Nelson Kariuki is a 73-year-old sugarcane vendor in Ruaka who believes if he had made better decisions in life, he would now be the owner of Ruaka town.
Mr Karikui has two major regrets in life: Wasting his once big fortune on women and alcohol, and his mother rejecting a marriage proposal from the late Mbiyu Koinange.
Mr Koinange was the first Kenyan to earn a university degree and later became a powerful Minister of State in the government of founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. He died in 1979 with his wealth estimated at Sh10 billion according to court documents related to long-running inheritance battles.
Apparently, Mbiyu Koinange loved Karikui’s mother but she was more interested in a jigger infested farmer from Gatanga in Murang’a County.
“My mother was born here and the adjacent land belongs to the Koinange family so one day Koinange proposed to my mother but she declined because she loved my father who hailed from Gatanga. He had jiggers but she chose him. It torments me when I imagine that I could have been Koinange’s son if she agreed to marry him. Right now I would be stinking rich!” says Kariuki.
If not by being Koinange’s son, Kariuki also had the opportunity to become a tycoon by his own right through his business ventures in the early 1970s.
He says had it not for women and partying, he could be the owner of Ruaka had he invested his earnings on land when an acre cost Sh200. Today, an acre in Ruaka costs millions.
A young Kariuki would splash Sh100,000 on women and partying in one session back then.
“I was the first man to buy a bicycle in this village in 1965. I used the bicycle to ferry goods from Nairobi to Mucatha and will never forget the day I was thrown out from the barmaid’s house when my supermarket and butchery businesses collapsed in Mucatha. She packed my clothes in a polythene bag and threw me out. I went to live in the city because of shame and many times I would eat rotten fruits in Marikiti market,” he recalls.
“I had built a vast business empire but women and alcohol destroyed my life. These parcels of land you see today could have been mine. The problem is that I never invested my money in land which cost Sh200 an acre and that’s why I say today I could be the owner of Ruaka if I did that.”
In the 1970s, when the Kenyan pound almost equaled a British pound in value, Kariuki and possibly all his boys were ballers. The coffee business was booming and Kariku was living large.
“In 1973 I was doing very well and was one of the richest men in this area. Coffee business was very profitable back then and I made a lot of money importing coffee from Uganda. There was a scarcity of coffee in the country because the coffee fields had been burnt so I saw a niche and within a couple of months money was not an issue. I would spend Sh150,000 with much ease because I was a friend of money and I felt the urge of buying nice things for women,” says Kariuki, who can’t stand women anymore.
For impressing women with money, Kariuki says, “One day I woke up early in the morning and found that only aspirin and salt were left in my supermarket.”
In addition to stealing from him, the women also infected him with diseases like gonorrhea which was prevalent at the time and Kariuki recalls visiting “Casino on Kirinyaga Road to treat gonorrhoea and syphilis covered with a shuka and the doctor would tell us to line up before injecting us on the buttocks with a such a strong medicine that the moment it was administered, we collapsed and slept on the ground until we regained our conscious.”
“I vowed that I will never ever spend a coin on a woman apart from my mother and wife,” said Kariuki as quoted by SDE.
He was also able to get back on his feet thanks to his small sugarcane business and tea farm in Muranga.
“The day I put on dreadlocks is the same day I started saving money. That was ten years ago and the reason I live in a mabati house is because I’m here to work. I travel to Murang’a each weekend to see my family and invest the little money I get in my businesses.”
“Selling sugarcane is profitable because I have managed to purchase a piece of land in Gathanga and Oloitotok. I’m also a tea and coffee farmer in Muranga and a proud pagan.”