Celebrated writer, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o in his novel, A Grain of Wheat gives an account of some people paying a visit to their Member of Parliament in newly independent Kenya.  The haughty fellow makes them queue for hours on end in his office as if he were the only thing that mattered in their lives. Disappointed by this mistreatment from somebody they have voted into power, one visitor quips: “This is like trying to see God.”  Well, this is a common trend among many people who perceive themselves as wielders of power, money and influence. It does not help if they were known to you before ‘arriving’ in their positions.

I remember once calling a relative who thought his office was too big for me. In the background, I shamelessly overheard him exclaiming to his secretary: “Handle that call!”  Humiliated, I hanged up never to call him again.  For the ‘big man’ possibly thought I was seeking  some  favours ( nay a  handout)   from him and therefore  his time was too valuable for me. Ironically, we had grown up together in the same village tending to cows and goats, and occasionally sharing food from the same plate.

But there is the rare breed of achievers who even after lady luck smiles on them and they attain leadership positions, this never gets into their heads.  Yes, that CEO, who will open his or her door to a writer eager to develop a big and compelling story. Bob was one of them.  Catching up with him for a story was never tedious and unnecessarily bureaucratic.  He had an open door policy. When you finally caught up with him during the interview, his warmth, friendliness and down to earth   nature made you feel as if this is a guy you had grown up with.  He was not the typical Kenyan ‘Sonko’.  Yes, those clueless fellows who behave as if they own the air that we breathe. Nay. Bob was amiable, charming and unsophisticated. Little wonder that he steadily guided the Safaricom ship to its destiny.  For he understood the juggernaut’s DNA.

 Love attracts, unfriendliness repels.  I learnt that while interviewing him …his warm smile easily made us connect. Possibly, that is the secret he employed in warming up Safaricom to millions of loyal customers.  It is a lesson that should be of benefit to all people, their stations in life notwithstanding.   Rest in Peace Bob.

George Gichuki



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