Nominated Senator Paul Njoroge. (Photo: Antony Gitonga/Standard)
The story of Senator Paul Njoroge Ben reads like a fairy tale, for a man who once lived on one meal a day. And the man is as controversial as they come.
Not one to give up without a fight, it is his resolve to get what he believes is his. This is what saw him wade his way into the Senate.
In fact, many of those who know him say this started at his youthful age. The senator, according to childhood friends once operated a pool game at Maraigushu centre where he earned his daily bread.
One of his friends only identified as Moses says in his trade, Njoroge fell out with the authority over the game and even gambling.
“Njoroge is well known in this centre, having owned a pool table. Police even raided his business on allegations that a gambling game was going on,” he says.
Moses says Njoroge never shied from addressing issues he felt were not fair, adding that he has in the past fallen out with area residents on various occasions.
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He revisits an incident in Marigushu Primary School when Njoroge fell out with the management over the running of the institution and had an altercation with teachers.
The farmer says the move affected learning in the school, forcing other parents to intervene.
“The parents kicked out the senator’s two children from the school and escorted them to their fathers’ home, saying they could not allow learning to be disrupted,” he says.
And last year, a similar incident occurred in the area after residents held a demonstration accusing the senator of ordering the closure of a popular bar – an allegation Njoroge has since denied.
According to former area Councilor Mwaniki Gachoka, the senator has forgotten where he hailed from and is keen to oppress persons he grew up with.
“We want to remind the senator that this trading centre acted as his home and helped him earn his daily bread. He should not use his position to oppress upcoming traders,” he says.
Mr Gachoka terms the senator a controversial person who in the past has clashed with the authority and residents due to his divergent views on development projects.
“We thought that when he was appointed by the High Court to hold the Senate position he would change but this has not happened,” he says.
But another elder from the centre, Joel Kimani, differs with his colleagues. He terms the senator a soft spoken person who does not fear going for what he believes is right and will benefit the public.
“In every society there are people who will love and hate you; the senator has shown that the poor, disabled and those forgotten in society can make it,” he says.
Another person who has worked with the senator is Andrew Ndung’u Kihonge, who represents the disabled in Hellsgate Ward in Naivasha.
Mr Kihonge says prior to his nomination as senator they were good friends and were in court daily seeking justice.
“I would use my car to ferry the senator – then a hustler to court and back from a hotel in downtown in the hope that he would fully represent our interests in the Senate,” he says.
Kihonge says he is sad that years after the senator was nominated, he has forgotten those he was supposed to represent and is busy politicking.
And last week, Senator Njoroge was at it again, opening fire on a group of workers who stormed his Shell Petrol Station along the Naivasha-Nakuru Highway.
The workers had been hired by Vivo Energy Company to confiscate equipment at the petrol station after the senator allegedly failed to follow some rules.
Among those caught up in the incident was the company MD Polycarp Igathe, who is also the Kenya Private Sector Alliance chairman and had come to effect the closure notice.
Njoroge, who has since been arraigned in court charged with creating disturbance and released on Sh50,000 cash bail has pointed to business rivalry and politics for his woes.
The irate and emotional senator blamed business rivalry for the incident, adding that he had complied with all the laid down regulations.
“There is one family that feels it is the only one that can run a petrol station in this town. It is trying to push me out but I will go down fighting,” he said.
The senator denied that the petrol station had run out of fuel, adding that the new move was meant to cancel the dealership and hand it over to the rival trader.
“I paid Sh2.5 million to Vivo Energy Company and I have an insurance of Sh6m but the fuel company has decided to ignore a court order,” said the senator.
He wondered why the fuel company had disregarded the court order, adding that his move from Jubilee to Kanu could have played a role in the dispute. “I fully support the President in the coming elections, but some people who feel they are so close to the head of state want to push me out of business,” he said.
Njoroge has also denied being controversial, adding that many people misunderstand him whenever he goes for his rights.
“I am a very friendly person but ready to fight for my rights and those of the disabled who for years have been oppressed by previous regimes,” he says.
Senator Njoroge, 56, was born in Maraigushu a few kilometres from Naivasha town. His mother was one of the country’s freedom fighters.
In 1992, he joined politics by vying for Nakuru Kanu chairman post but lost. This did not deter him from seeking other senior positions.
In 2003, former President Mwai Kibaki appointed him a board member for the National Council of Persons with Disabilities – a position he served for three years.
Soon after the 2013 elections, Njoroge went to court, arguing that he had been listed by TNA for nomination but other persons had been nominated.
He told the court that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had no mandate to short-change him with those who were listed second in the party lists.
Senators Harold Kipchumba and Linet Kemunto, who are nominated by their parties to represent people with disabilities, were kicked out by Lady Justice Rose Ougo, who ruled that they were not validly nominated.
In her judgment, Justice Ougo said the electoral commission had no mandate to substitute nominees that were in the first list with names listed afterwards.
The judge further ordered the commission to gazette Njoroge and Ms Goldliver Omondi as the duly nominated senators.