One of Kenya’s former Defence Ministers had a very short stint at school and didn’t make it to secondary school or university.
The late Njenga Karume who started school at the age of 13 at Kahuho Primary School in Kiambaa and completed in 1949, aged 20.
Although he passed with flying colours he was unable to progress to Mangu High because his father could not afford the school fees.
A little-known fact is that six years after his formal education, he was encouraged to enroll for a short course at Jeans School (present-day Kenya Institute of Management) where he got insights on how to run his business.
Njenga’s involvement in politics started when he met Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta shortly after his release from Kapenguria.
Although he was considerably younger than Kenyatta’s lieutenants, Mzee seemed to like Karume so much that he nominated him to parliament in 1974.
By this time Njenga had many acquaintances since he was the Chairman of The Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association (GEMA).
His close friendship with Kenyatta finally got him in trouble with ministers as the President would often consult him even on matters that needed the attention of the Cabinet.
After President Daniel Moi took over power following Kenyatta’s death, Karume did not enjoy the same proximity to the State as he had.
The wedge between them was that Moi did not like GEMA, which he outlawed eventually.
During the 1978 elections, Karume won the Kiambaa parliamentary seat, beating Kenyatta’s in-law, Mbiyu Koinange.
In 1980, he was appointed as the Assistant Minister for Local Government after a request to Moi by the ex-Minister Stanely Oloitiptip.
Karume was, however, thrown from one ministry to the other; Local Government, Urban Development, Energy, Lands and Settlement, and finally Cooperatives.
He was ultimately sacked in 1988 and three years later he formed the Democratic Party (DP) with former President Mwai Kibaki.
Karume lost his seat in 1992 when he was beaten by Ford Asili’s Kamau Icharia but regained it in 1997.
For the 2002 Election, he won the seat again, but now on a KANU ticket, supporting their presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, despite the long-standing friendship between Karume and Uhuru’s opponent Kibaki.
After the General Elections, Karume was surprised when Kibaki appointed him as the Minister for Special Programs as their relationship had simmered.
In 2005, when Karume was having drinks at a club in Kiambu, he saw that Cabinet had been reshuffled and he did not see his name when the Special Programs ministry appeared on TV.
His disappointment did not last long. As the names continued flashing across on the screen, he saw that he had been transferred to the Ministry of Defence.
Karume’s political career came to a halt in 2007 when he lost his parliamentary seat to KANU’s Stanley Munga Githunguri.
By then, only MPs could be appointed to Cabinet which meant Kibaki could not give him his previous ministerial position.
Karume then concentrated on running his business empire until his death on 24 February 2012, at Karen Hospital, Nairobi.