Legendary radio broadcaster Leonard Mambo Mbotela has had the rare chance of meeting all the presidents of Kenya.
The journalist says he still remembers when he first met the Heads of State, starting with the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta whom Mambo Mbotela met in 1975.
“Mzee tapped my shoulder and it was the best thing that has ever happened in my life,” recalls Mbotela.
He met the founding father after coming from Zambia, where Harambee Stars had won a football match.
“The pitch was filled to capacity. I was quite in the mood, and everyone was happy and Kenya won with two goals against Zambia with one goal. We came with our trophy,” Mbotela recounted, adding that the match was so major that it left the then Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda in tears.
The late Jeremiah Nyaga, the then Minister for Culture and Social Services, called Mbotela and the team and told them they were invited to Nakuru.
“We went to Nakuru and there was a party with Jomo Kenyatta. After his speech, we mingled and I made my way to say hi. He asked me who I was and when I introduced myself to him, he was so happy,” Mbotela said.
According to Mbotela, Kenyatta was hard to meet and greet.
On how he met President Daniel Moi, Mbotela said it was after the coup d’état in 1982.
“After the attempted coup d’état in 1982, I got a call from Lee Njiru, who was then the head of the presidential press unit, and I was informed that I would be joining the then President Moi’s press unit,” he said.
“I managed to go to the State House and met the second President of Kenya.”
“One day I was alone very early in the morning in the office. President Moi was impressed that I was an early riser. He took me to his office, where we had a conversation with him face to face, and he asked me what I wanted from him,” Mbotela recalled.
President Moi promised Mbotela some land back home and gave him Sh100,000.
“We became friends since then and I would take his microphones when he was addressing the public,” said Mbotela.
His encounter with President Mwai Kibaki was, however, brief. They once met during an end-year party in Mombasa.
“We were not so close. I shook his hand but we did not talk much,” he said.
With the incumbent President, Mbotela said they’ve known each other since Uhuru Kenyatta was 17 years old.
“He praised me for making good life commentaries for his late dad, and since then, we have known each other,” Mbotela said.
“At Nyayo Stadium in 2013, when he became the President, as he was coming down the stairs to get to his limousine, the first thing he did was he came directly to where I was. He said hi to me and asked me to visit him in State House.”