Meet ex-assistant chief preserving past by saving decades of ‘Nation’

Mr Wambugu shows the stacks of Daily Nation newspapers going all the way up to the ceiling in his office in Nakuru town.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The room is lined with stacks of newspapers going all the way up to the ceiling.
  • He has sorted them by year and specific interest such as elections, disasters, cultural events and sports.
  • Even as the Nation rebranded recently, Mr Wambugu is safely keeping copies of the new-look newspaper.
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As you step into the office situated on first floor of Tropical House along Moi Road, Nakuru Town for the first time, you’ll be forgiven for mistaking it for a newspaper distribution office.

The room is lined with stacks of newspapers going all the way up to the ceiling.

The office belongs to the man who served as the first assistant chief of Nakuru town, Mr Benjamin Wambugu.

Mr Wambugu has been saving past copies of his favourite newspaper, the Nation, over a period of nearly 40 years.

Even as the Nation rebranded recently, Mr Wambugu started another journey - he is safely keeping copies of the new-look newspaper.

He says he kept the copies over the years because they chronicle events he experienced and which are of significant historical importance.

Mr Wambugu shows some past copies of Daily Nation which he has preserved.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

"When you take time to save interesting or historically relevant newspapers, you never want to risk damaging or losing them because you are preserving memorable and precious content that you will enjoy for years to come," he told the Nation recently.

"Looking at old Daily Nation newspapers and going through some of the most sentimental stories and pictures ever recorded in the history of journalism in Kenya is a timeless way to preserve a memory and encourage a smile," he says, adding that if anyone wants to have a glimpse of the past, he has safely stored it in an archive.

"Leaving these newspapers lying in drawers or cabinets will undoubtedly cause them to get manhandled, torn, lost or burnt," he said as he took out a past copy of the newspaper.

"These are historical documents that I treasure and I don't want them to be lost to the ages. Over time, I am tempted to fish out those newspapers from 10, 15, 20 years past and revel in days gone by. It's only natural to want to reflect and walk down memory lane and enjoy Kenya's and Africa history at its best."

He says that when he wants to remember a big day or share a part of the past with friends and family, he reaches into his archive, adding that he carefully groups them by date.

Mr Wambugu, 80, has sorted them by year and specific interest such as elections, disasters, cultural events and sports.

Mr Wambugu with his wife Elizabeth Wanjiku and one of his grandsons.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

"There was a time I used to store them in my house but my wife Elizabeth used some of the newspapers to light her jiko while I was away and I was not amused. I decided to shift them from home to office. I could not sit and watch my treasured history go up in smoke forever."

Some of the memorable editions he enjoyed reading include coverage on the Mau Mau freedom struggle, he says.

"I also loved the way the Nation covered the death of former Nyandarua politician Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, popularly known as JM, the death of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his release from detention," he explained.

But why take time and convert his office into an archive?

"I take solace and pride in the knowledge that I'm saving a piece of the past for the future," he says.

Mr Wambugu arrived in Nakuru town on January 14, 1960 from Mucharage village in Othaya, Nyeri County.

The alumnus of Kabaranet High School in Baringo County says he has resisted many offers to sell the newspapers.

"People have been coming here to buy these old papers…There are some historical records which I would not like to see wrapping meat," added the father of six.

Mr Wambugu arrived in Nakuru town on January 14, 1960 from Mucharage village in Othaya, Nyeri County.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

"I remember some police officers missed some important information of an accident victim and they came here. I retrieved a Daily Nation copy from September 18, 2009 and they got the vital information in the obituary pages. The victim's family was paid its share of insurance compensation thanks to my good record keeping."

His journey with newspapers started in 1970 when he saw an advertisement for the position of divisional clerical officer in Maralal, Samburu. He applied and got the job.

"I was transferred to Nakuru Central registry and my job was to read the Daily Nation and do cuttings on anything touching on the government in Rift Valley province. As I did the cuttings, my bond with the newspapers became so intimate that reading them became a hobby and I never missed a single copy even on weekends," he recalls.

He was appointed the first assistant chief Grade One in Nakuru town on July 16, 1973 and his boss was retired chief Zablon Isaac Ngotho.

In 1982, he was ordered by then District Commissioner Benjamin Ogol and Provincial Commissioner Hezekiah Oyugi to have maize grown in the town slashed.

"I declined the orders as I didn't want to live with blame from the residents and God. I was accused of insubordination and was retired in public interest," he said.

However, this opened a window of opportunity for him as he started a procurement company, Journeyman General Enterprise, to supply various goods advertised in the newspaper.

"As an avid reader of the newspaper, there are many tenders advertised and as I continue reading to search for tenders to supply goods in Nakuru County and beyond," he says.

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