David Musila

Mr Simeon Nyachae (left) and Mr David Musila (right).

| File | Nation Media Group

The day Nyachae saved Musila’s job over coup attempt on Kenyatta

In 1971, amid tension following an attempted coup against President Jomo Kenyatta’s government, allegedly plotted by his army boss Joseph Ndolo, a young district officer (DO) was under pressure to quit government.

The 28-year-old DO, who served in Nakuru, was annoyed that his boss was viewing him with suspicion that he could be a sympathiser of the coup plotters because he was Kamba like the army boss.

That DO was Mr David Musila and his boss was District Commissioner Mwangi Gichohi.

“In 1971, I served as a DO in Nakuru when there was widespread talk about a coup allegedly organised by Major General Ndolo, the head of Kenya Army. Most of the people involved in the plot to overthrow the government were prominent Kamba personalities both in the civil service and the military,” writes Mr Musila in his memoirs, Seasons of Hope.

“My DC then, Mwangi Gichohi viewed me with suspicions. Being a Kamba fitted into a stereotype image of a coup plotter and it was difficult time for me until I decided to quit, but Mr (Simeon) Nyachae stood with me,” Mr Musila narrates.

Respect for Nyachae

The young DO had immense respect for Mr Nyachae.

The two had first met in 1968 in Nakuru. At the time, Mr Musila was a newly recruited DO posted to Naivasha. Mr Nyachae, who was then serving as the district commissioner in Nakuru, was his first boss. It is because of the friendship they had forged that Mr Musila, when faced with the frustrations in the early years of his career, had turned to his mentor to inform him he was about to resign.

Mr Nyachae, at the time Central Provincial Commissioner, flatly rejected Mr Musila’s idea.

Bid to join army

Barely three years into his service, with the help of the then Army Brigadier Jackson Mulinge, Mr Musila had applied and was recruited into the Kenya Army, based on his previous paramilitary training in Embakasi.

Due to his respect for Mr Nyachae, Mr Musila went to his PC’s office in Nyeri to inform him that he was leaving provincial administration for the Kenya Army.

“I gave him the appointment letter, but after reading, he told me to go and throw it in the dustbin. He did not want me to leave. I was disappointed but I could not disobey him,” he writes in his book.

In 1973, Mr Nyachae’s request to have Mr Musila transferred to Nyeri PC’s office to serve as his personal assistant was granted, cementing the close ties between the two men.

“Towards the end 1974, Mr Nyachae recommended that I be elevated to the position of DC, and this was granted, where I was deployed to Tana River. I would be in charge of the district for two years before being transferred to Kirinyaga District back in Central to reunite with him,” the veteran politician explains.

Central PC

Mr Musila found himself under the late Nyachae — whom he describes as a larger than life personality — as his boss, again. He was soon appointed to deputise him as Central PC.

The young district officer, who years earlier had given up on the job, was now occupying a front row seat in the affairs of Central Province, the home region of President Jomo Kenyatta.

Mr Musila was to succeed his boss as the Central PC at the age of 36, becoming the youngest provincial commissioner then.

“On September 7, 1979, Mr Nyachae summoned me to his office. As usual, I thought he was giving me instructions but instead, handed over some notes and told me President Daniel Moi had accepted his recommendation to hand over the administration of Central Province to me,” Mr Musila recalls.

The coup nightmare would face him while he was Central PC in 1982 when Kenya Air force soldiers attempted to overthrow President Moi’s government.

The coup unravelled a day after the president had been in Nyeri to open the year’s agricultural show.

This time, Mr Musila did not attempt to flee but, instead, he coordinated the safety of VIPs in the area, including then Vice President Mwai Kibaki. 

On Wednesday, the former Kitui Senator recounted how Mr Nyachae, who died on Monday, mentored him in his career in the civil service.

He says he was left speechless by the surprise promotion but was grateful that Mr Nyachae was neither a control freak nor an insecure boss.

Mr Musila said he has lost a close friend.