The Sh500 note was named after him when it was first released in the early 1990s by the Central Bank of Kenya but this week he had run out of money.
Mr Cyrus Jirongo, former Lugari MP and a presidential candidate in the August 8 General Election, was declared bankrupt by the court over a Sh700 million debt.
Ironically, it was his long-time friend, Sammy Kogo Boit, a businessman in Nairobi, who took him to court for failing to service a friendly loan he advanced the troubled politician.
Their friendship dates back three decades. Both were founding members of Youth for Kanu 1992, the youth lobby group that was formed to campaign for President Daniel arap Moi.
Popularly known as YK‘92, the lobby group earned notoriety for its ostentatious display of money during the campaigns.
It is widely believed that the Moi administration bled the economy dry to fund the group’s activities.
Mr Jirongo, then a 32-year-old successful businessman with interests in real estate, was elected by YK‘92 members as their chairman.
That is how, even though all currencies bore the image of President Moi, the Sh500 note ended up being nicknamed “Jirongo” after the group’s flamboyant chairman.
The story is told of how one day Mr Jirongo visited a hotel in Eldoret at the height of the group’s activities and deposited a parcel for overnight safekeeping only to totally forget about it.
Years later when he visited the hotel, he was informed by staff about his parcel. And not remembering a thing about it, he ordered it opened there and then.
The contents of the carton box parcel left everyone astounded: It was loaded with brand new, crisp Sh500 notes.
Whether true or not, this and many other tales have formed the legend of YK‘92 and their ubiquitous use of money during their countrywide campaigns for Moi.
YK‘92 might have thrust Jirongo to the public limelight, but it is also the genesis of his present financial woes.
A group of old guard around Moi were opposed to their activities.
Mr Jirongo told this writer in a previous interview for a special report on YK‘92 that he intended to position the group to play a larger role in Moi’s government.
This did not go well with the old guards around the President who feared that they were losing their proximity to the then president Moi.
These included Cabinet Minister Nicholas Biwott who died in July.
Mr Jirongo said he proposed to Mr Moi to appoint Musalia Mudavadi vice-president as part of his attempts to bring fresh young faces to the country’s leadership.
“Moi was receptive of the idea but the old guard around him prevailed,” said Mr Jirongo. Moi re-appointed Prof George Saitoti to the position.
The veterans succeeded in convincing Moi that YK’92 was up to no good and the President disbanded the group in June 1993, six months after being elected, calling it a bunch of “conmen.”
Moi also financially crippled its ambitious chairman. Mr Jirongo’s offices at Anniversary Towers were raided and documents carted away soon after Moi first suspended the group in March 1993.
In May 1992, the National Social Security Fund was ordered to cancel the purchase of 500 housing units worth Sh1.2 billion at Hazina Estate from Jirongo’s company, Sololo Outlets.
In quick succession, Sololo Outlets was declared bankrupt and lawyer Mutula Kilonzo appointed the receiver.
Mr Jirongo has never recovered from this financial setback to date.
Despite his many financial challenges, Mr Jirongo has not been declared bankrupt before. The current application was filed by eight companies owned by Mr Kogo.
They are Masole Ltd, Baia Enterprises Ltd, Gilera Ltd, Koti Developers, Saman Developers Ltd, Kenete Enterprises Ltd, Marimio Enterprises Ltd, and Linsala Enterprises Ltd.
Mr Jirongo had secured a Sh700 million loan from the National Bank of Kenya using properties registered under the name of the said companies.
However, he failed to repay the loan and the bank sold the properties on May 22, 2009 through a public auction.
However, the politician entered into an agreement with Mr Kogo, the owner of the companies, and agreed to pay Sh700 million, which was the market value of the said properties.
FAILED TO PAY
Mr Jirongo failed to defend the case or file any response in the case in which Mr Kogo sought Sh700 million plus interest from him.
A judgment was thus entered against the former MP around 2014, for the sum of Sh700 million plus interest and costs of the suit.
However, Mr Jirongo failed to pay the sum demanded.
Mr Kogo and his companies filed an application seeking a bankruptcy order against him and that his estate be vested with the Bankruptcy Trustee, which has now been granted.
However, his financial troubles piled on by the end of the week when the High Court in Nairobi ordered him on Thursday to pay Cotu boss Francis Atwoli Sh110 million for another friendly loan the businessman had taken from him.
Mr Jirongo had in court papers admitted receiving Sh100 million last August from Mr Atwoli, which was payable in 50 days, with an additional Sh10 million interest.
Mr Jirongo defended himself stating that the agreement had provided that the money would be recovered from money the Nairobi City County owes his company, Kuza Farms and Allied Ltd.
He wanted Mr Atwoli to wait until the company is paid, or the Cotu boss to go after the county.
Justice Tuiyot, in his ruling, dismissed that line of argument saying: “In the face of the unequivocal acceptance of August 10, 2016, by Mr Jirongo to be personally liable for the advanced sums, he cannot shift liability to Kuza.”
As a result of being declared bankrupt, Jirongo’s name was omitted from the list of presidential candidates gazetted to vie for the October 26 repeat election.
However, in a letter to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman, Wafula Chebukati, Mr Jirongo said he has not been served with the bankruptcy notice.
Former Rongo MP is Dalmas Otieno is fighting a bankruptcy suit in court over a Sh20m debt.