Mzee Jackson Kibor, the controversial Uasin Gishu farmer and politician, the de facto men’s conference chairman, evoked love and hate in equal measure.
In quick succession he divorced his second and third wives, and sued his children for trespassing, firing a gun at his son.
There was a time he unclamped his car that had been chained by county askaris by cutting through the contraption. He also fitted his car with spikes as protection after his gun was confiscated. And he spent time in police cells for alleged tribal incitement in 2008.
But what shocked many was when he went to court to demand DNA tests on his six sons that he sired with his third wife, Ms Naomi Jeptoo.
Though he had little education and grew up poor, Mzee Kibor rose to build an enviable farming empire with over 4,000 acres of land spread in Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties. He had four wives and 27 children, some working or studying abroad.
“I was bright at school but from a poor family and I used to take poles and firewood for fees payment but while in Standard Five they insisted on us paying money, which I did not have and I dropped out for not raising Sh3 at Lelmokwo Primary School in Nandi County. I never saw my father, and my mother died when I was six years old,” said Mzee Kibor in a past interview.
He relocated to Uasin Gishu and began collecting wattle tree bark for the defunct Eldoret Tanning Company.
“After several years of working there, I secretly learnt how to drive company lorries until I was approved,” he said.
He left the company and began driving lorries for the late millionaire Jonathan Kibogy in Uasin Gishu and another wealthy man in Chepkorio known as Mzee Chirchir Masit.
“I used to buy a bag of potatoes at Sh6 per bag in Chepkorio and Metkei areas using Sh3 per bag for brokers and transport (them to Uganda). While in Kampala I would sell a bag at Sh16. I saved the profits, which I used to buy my own Canter lorry and got another lorry shortly after," he said then.
He traversed East Africa selling potatoes from his trucks. He also transported maize using the cargo train from Kipkabus and Ainabkoi.
“I borrowed Sh55,000 from the Land Bank and added to the Sh35,000 (I had) and bought my first land measuring 840 acres in Kipkabus, where I grew maize and did a lot of dairy farming,” said Mzee Kibor then.
“My first wife Mary, now deceased, helped manage the farm and repaid the loan before I married Josephine in 1965, who also stayed on the same farm."
Mzee Kibor bought his second parcel of 1,600 acres in Kabenes for Sh220,000 in 1969 before purchasing another 1,200 acres in Kitale that had 500 Friesian cows for Sh1.5 million and another 400 acres in Moiben for Sh12 million.
Mzee Kibor ventured into local politics and in 1974 he was elected councillor for Kipkabus ward. He served one term and moved to Soy ward, where he was elected thrice consecutively.
But his journey from grass to grace was marred by bitter matrimonial feuds. He successfully divorced his second and third wives, Ms Josephine Jepkoech and Ms Jeptoo, over claims of desertion, physical abuse, cruelty and denial of conjugal rights.
He was living with his younger wife Yunita Kibor.
The veteran farmer in May 2021 decided to be baptized, in what he said was a step to cement his relationship with the creator, describing the move ‘as preparation for any eventuality.'
Mzee Kibor embraced Christianity when he was baptised at the swimming pool of Boma Inn in Eldoret, where he was accompanied by his wife, some of his children and a few close friends.
The retired bishop of the African Inland Church (AIC), Rev Silas Yego, presided over the baptismal rites and praised the old man and his family for the bold move.
“Though I had not been baptised, I am a Christian and a staunch AIC follower. The second reason why I decided to take this step is that we must be ready every time since we do not know when your time to leave this world will come and I do not want to leave anything to chance or pending. I should be baptised and be ready.”