Editor’s Choice

Chosen few: 10 Kenyans for whom 2020 was a blessed year!

Barely in her 20s, this niece of President Uhuru coined millions in the shortest route possible

Boot-preneurs: The pandemic led to massive job losses and business failure that down graded Kenya’s acrobatic middle class into roadside Mama and Baba Mbogas. But for a select few, 2020 could never have been a better year. Think of sanitizer manufacturers.

By Shifa Mwihaki

Feature writer/Essayist

You could be cursing 2020 as the Year from Hell, the annus horribilis that should be quickly forgotten. But in reality, it was the year that will still be remembered a century hence. And while many lost their jobs, businesses, mistresses, marriages, friends, relatives and not a few enemies due to the vagaries of ‘Miss Rona’, there are some Kenyans to whom 2020 might as well repeat itself. They are not complaining, but maybe silently praying things get worse-which for them, means better. Think of sanitizer and soap manufacturers, face mask importers, influencers and bloggers…

Then there is another breed that won medical tenders, made money in trailer loads, rekindled flagging careers, left a mark, became famous. You can add to the list, but here goes…

  1. Samantha Ngina: Blood is thicker than engine oil
It runs in the family: Samantha Ngina is the daughter of Nyokabi Muthama, Uhuru’s sister. She co-owns Ziwala with her cousin, June Nduta Kinyua, daughter of Kathleen Kihanya who once ran the Uhuru Kenyatta Centre before he became President. Lockdown found her at the right time…from the right family!

Barely in her 20s, but this niece of President Uhuru Kenyatta coined millions in the shortest route possible: Covid-19 tender! Samantha’s company, Ziwala Ltd was awarded a Sh84 million deal to supply 120, 000 KN95 masks at Sh7000 a piece!

2. Ivy Onyango: Hitting the tendering Motherlode

Funny money: Ivy Onyango incorporated Kiliq Ltd on January 22, less than two months befor lockdowns and curfews began in Kenya. Her briefcase firm was later awarded a Sh4 billion tender to supply 450, 000 PPEs sets at Sh9, 000 a piece.

Ivy, a lawyer, was yet another 20-something whose firm was awarded a Sh4 billion Covid-19 tender by Kemsa. She is listed as a director of Kilig Ltd which was registered by politically connected big shots before Covid hit Kenya. It was later ‘sold’ to her after winning the billions in PPE tenders which was curious considering whether a company that was barely months old had the financial muscle to pull off the stunt.

3. James Njuguna: Luck equals walking next to the right buildings

Caught in the net: James Njuguna recalled: “I went straight to the receptionist who advised me not to waste time and apply for the tenders which were being flaunted.I quickly penned off a two-sentence letter and after two hours I was told I had succeeded and asked to collect the commitment letter from the Chief executive officer’s office.”

Njuguna, the director of La Miguela Holdings was just walking along Airport North Road in Nairobi and generally minding his own business when he noticed a crowd milling around. Upon inquiry, he was given a form and voila! He walked away with a Sh180 million tender to supply Kemsa with medical equipment! Such is the simple secret of success!

4. Isaac Maina Wandere: Sh4 million tea and mandazis

Whiff of money: The businessman, formerly a meteorologist and part time fruit broker, is one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s bosom buddies, but unknown to many, his firm was behind the supply of tea and snacks costing Sh4 million to Ministry of Health.

Maina Wandere runs Wanderjoy Party World which has done roaring business supplying tents to Jubilee Party campaigns, catering services to State House and made more millions supplying the Ministry of Interior with tea and snacks to cops who were manning roadblocks during Covid-19 curfew and lockdown. Maina also provided mobile toilets at police roadblocks.

5.Ndegwa Njiru: The impeachment lawyer

Burden of truth: His name means ‘Black Bull’ and few lawyers shone bright this year than Ndegwa. And boy! didn’t he put quite a show, his cross-examination leaving witnesses shaking in their boots.

He was little known before the Kirinyaga County Assembly hired him during the impeachment of Governor Mrs Anne Kamotho. She was represented by hubby, Kamotho Waiganjo,the First Gentleman of Kirinyaga whom Ndegwa left fidgeting. Alas! Mrs Kamotho was not impeached. But Ndegwa’s star rose such that the Nairobi County Assembly hired him during the impeachment of disgraced Governor Mike Sonko who lost his seat!

6. Azziad Nasenya: Milked her 15 minutes of fame dry

Diamond in the rough: Azziad Nasenya knew she would once be famous, artistically. After clearing college, she engaged a manager before she even got one gig. Then came the Utawezana challenge during lockdown and the rest is the history of hidden chances.

The lockdown provided Azziad Nasenya with the biggest break when she became an Internet sensation via her infectious dance Challenge to Femi One and Mejja’s song, Utawezana, on Tik Tok. Not one to waste a breakthrough, the chick with a sunny personality appeared on talk shows enroute to an acting and social media influencer gigs where the soon to be 20 year old charges the equivalent of kidney transplant fees to post stuff on her social media handles.

7. Peter Kenneth: Sh3.5 billion banking windfall

The deal maker: Besides Mayfair Bank, Peter Kenneth also has shares in Mayfair Insurance with tentacles in Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and DRC.

In an year when companies experienced dipping revenues, reported profit warnings, declared redundancies or closed shop altogether, Kenneth, formerly a failed Presidential candidate, earned a windfall when Mayfair bank, where he has interests alongside Gor Mahia chair Ambrose Rachier, offloaded a 51 percent stake to Egypt’s largest private lender, CIB bank, for an eye-watering Sh3.5 billion. It has since been renamed Mayfair CIB.

8. Michael Olunga: Boy with the golden boot

The goal machine: When the year from hell turned local footballers turned into water vendors to survive, Fifa ranked Michael Olunga among the little known ‘hot shots’ of 2020.

He couldn’t travel from Japan to play for Harambee Stars due to restrictions related to Miss Rona. Harambee Stars lost both home and away to minnows Comoros during their Africa Cup of Nations campaigns. Maybe, Olunga could have picked an injury had he played for Stars. Good he didn’t. Olunga was named the 2020 Most Valuable Player and Golden Boot Winner in 20202 via scoring 28 goals in 32 games for Kashiwa Reysol in the Japanese League.

 9. Uhuru Kenyatta: Settled political scores

All the President’s men: It is said a politician worth his salt should never waste a disaster. Many had assumed President Uhuru Kenyatta was a lame duck Head of State. What with less than three years to his last term. How wrong they were. And what an opportunity the lockdowns and curfews provided him with time and space to put enemies in their place.

The Miss Rona pandemic was God sent. It offered Uhuru the political legroom to clean up dissidents and settle scores with disruptors in his government including his politically ambitious DP William Ruto. Uhuru’s purge on Governors, Senators and some errant MPs realigned his endgame with friendly lawmakers to do his bidding-including impeaching unsavoury characters like Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. The lockdown and attendant curfews also gave Uhuru time to gather intelligence, kwa ground. 

10. Mutahi Kagwe: Most Kenyans don’t just gerrit

Coming in from the cold: Mutahi Kagwe, former Senator for Nyeri, was largely being the face of government since March. His confidence in times of turmoil made him the ‘Man of the moment’ at the height of lockdowns and curfews.

He was fished from political Siberia and appointed Health CS to replace the dithering Cecily Kariuki, Kagwe’s star rose with the attention he was getting due to Miss Rona. His docket also bestowed him with ‘Emergency Powers’ which he used to shut down pubs and eateries countrywide.  The former Nyeri Senator can thank Miss Rona for reviving his flagging political career.

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