn us, (we must have been 600 girls or thereabout) a special diet of two chapatis each, meat, (way, way more than the token piece we were treated to every Wednesday) fruits and soda for lunch the next day.
If you went to a public boarding school where the food is generally terrible and scarce, then you understand the significance of such a kingly meal. It was akin to a windfall.
But even better, the remainder of the money would be equally shared among all the students — each of us would get slightly more than Sh500, a lottery to many of us, especially those that didn’t come from well-off families, and therefore had no pocket money to talk about.
For the next two weeks, we would live like Saudi princes, eating bread and mandazi for breakfast daily. Of course, we never questioned where the money came from; after all, he was the President, and presidents are supposed to have lots of money, right?
For some reason, he never once visited Kijabe Boys in the four years I was there, never mind that the school was right next door. In fact, his motorcade would pass the boys’ school before coming to a stop at ours.
But perhaps I should have started by saying how he had a brand new school bus delivered to us, or how he commissioned a borehole that finally saved us back-breaking daily trips to a seasonal river we shared with villagers’ cows.