In this second and final instalment of a two-part exclusive interview with former Machakos First Lady Lillian Ng’ang’a, she tells Sunday Nation’s Collins Omulo why meeting musician Julius ‘Juliani’ Owino changed her life, how ‘peace talks’ with Governor Alfred Mutua collapsed and what the future holds.
In case you missed the first instalment, read here.
How did you meet musician Juliani?
I do not want to go into many details because I don’t want to talk about Juliani today. However, I met him mid this year. It was just out of the blue — I had never interacted with him before.
What attracted you to him?
I like to call myself a thinker but when I met Juliani, it was like I had found the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. His values and mine aligned.
Just the way he looks at life, what he values, what is important to him are the same things that are important to me. For me, that is very rare.
Then now getting to know him at a personal level has confirmed to me that he is a very good person.
I call myself God’s masterpiece and it also happens that his album is similarly titled. I think you need to listen to his songs from back in the days. He has only become better and that is what attracted me to him.
Can we call it village or ghetto love?
Village love it is. But you know Juliani is a Nairobi boy and not a village person like me. However, village love is the best kind of love. It is very unfortunate to see people say unpleasant things about me and Juliani thinking it was a wrong choice for me. Who decides? What do you mean by a wrong choice? I am a better person with him than I was. I wake up with Juliani and tell him ‘Darling, I thank God for a new day with you.’
I have seen guys (sic) attacking him in a certain way just because he is an artiste, trying to compare him with Alfred (Governor Mutua) who has been in government for years.
They are forgetting the reason they know Juliani is because he is a brand on his own. He has made his name on his own.
But this is because people have been brought up to look at money as everything and so we should work hard, get a job, become rich then crash everybody as you go along.
So when people talk about Juliani in a certain way and Alfred in another way, it is because the latter is in government. But what people fail to appreciate is that Juliani, as a person, is way better because he has built his own brand himself — no appointment — and started from zero to 100.
People need to expand their minds and thinking. It would have been easy for me to stay with Alfred because with him I didn’t have to work and life was good and comfortable. But up to what point?
Why do you call yourself a village girl?
Besides being brought up in a village, I am not an extravagant girl. I don’t have crazy love for expensive things. I call myself a low maintenance kind of woman. The only thing I spend my money on is running gear because I am a runner.
Even with Alfred, we started from nothing as he had transferred all the properties he had to his ex-wife and we began from nothing.
For Alfred and those trolls (bullies on social media), they need to know that although money is good, it is not everything. We always forget about other aspects of life while focusing on chasing money, so you don’t get to develop wholly as a person.
I hear people talk about this and that gift. Let Alfred list down all the gifts he bought for me. You will find they are these little things like necklaces and the likes but not designer clothes, expensive cars and all that. I am hardly impressed with flashy things, so all the years together I never went for crazy shopping trips buying expensive things; so there are no issues of gifts that can come up.
We must respect people’s choices. I am a very independent person, clear on what I want and how I want it.
For Alfred — a man of his age, he should not be doing the things he has been doing (to me) since we broke up.
And you must have seen those photos online of you and Juliani at a place some people claimed was a matatu stage…
It was not in a matatu. It was at Village Market. They have something like a bus at the kids’ (children’s) section. We were there for a friend’s child’s birthday so we were just enjoying the ride.
In all this saga, there is Boniface Mwangi (well-known as an activist and photographer). Who is he to the two of you?
I have no comment but Boni is my friend. I met him some years back through a girl we went to secondary school with. She is called Ann Kamoni, who was a photojournalist at The Standard newspaper. She passed away sometime back. Boni and Juliani have also been friends for many years.
A big debate online has been why Boni posts things about you and Juliani, including photographs?
Boni is someone who is courageous and if he sees injustice, he will speak up. His involvement in our affair is just him being at the right place at the wrong time. I admire his courage and I think everyone should have that kind of courage.
Back to Alfred. Do you have any joint ventures with him?
Yes, we do. The media said we are fighting over wealth (after the press conference on Thursday) yet the issue is that he transferred my shares from Ndash Enterprises Limited, a company we jointly own, to his sister without my consent.
The company is mine. Ndash is my high school nick name. I am the one who registered it but when we established the hotel, we had to turn the company into a limited company to be the mother company for the hotel.
And again, I am recognised by Family Bank (which provided a loan) as a principal and beneficial 50 per cent shareholder at the same level as Alfred. We are both equally responsible for the payment of the Sh145 million loan taken out by Ndash to develop A&L Hotel.
Then there was also the issue of breaking into my apartment and taking my car. It is not a county government car but a personal one. I have had it since 2014 (these allegations are the subject of a court case). So when people are talking about us fighting over wealth, it is just ridiculous.
During the Thursday press briefing, you said your lives (with Juliani) are in danger. What is going on?
I had a mature conversation with Alfred and agreed things were not working out, so we were going to separate and remain friends and that is why I was a guest at his birthday.
There was the public announcement of our separation on August 15 and then the birthday was a week later. We had an agreement as mature adults to remain good friends. This was carried in both our (social media) posts. And we were friends for a week but trouble began when I posted that Juliani and I are two adults who have decided to be together.
