What you need to know:
- Lillian Nganga set the record straight over her collapsed relationship with the governor.
- She also speaks about her meeting musician Juliani, threats to her life, and her future plans.
Who is Lillian Nganga?
I was born at Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi and we lived in the city for about three years then my parents got land and moved to Kiambu, where I grew up. So I don’t have any memory of living in Nairobi.
We are three girls born to Stephen and Lucy Ng'ang'a, and I am the second-born; the first-born is four years older.
I went to Gathangari Primary School and Loreto Girls, Kiambu. So I am basically a Kiambu girl and that is why I usually refer to myself as “a village girl”. In school, I enjoyed a bit of chemistry, geography — because I love to travel, and English language.
What were your dreams growing up?
I wanted to be a model, so I took one year off before joining college and did some modelling. I then joined college and did hotel management and after one year, I got a job at Safari Park Hotel as front office staff and cashier. I worked for one year before joining KQ (Kenya Airways) as cabin crew in 2007.
I worked there for about six years and left to start some businesses, trying my hand in running two beauty parlours because I have a side of me that likes beauty and fashion. I was not making money, so I closed them. I established a company, which I still run to date.
I then went back to school for a degree in Travel and Tourism, graduating with first class honours at the University of Nairobi before taking a year’s break, then enrolling for a Masters in Project Management. I am now a project manager doing a few projects here and there.
I want to change my career every five years because I cannot be a project manager forever.
How did you meet Mutua?
I was working on a Mombasa flight and it was overbooked, so he gave his first class seat to (the late) Senator Mutula Kilonzo and went and sat at a jump-seat at the cockpit.
As a cabin crew, we are supposed to be nice to people. In that process, we exchanged greetings and when he was alighting, he gave me his card. That was in March, 2011. He was to be in Mombasa for three days.
Your first impression of him?
I knew he was the government spokesperson but we would meet many people in the line of duty. He was very easy to talk to and pleasant. So it was easy to become friends with him. I remember he told me he was very certain he wanted me in his life but he did not know how because he was still married.
“I know my future is with you but I don’t have it figured out now,” he said.
How did the relationship start?
After three days in Mombasa, he came back and asked me out. We met for a drink at Sarova Stanley. That is how things began. We then went on a few lunches with friends here and there and after about a month, he gave me a ring and told me to preserve the ring "because I know I want you in my life".
I had the ring for about a month or so, and then I broke up with him because I told him there was no way I was going to date a married man. I was 26 then. I told him to go back to his wife.
They had issues at the time, some of which I witnessed, although he told me they were living separate lives, and that being with me was not an issue. But I insisted he sorts everything out and then he will come get me.
Alfred turned every stone in the world to get me back, but I insisted I was not going to be a side girl he sees, goes on trips with and then goes back to his house.
He put in much effort to get me back by sorting out his issues with the ex. The breakup lasted two months or so.
He then moved in with me at my small apartment in Lang’ata (Nairobi) and stayed there for about a year or so. He would wake up from my small apartment to go to the Office of the Spokesperson. He even launched his quest for Machakos governorship in the small apartment. We spent good times there.
We used to go for dinner with him openly and he never hid me. He would drop me at KQ and pick me up. The relationship was never chini ya maji (discreet).
He ran for governor and won and then we moved to Kileleshwa (Nairobi) and that is where we have lived for the last eight years or so. We had a good relationship where we travelled a lot and saw things the same way. We had the same outlook to life. He is a pleasant person.
How did the idea of A&L (in Machakos) Hotel come up?
When I was working at Safari Park, I had one of those crazy dreams of owning a big hotel. So when I met Alfred, we travelled a lot and saw different hotels and so I came up with the idea of building the hotel as part of the dream I had.
So I told him ‘why don’t we give it (building a hotel) a try as I have a passion in the hospitality industry?’. He agreed and we came up with the name.
We started building the hotel in 2019 and it took a year or so to start operating. I was the operations director and got the personnel, equipment, furniture and doing the hard work, as we did not have a project manager, foreman or supervisor.
I did everything to have the hotel up and running. I was even running it until two months ago in August when Alfred hired a new manager and put his sister as a director without even consulting me.
The construction was financed by a loan from Family Bank with Alfred and I providing our personal guarantees. This means I remain liable for the outstanding loan. So the question of a gift from anyone does not arise. I am a co-investor and business partner in the venture.
Did you ever have a run-in with the ex during your relationship?
The interesting thing is that I have never spoken with the ex, not even a word.
Did you formalise your relationship?
I cannot tell but what I know is he did kuhanda ithigi (introduction) in 2019 and the next step would have been ruracio (bride-price ceremony) and then the white wedding.
How was life like as the First Lady of Machakos?
I did not sit pretty and enjoy the high-life as people think, but worked a lot. People might not know that because I am rarely in the media. This is my second interview ever.
