In Summary
  • Then Athletics Kenya chairman Isaiah Kiplagat played a trick on them, leading them to State House to deliver their donation and that's when they received a thorough dressing down.
  • Reports claim they were chased away from State House, Nakuru. President Moi couldn't tolerate failures!

A fresh recruit in the Kenya Army, John Ngugi, once received an order from no lesser person than the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kenya, President Daniel arap Moi.

This was in 1987 at the All Africa Games opening ceremony at the spanking new Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

“Leta gold,” the boss commanded in front of Sports Minister Henry Kosgey, Mr Charles Rubia, the man who supervised construction of the Moi International Sports Centre, and veteran sports administrator Charles Mukora, among others.

The President had just witnessed a well choreographed opening ceremony of the games.

Ngugi lit the ceremonial games torch after an easy ride, dressed all white as he entered the stadium holding the iconic torch aloft.

Ngugi, who was to later become Olympic champion and five time world cross-country champion, briefly stopped in front of the presidential dais and saluted the President.

Moi stood up and accepted the salute from the lowest of the low in the ranks of the military.

But an earlier deal, unspoken, was sealed.

Moi loved football, swimming and motorsport. But underneath his persona, he held athletics in high esteem.

That day Ngugi vindicated Moi in matters of human dignity. Moi was a sportsman par excellence.

Besides his call of duty Moi, like our generation, saluted Ngugi for giving Kenya what the Olympic boycotts of 1976 and 1980 denied us: International glory.

Ngugi came from obscurity and displayed to the world how our service people excel in sports.

Ngugi and emerging Patrick Njiru in rallying epitomised self determination. Moi loved them and demanded perfection.

Such was this parental dispensing that Moi told Njiru, during the flagging off of the 1994 Safari, to teach his son Jonathan Toroitich a lesson.

“Kimbiza yeye. Hajajua kuendesha gari," the ''Daily Nation'' recorded Mzee Moi as having said, in reference to his son Jonathan, at the time a rallying greenhorn.

At the 1987 All Africa Games opening ceremony, unknown to all, the organising committee had settled on Ngugi to light the games' flame.

And, in front of 60,000 spectators, Ngugi, a person my generation admired to this day, halted, but briefly, saluted the Commander-in-Chief who stood up and acknowledged his subject in a military salute.

And so the games began.

That evening, Ngugi was summoned at the Kasarani main dais by Moi who challenged him to run for gold.

And he delivered, winning gold in the men’s 5,000m!

And one year later, Ngugi delivered an Olympic gold medal in the 5,000 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.

Ngugi recalls that Moi was not at hand to receive the Olympic team upon their return from Seoul.

Instead, the triumphant team of ‘88 was hosted at Parliament Buildings by the then Vice-President Josephat Karanja.

At the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand, Ngugi faltered and fell, but he went on to win a silver medal.

Upon returning home during the flag hand over ceremony, Moi again picked Ngugi.

“Kua kama Ngugi,” said Moi. “Huyu kijana anaanguka, lakini anaamka kama mlinda nchi.”

But after this show of respect by Moi, athletes somewhat relaxed and performed miserably at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Moi disregarded them.

They had assumed self-importance and even took to donating maize for the poor in 1992 after the Olympic Games in a show of might.

Then Athletics Kenya chairman Isaiah Kiplagat played a trick on them, leading them to State House to deliver their donation and that's when they received a thorough dressing down.

Reports claim they were chased away from State House, Nakuru. President Moi couldn't tolerate failures!