Former President Daniel arap Moi tried to intervene in a power struggle between his press secretary Lee Njiru and private secretary John Lokorio in his last days, it has now emerged.
Moi died on February 4 and was laid to rest at his Kabarak home last Wednesday.
According to insiders, only a few people knew about the intense power struggle to control Moi’s diary.
The running divisions that characterised the relationship between the two confidants was so intense that each wing used to release separate press statements on the health status of Moi.
And when he was admitted to Nairobi Hospital, the confusion of conflicting press statements intensified, confirming the deep division in the communication unit.
The two, who were constantly in touch with Moi during his 24-year reign and after his retirement in 2002, have for the past three years been embroiled in a power struggle that spilt over to the public domain last year.
The sour relationship became so acrimonious that at one time Mr Njiru accused Mr Lokorio of sending his two drivers with a spare key to “steal” his official car on July 5, 2017.
BONE OF CONTENTION
The car was later recovered by police and returned to Mr Njiru. The matter was the subject of discussion by the Nakuru County Security Committee that was chaired by the then County Commissioner Joshua Nkanatha on October 12, 2017.
After deliberations, the committee studied Mr Njiru’s documents and consulted the national government, which confirmed that he was in the office legally.
Mr Lokorio did not attend the meeting. But what is the bone of contention between the two?
Interestingly, the two are neighbours at Ngata Farm, where they own huge chunks of land, and both operate hotels in the former Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) land.
According to documents seen by the Sunday Nation, and which were filed in court, Mr Lokorio claims Mr Njiru retired on July 1, 2017 and should have vacated his position.
Mr Lokorio further claims that Mr Njiru was replaced by Mr Alex Kiprotich Chepkoit, who was recruited as deputy personal assistant in the Office of retired President Moi with effect from September 1, 2016.
Immediately after Mr Kiprotich’s appointment, Mr Lokorio sent a text message to Mr Njiru, saying: “I want to know when Alex Kiprotich can report on duty as your deputy. You are also aware that he has to work on His Excellency archives.”
Mr Njiru wrote to the Comptroller of State House and sought the extension of the contract for a further period of three years from July 1, 2017.
“My current appointment as personal assistant-cum-secretary in the Office of the Retired President expires on June 30, 2017. As per the terms of engagement, I wish to continue in the same position for a further period of three years from July 1, 2017,” wrote Mr Njiru.
His extension was approved by Moi. The then Comptroller of State House, Lawrence Lenayapa, conveyed the extension of Mr Njiru’s appointment as approved by the Public Service Commission via a letter dated May 3, 2017.
“I am pleased to convey to you the decision of the Public Service Commission vide letter Ref No PSC/SH/1/VII (24) dated May 3, 2017 that your appointment as a Personal Assistant-cum-Secretary, Job Group ‘S’ on local agreement terms of service in the Office of the First Retired President be renewed for a further period of three years with effect from July 1, 2017 up to and including June 20, 2020,” wrote Mr Lenayapa on June 5, 2017.
However, Mr Lokorio wrote back. The letter copied to Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua said: “The named officer (Njiru) is someone in his retirement and his services in an office of this nature are not in demand.”
He added: “If the government needs the energies of this officer, it is in a position to find him another posting, but definitely not this office.”
According to clause 8 of the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act, public officers should not be appointed or posted to serve on such staff except with the concurrence of the retired president.
Mr Njiru holds official documents showing that he is in the office legally.
But in a quick rejoinder, Mr Lokorio, seeking to exercise his powers, asked Mr Njiru on July 3, 2017 to proceed on retirement.
“The Public Service Commission has advised that I apply for your commutation of leave for cash in lieu of the contract,” wrote Mr Lokorio.
He further told Mr Njiru that he had applied for him 38 months outstanding leave.
The two top civil servants are subject to redeployment now that the Office of the First Retired President of Kenya, which was constitutional, has ceased to exist.
According to insiders at Kabarak, Mr Lokorio was resolute that Mr Njiru, who was considered an outsider in Moi’s private office among the administrative cadre staff, was to be replaced.
However, reliable sources told the Sunday Nation that when Moi learnt of Mr Lokorio’s schemes to replace Mr Njiru, he thwarted the move.
“Mzee Moi was not happy with Mr Lokorio’s underhand scheme and would not let go Mr Njiru, who was considered to be a foreigner in the clique surrounding former President Moi,” said a source.
The source added that even in his advanced age, Moi was cautious on who to work with and was not amused by hatred and tribal tendencies in his private office.
In a past interview, when asked how he managed to weather all these battles, Mr Njiru replied: “When you work under Moi for such a long time, you learn how to not to get ulcers. I do not get ulcers. I distribute them. In fact, I am the chief distributor.”
Mr Lokorio did not respond to our telephone calls seeking comment.