When many Kenyans are complaining that some security officers are insensitive and brutal, to the point that the mere sighting of their uniform or patrol vehicles sends youths scampering for safety, James Nandi, 31, is the direct opposite.
He has won accolades from the community and his seniors for his commitment to duty as an assistant county commissioner.
Mr Nandi has won hearts in a big way in the communities where he has served. He was nominated in 2021 as one of the Top 40 under 40 by Nation Media Group's Business Daily.
He is so admired that a couple in Murang’a County named their second-born son after him.
“I chose to name my baby boy after this officer because he gave me a reason to live. When he was posted to our Kahuro division, I was brewing illicit brews in nearby quarries,” says Joseph Kamau, 45.
“He summoned me, gave me Sh20,000 that I used to buy a dairy cow that in turn gave birth and I became a milk supplier. It has been earning us money and my family is stable.”
He says the returns from that dairy cow have enabled him to invest in poultry and pig farming and he has no reason to return to brewing illicit alcohol.
“On June 23, 2021 my wife gave birth to a baby boy. She had run away from me but the efforts of this officer made us reconcile and we got back together to build our home,” he says.
“It was my wife who suggested that we name the boy Ngure Nandi, which saw us retain our Agikuyu community naming traditions and still adopt the officer’s name as our baby’s baptismal name.”
Mr Nandi’s journey to public service started like a small glow of light that later exploded into a shining star.
At the age of 21, while he was a student at Moi University in Eldoret, Mr Nandi, an avid newspaper reader, encountered a news item that touched his heart.
“I was reading a copy of a local daily at the campus library. I was pursuing my bachelor of arts degree in sociology when I read the story of Halima Kosgey, who had dropped out of a Baringo County secondary school owing to a pregnancy, stayed out for four years and enrolled back to pursue her education dream,” he narrates.
“At Moi University, I mobilised fellow students and raised resources that we took to her. It was enough to keep her young family guaranteed of basic needs and also pay school fees.”
Little did Mr Nandi, who grew up in a humble background, know that his journey to greatness had started. Mr Wilfred Nyagwanga, a senior security official at Harambee House, called him “one of the most promising” government administrators.
The son of a police officer and a cleric mother – Mr Elphas Nandi and Rev Jani Nandi from Bikeke village in Trans Nzoia County – he continued supporting Ms Kosgey until she was admitted to university and graduated.
Former Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya, a neighbour of the Nandis, says "this is our native gem, my good friend, an officer guided by raw compassion and in whose hands people are safe".
After helping Ms Kosgey, it became routine for Mr Nandi to get involved in social programmes aimed at lessening the burdens of the vulnerable in society.
In 2013, he mobilised students from Kenyan universities to found Peace Ambassadors Kenya and he has been instrumental in holding dozens of runs to sensitise Kenyans on the need to keep peace during elections.
He says he began his peace initiatives after realising that social and political strife, besides killing, weighs heavily on women, children and the elderly.
He remembers the 170km walk that saw his group travel on the Eldoret-Kapsabet-Chavakali-Kakamega road as they addressed people through loudspeakers on the need for peaceful coexistence as siblings of the motherland Kenya.
Last week, he concluded another 370km walk for peace in Western, Nairobi and Central counties preaching peace before, during and after the August 9 General Election.
He had recruited members from over 30 universities and colleges.
“I segmented our action plans into several units where in our diversities, we broadened our mandate from peace to encompass the fight for the environment, road safety, lessening community suffering through provision of basic needs to the very poor and responding to education and health distress calls,” he says.
Mr Nandi, the third-born in a family of four boys, says he was absorbed in the 2015 National Government Administration Officers (NGAO) recruitment and posted in Nyeri County.
He served in Kieni East for five years, leaving a mark in eradicating illicit brews and bringing together youths under his jurisdiction to an online platform – the Kieni Youth Forum.
“It is through this forum that we reclaimed the Tanyai forest that had been destroyed and had only one tree standing. Today, the 5,000 trees that I helped plant have blossomed,” he says.
“I empowered area youths to understand government policy on inclusivity and on how to access government funding. It had become a great success when I was transferred to Kahuro division of Murang’a County in 2020.”
In Kahuro, Mr Nandi, the father of two girls aged six and 10, says he came face to face with disillusionment among boys.
“I found a population with a majority of young boys who believed life had no male role models. This was an area that had borne the brunt of the Mungiki atrocities and its civilisation had been badly battered,” he says.
“In the one year that I served the area, I left a boy who had been incorporated as a rehabilitation priority by all stakeholders.”
He says he urged pressure groups for girls to also realise the girls would need men in future to create stable families. “I urged them to embrace both genders in their programmes and it worked wonders,” he says.
He identified alcoholism and narcotics as the key challenges facing area families and as chairman of the division security committee, he set up friendly government actions against brewers.
“I used rehabilitative methods where I sought reformation of the brewers and their customers. I made them understand that the government had many ways to assist the brewers earn honest livelihoods as well as the alcoholics restructuring their mindsets to pursue what was beneficial,” he says.
Mr Nyagwanga says Mr Nandi is “on the right path and we encourage him and others to strive to relate well with our people and make them see things in a more optimistic way, investing in faith that with hard work, good choices and a positive mindset all will be well”.
Mr Nandi says his first inspiration is his mother: “I am a mummy’s boy.”
Mr Nandi, who aspires to rise through the ranks to one day become a global mankind ambassador, says his sworn enemies in life are environments that limit society’s progress.
“Children are specifically my focus since they are our future. We keep them off vices that are progressed by adults, give them space to discover their potentials and nurture them to explore the world with a global mindset … our future is guaranteed,” he says as he enters his fifth month serving in Garissa County.
He says government managers have supported his work and he looks up to many of them for guidance. He says a day lived should be one that leaves humankind with something to make their future more promising.