At 89 Moody Awori does 30 press ups and walks daily

Former Vice President Awori when he spoke to Sunday Nation at His home in Nairobi on April 28, 2017. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA

What you need to know:

  • Family is no laughing matter for uncle moody. It is the most valuable thing to the father of five and grandfather of many.
  • He swims 365 days a year in addition to other forms of gruelling exercises to keep fit. That together with a positive attitude to life, he says, has kept him around this long, and he rarely falls sick.
  • Sometimes, you will find him in his office at the Prof Nelson Awori Centre – a building he owns – and sometimes, like on Friday morning, you will find him in his home office, overlooking the vast parking lot at his splendid Lavington Muthangari home.

Every morning at 4:30 am, without fail, Moody Awori, now 89 years old, springs out of bed. After doing “only 30” press ups, he takes to his floor exercises, which involve some serious stretching that Moody is very happy to explain in detail.

“I lie on my back and then I flip over until my feet touch the ground. Then I get up and do that again… 150 times,” he says casually.

It is a punishing and gruelling 30-minute exercise that could break your back, but the former vice-president who left politics in 2008, says he has been doing that for over 40 years now. It is a type of floor exercise he learnt from a Sikh woman when he had a serious back problem, which is now long gone.

Many people stop at the floor exercises. Mr Awori doesn’t. He puts on his track suit and walking shoes and finds one of his bodyguards waiting for him at the lobby. Together they take a five-kilometre walk from his home in Nairobi’s Muthangari to Safaricom House along Waiyaki way. That walk takes him about an hour. It is now almost 6 am. Mr Awori changes into his swimming gear and does 20 laps around his bean-shaped, azure blue swimming pool before returning upstairs for a hearty breakfast. He walks five days a week, Mondays to Fridays, but swims “365 days a year”, he says. “I walk without fail. Even when it is raining heavily I have no excuse because I have a raincoat and waterproof walking shoes,” he adds.

He steps into his office at exactly 9 am to sign cheques and now also his newly launched autobiography, but mostly to work on his computer. Sometimes, you will find him in his office at the Prof Nelson Awori Centre – a building he owns – and sometimes, like on Friday morning, you will find him in his home office, overlooking the vast parking lot at his splendid Lavington Muthangari home.

His home office is an extension of Mr Awori’s laid back and humble character. We find him busy writing, using an ink pen, what I later learn are notes for the interview we are about to have. He puts a bottle of ink away and clears his table to greet us.

The dark mahogany desk is strewn with papers. Behind us is a huge bookcase filled with books, among them books by Niccolo Machiavelli. There are about seven cowboy hats in different colours, which he tells us are a favourite accessory, stacked on one of the shelves. On the wall, is a painting of his mother, Mama Mariam Awori, painted in 1969 and one of American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Junior painted in 1968.

Awori, his wife Rose and their five children in a family photo. PHOTO | COURTESY


“When I handed over the vice-presidency to Kalonzo Musyoka in January 2008, it took me about a month to adjust from public life to the normal life of a private citizen,” he begins the interview. After the month was over, he folded his sleeves and got busy. Prior to his 30-year political career, he was a businessman with vast investments in manufacturing, hospitality, and real estate. He owned a company manufacturing building materials such as tiles and slabs, and had also invested in some cottages down at the Coast. But after deep thought, he sold the manufacturing and hospitality businesses to focus solely on real estate, which has “less competition”.

The magnificent Prof Nelson Awori Centre in Upperhill, Nairobi, is an office park and one of his latest additions. When he was vice president, he left the management of property to contracted real estate agency. But when he left public office, he took a more hands-on approach and often consults with his realtor. In fact, our interview is cut short briefly to return a call from the real estate agent to discuss a new tenant. He owns real estate property in Lavington Muthangari, Kisumu, Mombasa and Upper Hill.

Running his business is not the only thing that keeps Mr Awori active these days. Several companies such as Eveready and Sameer Africa have brought him on board to play advisory roles. He is also the goodwill ambassador of the Safaricom Foundation where he participates on a low profile and part-time basis. When the Safaricom Foundation hosts a seminar and are in need of a motivational speaker, they know whom to call.

“When I was in public office, I made a couple of friends and launched some projects. Sometimes they call me to check on them,” he says.

Perhaps one of his greatest legacies is that of prison reform. It was “Uncle Moody”, as he is fondly known, who brought dignity to the otherwise dog’s life of prisoners in this country. It was Uncle Moody who ensured that all prisoners now sleep on proper beds with warm beddings. It was during his time that prisoners could finally own a pair of shoes and keep up with the current events, thanks to the televisions brought by Uncle Moody.

“I have always been a social welfare person,” he says. “It means a lot to me to see the conditions which people live have been improved,”

So one day, when he toured Kamiti Maximum Prison, Moody was overcome with emotion when he saw the pathetic living conditions of prisoners then. He was shocked to see inmates sleeping on the hard cold floor and covering themselves with an old, threadbare blanket. The food was atrocious, he recalls, and the stench was overpowering. There were no drainages and inmates looked sad and despaired.

