The art of flipping generational wealth


My grandfather died in the early 60s, and left his vast wealth in the hands of his widows and children.

Photo credit: Samuel Muigai | Nation Media Group

My late grandfather, Nicodemo Ogoye was one of the wealthiest men in Got Regea sub-location, Gem constituency. He had five wives and owned tens of herds of cattle. He died in the early 60s, and left his vast wealth in the hands of his widows and children.

Only recently, when I did a forensic search and peered at my grandfather’s legacy with a magnifying glass, did I realise that he did not just leave behind tens of herds of cattle; he left unfathomable wealth. When the baton of wealth is passed from one generation to the next, it’s incumbent on the runners whose hands the baton is in to do better than their predecessors. Doing better means, for instance, perceiving what’s inside a cow and knowing how to extract it.

To that extent, then, Ogoye left behind a thriving dairy factory, producing assorted dairy products. He left behind abattoirs, beef supply chains and butcheries. He left behind hide tanning factories. My grandfather did not just leave behind tracts of land; but cattle ranches that, by now, should be rivalling the ones in Laikipia.

My grandfather employed workers to manage his vast wealth. That was a seed for an empire that ought to have created employment for many people, his offspring included. What I am trying to say is that Ogoye left behind generational wealth – mostly in seed form - which needed to be flipped, to make his offspring fabulously wealthy for generations to come.

It is when it comes to flipping wealth that many men drop the ball. Flipping wealth means having the wisdom to see paper, wood stains, cosmetics, punches, antiseptics, soaps, milk and hundreds of other products inside a peanut. That’s what one of the greatest inventors and agricultural scientists, George Washington Carver, derived from peanuts. For some, a peanut is a meal; for another person, it is a multi-generational meal ticket. What you see is what you get.

In the art of leaving generational wealth, flipping means being the bigger person, and putting aside family rivalries, suspicions and jealousy for the greater good. It means being selfless and sacrificing for the sake of future generations.

Ogoye is buried under the majestic fig tree in his homestead. The fig tree has defied time and elements; its enormous roots reaching far and deep, its stem strong and its branches providing canopy for the cemented grave. It’s like this fig tree is indicting us; admonishing us to take a cue from it and not let the generational wealth in our hands go to waste. It’s urging us to use our gifts and talents to reach far and wide, to be strong, to defy the elements and provide a lasting and sound financial legacy for future generations.

As kids, when we went upcountry during December holidays, men and boys would take meals under the fig tree; each house bringing what they prepared to be shared by all. That was the communal spirit that further knit our blood ties. Older men would swap stories about how, when grandpa’s herds returned to the homestead from pasture, their hooves pounding the ground sounded like mini tremors. They reminisced how some of the cows were so huge, one would shelter under them when it was raining.

Those are accounts of a future lost, which left many questions in our young inquisitive minds. “What happened to all the wealth?” “When did the rain started beating y’all?” “And what are y’all doing to make it better for us, just as grandpa did it for y’all?”

Going forward into the brave bolder future, it’s incumbent on us to create new narratives, so that, when we swap stories with our children – or when they read our eulogies - they will flip the script and their internal dialogue will be: “This is a good start; now, let’s make it better.”


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