The immortals: Central Kenya richest man,Chief Njiiri, with 30 wives was loyal to the queen to the hilt

Chief Njiiri [Photo: Courtesy]

He was the richest man in Central Kenya in his time. Before miros began owning anything, Senior Chief Njiiri wa Karanja had a transistor radio, the only one within a 1,000km radius.

His wealth by the time Kenyans were fighting for independence was sourced from among others, land. We are here talking someone who had the foresight to hive a near whole location to himself in Kinyona, Murang’a county.

That was not counting his 5,000 goats, 4,000 sheep and 2,000 strong cattle herd.

It is said that in Central Kenya finding ‘loose’ change, money speaking, was no problem for the biggest money-changer who also owned a horse. A horse!

While owning a bicycle meant you were an extension officer or a headmaster, Chief Njiiri had his grandchildren driven to school in a Land Rover in the 1950s. By the way, at a time when few went to school, Chief Njiiri sent his son, Kariuki Njiiri, later MP for Kigumo, to America for further studies.

Chief Njiiri had someone carry his folding chair and although many homesteads did not have walls, no one entered his compound in any other direction other than the gate where a guard stood at attention.

Chief Njiiri had to be guarded at the height of the freedom struggle largely for his unrelenting battle against the Mau Mau, whom he hated with a passion.

The dreaded chief defiantly flew the 60-feet British flag outside his home to that effect!

The colonial government loved him to bits that he was guarded by coppers at the Kinyona police station during the day besides a police reserve chopper dropping a copy of the East African Standard at his home daily.

 Never mind he was illiterate and the guard read it for him!

The spectacle were his wives - 42 of them - and children scrambling to rescue the paper from sliding down the slope and onto the nearby forest where Mau Mau were, says The History of the Loyalists published in 1958.

His fame for fighting the Mau Mau even spread to the Buckingham Palace such that the queen paid chief Njiiri (after whom Njiiris School is named) a courtesy call in 1957.

He would later be awarded the Member of the British Empire (MBE). Senior Chief Njiiri, who married his 30th wife in church in 1964, died ten years later aged more than 100 years.