Clever politics, or was Retired President Daniel Arap Moi Gor Mahia damu?

President Daniel Moi celebrates after Harambee Stars scored against Mozambique at Nyayo Stadium in 1991
  • There was a directive that all clubs with tribal sounding names should change them immediately and Moi personally announced that the name ‘Gor Mahia’ was not tribal
  • Former powerful Internal Security PS Hezekiah Oyugi severally bailed out the club with funds often with a contribution from Moi

Retired President Daniel Arap Moi, a footballer in his youth, was a mad fan of Kenyan soccer.

But also, being a self-styled professor of politics, he often surprised soccer fans by arriving at the various stadia in style whenever big matches were played. He knew how to spice up his entry to fire up fans by asking the organisers to swing all the gates open and allow free entry.

‘Nyayo’ as he was popularly known was in his element when the ‘Mashemeji’ derby was on schedule. Soccer fans would wait for him like children waiting for their ‘Baba’ to come to their rescue.

They would even taunt the ticket sellers telling that “Nyayo akikuja tutaingia saree!” He rarely disappointed and with tickets perceived to be expensive, fans would hold on to their cash, cross their fingers and wait for the Presidential motorcade to emerge from somewhere.

Others would literary monitor the Presidential itinerary, consoling themselves that if he was in Nairobi or its environs, chances were he would ‘okoa mashabiki’ with his attendance.

Youth from Eastlands would be heard mocking gatekeepers loudly in sheng, “Maze leo game ni saree! Oi Oreso atatokea!”

Often, they were disappointed because as head of state his itinerary was unpredictable. I recall one embarrassing moment when my friend Abirry Wuoche Gweno and I were quite sure Nyayo would be in attendance in a decisive Mashemeji derby.

We had spent our entry fee on additional portions of mbavu choma at Burma Market. Sadly, the man never appeared and it took the intervention of my uncle, who was a popular ‘K’Ogalo researcher’ to smuggle us into Nyayo stadium!

Moi’s attendance at matches with the Presidential security apparatus in tow was a blessing. Fan misbehaviour was checked and in his typical fashion, Moi would sometimes reward the boys with chai kwa vijana.

Of course, rumour had it that President Moi had a soft spot for K’Ogalo. When the club was formed in 1968, he was about a year and half into being the Vice President of Kenya. He therefore knew the club right from inception.

Is it by coincidence that each time the club had challenges Moi would come to its ‘rescue?’ Many are the times former powerful Internal Security PS Hezekiah Oyugi bailed out the club with funds which included kitu kidogo kutoka kwa Mtukufu Rais.

Also, recall when there was a directive that all clubs with tribal sounding names should change them immediately? Gor Mahia was spared the blushes when Moi personally announced that the name ‘Gor Mahia’ was not tribal and therefore the new directive was not applicable to the club. Gameshot!

Those days it was also common for clubs to pay homage to the head of state. Gor Mahia did it several times after winning regional trophies. In 1987, Moi was at Kasarani to hand over the Mandela Cup to the club.

Harambee Stars was not left behind and when Kenya hosted the 1987 All Africa Games, Moi was again a common feature at Kasarani, rallying the entire country behind the national team.

What Moi did with the club was reminiscent of what other African heads of state had also done. Mobutu Sese-Seko was known to be close to Vita Club while Iddi Amin Dada’s favourite team was Simba FC whose players were drawn from the Ugandan army.

So, did K’Ogalo fans start calling themselves ‘sirkal’ because the man from Sacho was one of them?

Well, we will never know because His Excellency Daniel Arap Moi isn’t about to issue a press statement from Kabarak Farm on this matter.