Lee Njiru: Be ready for second earth-shaking biography

Lee Njiru,

Lee Njiru, former president Daniel arap Moi’s press secretary speaks at his Ngata home in Nakuru County on  April 27, 2022.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

If you think Lee Njiru, the author of the 'President's Pressman' memoir, has spilt enough beans on the shocking under dealings, power struggle, backstabbing and deep ethnic bigotry at State House, then you are in a for a rude shock.

According to Njiru, the current memoir, which has been described by literature guru Prof Egara Kabaji as a "powerful story and a monument for posterity" is just the tip of the iceberg.

"The first memoir is like a small earthquake that is usually not felt but can be recorded by a seismograph. The Season Two of my memoir will be like a greater earthquake. It will complement the first part of the 'President's Pressman' memoir in a big way. The next tenant at State House should read this book as his guiding manual," said Njiru.

He has started compiling Season Two of the 'President's Pressman' after the first memoir received overwhelming support following the serialisation by the Daily Nation.

"Season Two of my memoir will be hotter, more gripping, engaging and action-packed. I could not write everything owing to Kenyans' reading habits and their busy lifestyles. I could not write a very big book because Kenyans are intimidated by large books and have no time to read a voluminous book."

But even as he lays the groundwork for his second memoir, Njiru wishes the fifth President of Kenya will have time to read his bare-knuckle book and have it on his shelf for future reference.

"I would love to see the next tenant at State House read this book and make it his guiding manual. After all, some of the top secrets I have written in my book happened at State House. You never know, the next President may pick one or two lessons in the memoir because he will also one day be made to account for what happened during his tenure in office," said Njiru.

He continued: "The current memoir is nearly 400 pages but I have only touched on a few issues during my 46 years as a career civil servant and press secretary of two Presidents. I have more in store that Kenyans don't know and that is why I'm sending an early disclaimer to Kenyans to prepare for the next earth earthshaking book."

Moi's press secretary Lee Njiru speaks

And this may not come as a big shock as Njiru has maintained a work ethic that not many of his peers have bothered to pursue as recorders of history.

"I keep a very elaborate diary and up to now, I can tell you for the last 30 years every day who I met, what we discussed and even what I ate. I write every day. I got a pile of books and ledgers where I write. I write my diary every day and it is elaborate," explained the 72-year-old Njiru who will be celebrating his birthday tomorrow.

He says he developed this habit of elaborate record keeping of history after he realised that many people have a poor memory and do not record important events they attend and other historic events of national importance.

"I just developed this habit of keeping records. I used to randomly ask people where they were two years ago and the majority could not remember a single incident or occasion, I didn't like it. That is the moment it dawned on me the importance of good record keeping. I have massive reference materials that I write myself," he said.

The septuagenarian's exceptionally good memory and good record-keeping diary habits have served him well.

It is this superb record keeping that gives Njiru the bragging rights as a walking encyclopedia and that is why he is ready to challenge anybody on matters of history, especially regarding the working of Mzee Daniel arap Moi.

"My interaction with the late Mzee Moi was more than working as his press secretary. You can only challenge me on what I have written in my memoir 'President's Pressman' at your own peril. When Moi was in office and after his retirement, every day I recorded who we met and where we were. I know everything. I record it in a hard cover book for ease of storage. If you want to know where I was 20 years ago at a certain date, I will tell you with a lot of ease," said Njiru.

He says he laughs when he reads a lot of discrepancies in the book, 'Moi: The Making of an African Statesman' by Andrew Morton.

"On Mzee Moi history, Andrew Morton got it wrong. The book has a lot of discrepancies because he was asking people with no records. If you ask me anything about Mzee Moi I will tell you. If I don't remember something well I just check my books and I tell you the exact date."

According to Njiru, to write such a memoir like the 'President's Pressman' one must be bold and avoid too much consultation.

"Writing such a memoir is not for the faint-hearted. You need to be foxy, sly, and brave. You cannot write such a book if you're a coward. It is tedious, taxing both physically and mentally."

To many people, 3am conjures up so many things. It is a time of the night when one can hear a pin drop as they snore on their mattresses in the last third of the night. For some, it is just a time when they are deep in slumber. For others, it is a time of stillness and fear where all things seem to be dark.

However, for Njiru it is that time of beckoning. Unaware to many enjoying the 'President's Pressman' memoir that has generated a lot of debate, Njiru was burning the midnight oil and was compiling the book in the stillness of the night when most people were asleep.

"I was writing from 3am to 7am then I would go back to bed then wake up at about 10am and do the normal daily chores. I couldn't write during the day because I keep on receiving calls and visitors and attending to other development issues that distract your thinking when writing," he said at his Ngata farm on the outskirts of Nakuru City.

He continued: "I was lucky when I was director of the Presidential Press Service I used to wake up at 4am every day because I was required to be in the office at 5.45am. So waking up early was not a big issue and it is still not an issue today. I'm used to it."

However, he confesses that while writing the memoir it was not a walk-in-the-park affair as sometimes he suffered serious writers' block.

But he is lucky he has an expansive piece of land and when that happened he took a walk and mingled with nature in his private forest full of indigenous trees and relaxed as his mind is soothed by the singing birds and blowing cool wind.