“I couldn’t stomach it,” he recalls. “I vowed that it wouldn’t remain like this under my docket. The structures, built in 1910, were built to torture the African prisoner. It was sad that the inmates were paying a painful price every day for the laws they broke.”

Something had to change, and he had to step in.

Although he laughs off the idea that he is wealthy, Mr Awori is by any standards a well-off man. After a hearty laugh when I ask him about his rumoured vast wealth, he says; “Let me put it this way. I do not lack material things. As for being a wealthy man, that’s just a perception. I live well, I will not deny. And I also like to help people.”

Every year, at least 20 students he supports across the country graduate from university.

“I have enough to share,” he says.

There is no secret recipe to wealth, if you are wondering. From a young age, Mr Awori cultivated a disciplined culture of saving money. Save more than you spend, he advises. Even as a businessman, he has learnt the art of not overspending.

“Always in business, your input must be less in order to make profit. When your input exceeds your profits, then you will lose out,” he says.

A business is an entity. You must divorce yourself from your business. When it is doing well, don’t rush to replace your old Toyota with a Range Rover or dash off to Dubai for the weekend. If you do that when you are still starting out in business, that business will not survive, says the real estate mogul.

family photos of a younger Moody Awori and right, the Aworis wedding in 1958. PHOTO | COURTESY


Last week he launched his memoirs which he says he wrote himself and it took him two years to summarise the highlights of his life. It took many gruelling hours of writing and rewriting, and ping pongs with Moran Publishers to finally get the book out. He had expected 200 guests at the book launch, but was pleasantly surprised to see more than 300 people come for the event. In his office, are cartons full of his books.

“Some people insisted that I sign them before they take them. So I have been signing books all week,” he chuckles.

It is difficult to write about oneself, especially for a phlegmatic man like Mr Awori. “Will people think that I am too self-centred?” He remembers battling with the question. When he finally decided to put pen to paper, the tough task of compressing 89 years of life into one volume was his biggest headache. All the highlights are in the book, he promises, but he carefully avoided lecturing people, so as not to hurt their feelings because he believes that sometimes it is prudent to be sensitive to other people’s hearts.

“In Africa, we still haven’t fully matured in governance and running our societies, companies and countries. We are still very thin-skinned. So in the book I avoided to appear as if I was lecturing people but I pointed out weaknesses in the way we live. I tried to be as sensitive as I could,” he says.

Mr Awori says that at his age he has no time for negative energy. He likes to be in good terms with everyone. Work on your mind, to live that long, he advises. Always maintain a positive attitude and when the going gets tough, don’t let it weigh you down. After all, the world does not owe you anything and it is always better to work for what you need and don’t expect a lot from people. Also, ignore the bad and focus on the good in people. Nobody’s perfect, he advises.

He cannot underscore enough the importance of physical exercise. Although he has scaled down his exercises with age, he says there is no option or short cut to physical exercise. When he was younger, in his 60s, he would manage about 100 press up daily which reduced to 50 press ups in his 70s to now 30. In his 70s he would jog the 5km he now walks, and when he was assistant minister for tourism, he would walk from his Muthangari home to his office at Utalii House in the city centre.

“You must exercise your body every day. People neglect their bodies and it is a pity,” he says.

Mr Awori rarely gets sick. In recent memory, he has been to the hospital twice. Once for an operation after which he walked out of hospital a few hours later and lately, to see another doctor for “mild gout”. An ardent fan of nyama choma , the doctor asked him to keep off red meat and salt, which he had developed a bit of taste for, so to speak.

“I like my ugali brown and I love my greens. I also eat a lot of fish, chicken and pork,” he says.

 He loves nyama choma so much, that he and his grandchildren have a nyama choma day on Sunday afternoons.

“Nowadays, its chicken choma,” he says.

But family is no laughing matter. It is the most valuable thing to the father of five and grandfather of many. He is also one of the popular contributors to an extended family WhatsApp group of close to 200 members where he constantly checks up on his extended family.

“It is important to keep your family intact. I come from a family of 17 children – now I am the head of the family – and we ensure we meet four times a year at my sister Mary Akello’s Makini School for a prayer meeting,” he says.

His parting shot, in the current political environment is quite simple. He urges Kenyans to emphasise integrity, patriotism, and nationalism.

It is time to leave the poolside interview now, as Mr Awori takes us on a tour of his grandiose residence.

The first stop is his sun room, which is really his other home office, a vast room with large windows overlooking the swimming pool. Then there is the family room, with a prominent corner that holds the Awori’s history with black and white pictures from the Aworis wedding in 1958 to photos of their giggly grandchildren.

Pictures of his wife, Mrs Rose Awori – a media shy lady who was out of town at the time of the interview, dominate the family pictures, probably an indication of the place of the family matriarch, the one who holds together the home.