Those attacking me that I used to enjoy as a First Lady are clueless. That was just a title. There is no allowance for being a First Lady. There are no budgetary provision for the office and all the projects I did were through the Office of the Governor.
I didn't get a salary, but I enjoyed my stint. I am proud of what I did. I hardly went for international trips, although there were many opportunities. In fact, I went for only two.
When we separated, I only had a Land Cruiser belonging to the county government. I returned it before his birthday and even before my public announcement of our separation. The car he took from me is a Toyota Harrier, which has been my personal vehicle since 2014. Many women voted for him in 2017 (elections) because of the work I had been doing. This is a fact.
When did things start going wrong?
We have had issues over the years. There were inconsistencies from him, but when you do that, you forget some of the things you have said. Most of the time we resolved these issues. However, last year the issues could not be resolved after I called him out.
The second issue was being a control freak. This, I guess, is because he has been in government and so he is used to controlling people. Over the years I have always done things his way.
Last year, I told him I needed to do a few things independently, but he was not comfortable with that. It led to a lot of fights between us.
Did that accelerate your break-up?
Yes, it did to some extent. When I told him I was going to get a job last year and actually be employed, it made him very angry. He said I was going to embarrass him by working because it will look like he is not supporting me.
But I insisted that it was about my independence and doing something I enjoyed. Why do a Masters and then don’t apply it? It makes no sense.
I got the job late last year and it was busy and I would take some of the office work home once in a while. We had so many virtual meetings and I would be very busy in the house.
I think he felt like he was losing his grip on me and that brought serious fights between us. I have always done things for us as a couple, for him, and never for me.
At the end of the day, I was not trying to match him. We have a 15-year age difference, but he always wanted me to be that same girl he met 10 years ago yet I am now 36 years old.
He started feeling insecure and he never wanted me to hang out with my friends. I am an introvert and so I don’t make friends easily, and those friends in my life are people I have known for a minimum of 10 years. But he wanted us to hang out just the two of us.
I don’t want to go into details about the other stuff over the years. People who know him know these things. Fighting to be independent became a very big issue although I have supported him over the years. Those are the main reasons I left Alfred.
What was the final straw in the relationship?
I decided I was not going to make it a norm for men to keep messing up and me as the woman keep forgiving. In my culture, a woman is expected to keep putting up with everything, but I had had enough.
There were also issues with even people I thought I have had as friends over the years, but they turned out to be the complete opposite.
I am no longer friends with so many people because their true colours came out and I was like ‘Lillian you have been so blind to many things. I was disappointed but a lesson was learnt.
Guys are attacking me for leaving Alfred, being inconsiderate. Has anyone thought of me, where I was, how I was feeling?
You have trended on social media of late, how do you handle that?
Just because I publicly met with somebody else (musician Juliani), publicly made the announcement, now I am seen as a bad woman. What about the man who has been all over, embarrassing me and I never said a thing? I have been quiet all these years.
So when I see people attacking me without any knowledge, I just wish they knew what I have gone through. I deserve better.
Some on social media have even said you should return ‘gifts’ the governor gave you…
When I moved out in June, I only took my clothes and nothing else. So there is nothing to return to him. I have always worked, had my salons, a travel company and the hotel, and I am currently doing project management. Just because I don’t speak in the media about what I am doing doesn’t mean I am not doing anything.
I even asked him to list for me the things he had done for me, but the only thing he could say is ‘I paid your school fees’. Nothing more he has done for me as Wangui Ng’ang’a, so people are talking from a point of ignorance saying sijui (I don’t know) return this or that. I am not a flashy girl. I remember even after I had moved out in June, he was telling me to get back with him and we will have the wedding.
In August this year, he told me he will give me a white wedding and have my father walk me down the aisle. He told me to choose a date even if it was in a week’s time.
He bought me a new Land Cruiser the same month, but I returned the car and told him it will not make me happy or resolve our issues. He told me ‘with the wedding you will be secure and comfortable’ but I was like, that is not the issue, as life is not just about the cars and the big things.
Alfred is used to the media and we could not separate our private life and his public life.
What about the past interview where you said the two of you were married (yet on Thursday at the press conference you said you were not married)?
People have been attacking me, calling me a liar because I said he is my husband in the video, but on Thursday I said we were not legally married. The interview was many years ago but the truth of the matter is that we never signed anything that can show that he is my husband. No customary or any other form of marriage or wedding.
Social media portrays the worst side of people. And I remember when I first started dating Alfred, I was also attacked but I never spoke out. They called me a home wrecker and never cared to hear my side of the story. This time around, 10 years later, I am not going to keep quiet. I refuse to do so.
Look out for Part 2 of this interview tomorrow in the ‘Sunday Nation’