What you need to know:
- In time, Lucy Kibaki who had come out of her shell to become an enthusiastic participant in her husband’s presidential campaign, came to define her own role as First Lady.
- The First Lady’s “Occupy Nation” moment was her dramatic protest against a Sunday Nation story the previous day on how she had interrupted a loud party at the home of World Bank County Representative Makhtar Diop, a tenant and neighbour at the First Family private resident in Muthaiga.
- Declaring himself in a “foul mood,” President Kibaki chided the media for constantly repeating the claims of any else who claimed to be a member of his family and threatened to sue if the claims did not cease.
When Mwai Kibaki was elected President of Kenya at the end of 2002, ending Kanu’s 40-year stranglehold on power, an added bonus was that the country again had a First Lady.
Outgoing President Daniel arap Moi’s had presided over a 24-year reign as a single tenant at State House, having divorced his wife, Lena, by the time he acceded to the throne in 1978.
Mrs Lucy Muthoni Kibaki therefore had limited examples from which to frame her new role. Her only predecessor was Founding President Jomo Kenyatta’s First Lady, Mama Ngina, the graceful family matriarch who hardly ever uttered a word in public, but was a powerful presence — a respectful one step behind the President.
In time, Lucy Kibaki who had come out of her shell to become an enthusiastic participant in her husband’s presidential campaign, came to define her own role as First Lady.
It was a role shaped firstly by her need to shield the First Family from all the hangars-on that crowd around a presidential residence, especially in the unique situation where her husband, had come into office still suffering the effects of serious injuries from a car accident that had forced his absence from the last weeks of his 2002 Presidential election campaign.
At the same time, she was fighting off the unwelcome intrusions of controversial Nyeri political activist Mary Wambui, Mr Kibaki’s long serving political aide and companion, and apparent rival for her husband’s affections.
Aggressively protective of her family, Mama Lucy, as she came to be affectionately known, pulled no punches in her efforts to retain State House as a private family residence, in contrast to the Moi era where the president’s official office and residence had gained infamy as the haunting ground for hordes of idle politicians, power brokers and business wheeler-dealers.
It was with similar gusto that she fended off the aggressive tendencies of Mary Wambui, who despite all the protestations from State House, went out of her way to project herself as the president's consort.
It was not unusual for Wambui to tip off journalists when out at the supermarket so they could marvel and write about her security detail drawn from the police VIP protection unit and the fleet of official Mercedes Limousines.
Her residence at Lavington also enjoyed tight security not even available to the ordinary cabinet minister, proving the point that she enjoyed a privileged unofficial status.
And Ms Wambui seemed fully aware that any time the press highlighted her extravagant lifestyle and public appearances, the mercurial Mrs Kibaki would be provoked to intemperate responses that would show her up in very bad light.
Thus it was that Mama Lucy’s two terms as First Lady came largely to be defined by the often ugly incidents as she sought to protect her turf against the unwelcome intrusions of her rival.
Probably the most dramatic incident was the famous late night raid on the Nation Media Group headquarters in Nairobi in early May, 2005.
The First Lady’s “Occupy Nation” moment was her dramatic protest against a Sunday Nation story the previous day on how she had interrupted a loud party at the home of World Bank County Representative Makhtar Diop, a tenant and neighbour at the First Family private resident in Muthaiga.
She caused a mighty scene, protesting the loud music that was a nuisance to her and other neighbours, and then she took issue with the manner in which the Nation reported the incident and a follow-up in the Standard on her visit to the Muthaiga Police Station to lodge a complaint.
There was a long stand-off that heightened dramatically when other media burst onto the scene causing a violent confrontation.
Towards dawn, she volunteered to give on camera the reasons for her protests.
Footage of the long, angry, rambling account would dominate television broadcasts that morning and for days on end provide riveting newspaper and TV headlines.
Another infamous incident involving the First Family came in 2009 following a series of press reports, many engineered by Mary Wambui, regarding President Kibaki’s alleged second wife.
Ms Wambui and her daughter, Winnie Mwai, had been in the spotlight at the time over their association with shady Armenian brothers, Artur Sargsyan and Artur Margaryan, reputed to be assassins, mercenaries and drug traffickers, operating with impunity in Nairobi and enjoying close links with top officers in the Kenya police.
Reports on Wambui and Winnie’s dalliance with the controversial pair after they had finally been kicked out of the country, invariably quoted their claims to be linked to President Kibaki. And this forced probably the most important press conference that President Kibaki ever convened at State House.
With the First Lady by his side, the President reiterated an earlier declaration initially issued a few years early by his press service: That he had only one wife, “My dear Lucy”, and one family, reeling off the names of his four children.
Declaring himself in a “foul mood,” President Kibaki chided the media for constantly repeating the claims of any else who claimed to be a member of his family and threatened to sue if the claims did not cease.
The President then opened the floor for any journalist who wanted to ask question, but with a menacing Lucy looking on, all opted for silence.
On the first Christmas holiday of the Kibaki Presidency, she caused a storm ahead of a televised New Years’ Eve Ball at the Mombasa State House when then Vice President Moody Awori committed a blooper that had her seeing red. Mr Awori had inadvertently introduced Mrs Kibaki as the “Second Lady,” prompting her to furiously intervene and demand to know who the First Lady was in that case.
She obviously had Wambui at the back of her mind, but Mr Awori’s profuse apologies would not calm her down and the party broke up.
During the same retreat in Mombasa, it was being reported that while the First Family was at State House, Wambui was at a private beach in Nyali.
By the time the presidential party landed back in Nairobi, State House Comptroller Matere Keriri was out of a job after suffering a famous snub on the receiving line at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. He was reputed to have been close to Wambui and suspected of arranging her access to State House.
That First Mombasa trip also helped Mama Lucy shape her version of State House. President’s Moi and Kenyatta had always used their regular August and December sojourns at the Coast for what were described as “busy working holidays.”
State House would be a beehive of activity almost every day as the President hosted scored of delegations led by local politicians.
Groups of councillors, MPs, elders, businessmen, and other groups from across the coastal districts would be a perpetual presence at State House.
Lucy Kibaki would have none of that. She put her foot down and declared that the President was in Mombasa on holiday. Groups that turned up were unceremoniously turned away.
Then Cabinet minister’s Martha Karua, Kiraitu Murungi and Charity Ngilu, as well as then nominated MP and now Supreme Court judge Njoki Ndungu, can all tell tales of how their casual visits to State House were put to an abrupt halt.
Though apolitical herself, Lucy Kibaki was always fiercely protective of her husband on the campaign trail.
At the 2007 election campaigns she came to stand out for sharp epithets delivered against ODM candidate Raila Odinga, who she christened “domo domo”.
She would also not shy away from publicly lashing out at ministers who she felt were letting the President down.
In the wake of the Molo fuel tanker oil spill and the Nakumatt supermarket fire disasters in February 2009 in which more than 145 people died, the First Lady publicly rebuked Internal Security minister George Saitoti and demanded a written explanation on what had caused the disasters. President Kibaki was then confronted by a furious Saitoti and had to publicly issue a statement expressing confidence in his minister.