I made the two posts (about the end of our relationship and starting a new life with Juliani) to avoid any rumours, which had started going round. I am a straightforward person and so I did not want other narratives to be pushed.
When I met Alfred at Windsor in September, he called for a truce but his demands were that I should first publicly apologise for posting our breakup, then apologise for posting my new relationship.
But I told him there is no way I am going to retract the statements and apologise to him because that is my stand and choice. So he told me that I think I have really matured and can talk to him like that. In his mind, he has never seen me like a grown woman. To him, I am the young girl he met 10 years ago. It goes back to him being a control freak.
So he told me since I will not do as he wants, I will henceforth be his enemy number one and it is war and he’s gonna (going to) crash me. I told him to go ahead.
He also told me that we (Lillian and Juliani) should not set foot in Machakos. One of his friends even asked him him to retract the statement but he said no. From then we have not spoken. He felt like this person (Juliani) should not have taken me away since he (governor Mutua) is such an important person. That is such backward thinking. Everyone decides who they want to stay with or marry.
We have had some friends who have tried to mediate for peace between us but to no avail. Even as we sit here (at the interview), I am for peace because there is no need to burn bridges and become enemies after living together for 10 years.
Even before the press conference on Thursday, I requested for a sit-down with him (the governor) through a senior lawyer. He completely dismissed us.
What other threats have you gone through since your separation?
We (Lillian and Juliani) are being trailed. Last weekend, I was driving somewhere with Juliani and he parked. Another car came and parked in front of us. The only thing we could do was to take a photo and drive off. The number plate was searched and found to be fake.
The day my apartment was broken into, Juliani was somewhere and he was very certain he was being followed. And for sure he was because the next day, some people came and took the car. So when I say my life is in danger, I am not joking.
I just want to live a simple, quiet life. I am speaking out because I know Alfred and I know he is not going to stop. He will destroy me not for his own gain but because he is angry I left him. That is why I insist he needs to work on his issues.
He has broken my heart before but I never told him I was going to crash him to ashes or kill him. When I say my life is in danger, I am serious. I don’t fear death but I wish it doesn’t come so soon because I also love life too much and I want to live for long.
Why do you think it is becoming too hard for him to move on?
I know he is hurt but I have also been hurt in the past, but his weakness is that he is very dismissive, probably because of his position, and he likes to judge and degrade people.
The reason he is fighting me is because I have said no to him and he cannot take it as he is used to people saying yes to everything he says because they fear him — it is always his way or the highway.
The other thing that is bringing all the drama is because I am with another man. Otherwise, if we would have separated and I was single, he would be alright.
He tried to give me a new car, said he will give me money, a new house, a job, a white wedding but I declined. He used to call us (Lillian and Alfred) the Royal Couple and so he wondered how I would grace the magazine covers with Juliani and not him.
It happened that the Windsor meeting was on a Wednesday and the Sunday before it, my photo with Juliani was in the front cover of one of the newspapers and he told me that Juliani was just riding on my fame. There was a time he told me he was running for president so we can once in a while appear in public like we are still together but I refused because I did not want to be caught up in a web of lies.
As a woman, you make the home and there is no woman in her right mind who can just wake up and leave her home for no reason. There must be a reason — and in this case many reasons.
What do you think the governor wants from you?
I can't tell but the only formal communication I have had is a Sh4 million demand by his lawyer. I don't want to go into details of how the money came to be. But I told him on email about four weeks ago how I will pay the money back if he really wants it back but he has not responded to me.
Would you give Alfred another chance if he changed?
I don’t know. I don’t know. But I really hope we could still be friends and stop being angry and so vengeful. If he can work on his emotions then we can still be friends. He is not a bad person because I could not have been with him for a decade. I don’t wish for us to be enemies.
Do you think you are now a better person after the separation?
I am definitely. My reawakening, however, began in 2017. I had come from a trip renovating one of the hospitals and my bodyguards had dropped me at home but on their way back, they had an accident and the woman and the man died.
Their deaths were not even mourned and life continued as if nothing happened. Then my personal driver also later died and the same thing happened. In fact, I got a new driver the following morning. The two incidents hit me hard.
That disregard for their lives, just because they were security officers, also contributed to me separating from Alfred. I was like, so if it was me dead, then this is how life would have continued.
From that time, I became so intentional on how I spend my time, who I interact with and de-cluttered my mind to do away with any baggage. I intentionally chose this new path. From them dying, I was reborn. I can never go back. I cannot postpone what I want to do because I don’t know about tomorrow. If I die today, I will have no regrets. I have found peace within myself.
I am stoic. I tend to take things as they come. Whatever is out of my control is out and so I don’t get too worked up. I also do not rule out public service, whatever form and shape it takes.
What does the future hold?
I want to give back more through my foundation, Lillian Ng’ang’a Foundation. Last weekend, we were in Mathare with Juliani for cancer awareness as part of October’s breast cancer awareness month. Giving is part of who I am and it comes so easily and when I don’t do that I feel like a part of me is missing.
I also want to grow my career in project management and then change to something different after five years. Further, I want to develop skillset in fixing housing problems. I have a company called Lil Renovate which does renovation works for people and offices.