Monday, 7 December 2015

Veteran politician and man of all seasons GG bags doctorate at 76

Laikipia Senator GG Kariuki (right) and Major (Rtd) Billow Khalid who were awarded PhDs during the University of Nairobi’s 54th graduation on December 4, 2015. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Laikipia Senator GG Kariuki (right) and Major (Rtd) Billow Khalid who were awarded PhDs during the University of Nairobi’s 54th graduation on December 4, 2015. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP.

For many years, and from his Four-Way Towers office in Nairobi, GG Kariuki, the dapper and diminutive rise-and-fall fall-and-rise politician, always plotted his political relevance and survival.
His political fall was always dramatic. But with every fall, and like the phoenix in Greek mythology, GG always returned and booked his space anew at the top.
A man who entered Parliament aged 29, GG — as he is popularly known — is today one of the longest serving Members of Parliament.
And this week, he added a new feather to his CV: A doctorate degree from the University of Nairobi.
Born 76 years ago, Dr Kariuki — as he will possibly like to be known — is, perhaps Kenya’s oldest PhD graduand.
When I met him this week at the University of Nairobi doing his ‘clearance’ for his PhD graduation, I couldn’t help but see a man who has defied his age and a clear repository of Kenya’s history.
When I finally convinced him to engage in a chat, he sat with his trademark calm, composed look: “My father used to say that it’s never too late to do anything you want to do.”
GG is a man for all seasons. At the height of his might, he was a central figure in the early days of the Moi presidency straddling the political space with power. His only equal was Charles Njonjo, the Attorney General and later minister for Constitutional Affairs.
The Laikipia County Senator, once a white-settler’s kitchen-toto, has been in the thick of Kenya’s politics having played his role as a Kanu youth winger and entering Parliament in a highly multi-ethnic constituency.
He speaks Kikuyu, Turkana, Maasai and Samburu languages, has a rich history , a compulsion to rebel, a sharp interpretation of reality, treachery and disillusionment.
In his autobiography published in 2001, Illusion of Power, GG comments on Kenya’s political history — from one man’s perspective.
Although the book glosses over internal power play within the Kanu government and how he exercised his power, he observes that most politicians do not learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. Instead, blinded by personal ambition, they commit grave deeds against their colleagues and the public in general for the sake of glory, riches and power.
A man who has served in four different governments in his lifetime, the complete story of Kariuki and his politics is the story of Kenya.

Veteran politician and man of all seasons GG bags doctorate at 76 

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It is this background that made his doctorate work simple. His principal PhD supervisor at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, Prof Maria Nzomo, attributes his success in his academic work to discipline, diligence and perseverance.
“The man is a great student, keen listener and hard worker. In the initial stages, he almost gave up. But I urged him on,” says Prof Nzomo, who is also the director of the institute.
A physical fitness enthusiast, Kariuki in his early years helped introduce the Korean martial arts, Taekwondo, into Kenya as he built his motor company — Nyandarua Motors with a big showroom on Likoni Road. 
Nyandarua Motors, opposite BAT Kenya, followed the political fortunes of GG. When he fell, it tumbled.
But what made this self-taught man decide to go back to class?
“One of the key issues in life is to develop the right attitude. I try to take every challenge and problem as an incredible learning experience. The greatest lesson is that with vision and focus on what one wants to do, they can achieve it.”
He says to make a decision, one has to believe in it, make it a goal in life and charge on like a buffalo.
“I pursued education as one of my goals. There cannot be achievement without losses; one has to sacrifice something for a greater gain. In my pursuit of education I sacrificed close friends and business ventures. I was left with education and my constituents. In my studies, I also learnt that the world is bigger than we think.”
GG surprised many when he undertook his masters’ degree in international relations at Salve Regina University in the US when he was briefly out of Parliament.
He now says that his main aim of starting his PhD studies at 71 was to understand the world better.
GG’s thesis was on constitutional making at Kenya’s independence and its impact in the nation’s formative years.
The dissertation titled “Lancaster constitutional negotiation process and its impact on foreign relations of post-colonial Kenya: 1960-1970” could become a treatise in Kenya’s politics, if the reviews of his supervisors are anything to go by.
Prof Peter Kagwanja, who read GG’s PhD, describes it as deep. “We must accept. The man is so deep; he is one of our foremost historians on Kenya’s journey so far.”
GG still reads several hours a day, usually at night between 3 a.m and 5a.m. “This is the period when I am not tied down with other commitments.”
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