President Jomo Kenyatta wanted his country to have a capitalist bent. But his Vice President, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was openly socialist in his leanings.
Part of being capitalist was having Kenyans study in America and hence the educational ‘airlifts’ of over 3,000 students a decade before independence in 1963, ostensibly to prepare them to take over jobs held by colonialists.
The trio who spearheaded the American airlifts were Tom Mboya, Kariuki Njiiri and Dr Julius Gikonyo Kiano, the first Kenyan to earn a PhD.
The three became very powerful, and so did the students they took abroad: environmentalist Prof Wangari Maathai, respected journalist Philip Ochieng, politicians Maina Wanjigi and Wilson Ndolo Ayah, Arthur Magugu, ambassador Nicholas Mugo (who was joined by wife Beth Mugo who cleared high school there and graduated from Wilmington College in Delaware), entrepreneur JB Wanjui, media guru Hillary Ng’weno and an economist who was given to streaks of self-destruction, Barack Obama Sr - whose enduring legacy is fathering American president Barack Obama.
Raila’s father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga also wanted some ‘power’ through creating his own airlifts to communist and socialist countries.
That was how Nicholas Biwott and Co. studied in Eastern countries, of which the most enduring was Kenyans going to India for further studies.
It so happened that funds from socialist and communist countries reached Jaramogi through his sidekick, Pio Gama Pinto, who has a road named in his honour. It was these ‘communist funds’ that got Pinto assassinated, Kenya’s first political murder in 1965.
Pinto picked the money that bankrolled Jaramogi’s political activities from Apa Pant, the Indian High Commissioner in Nairobi. It was through Pant that the idea of offering educational scholarships to India was floated and Jaramogi grabbed the chance to initiate his own airlifts.
Among those who benefited include SM Otieno, later one of Kenya’s best criminal lawyers and Dr Njuguna Gakuo, the first African MD of the then East African Railways and Harbours and father of current First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta.
The Aristocratic Apa attended University of Bombay and Oxford University for his law studies before a 30-year diplomatic career that brought him and his surgeon wife, Nalini Pant to Kenya in 1948.
The author of seven books, among them Undiplomatic Incidents, died in 1992 at the age of 80.