Thanks to his Alcoholic Drinks Control Act of 2010 that seeks to regulate the production, sale and consumption of alcohol, JOHN MUTUTHO, the Naivasha MP, has gained a repute of enormous proportions. He spoke to PETER MUIRURI His name is now akin to a brand, so much that when one child was recently asked in a local TV comedy if he knew who Mututho is, his reply was curt: “Mututho is not a person; it is a law!” John Michael Njenga Mututho, the influential Member of Parliament for Naivasha and chairperson of the Parliamentary Departmental Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Cooperatives, is not one to trifle with. When he rises to speak in Parliament, he is given rapt attention by fellow legislators with several media surveys naming him among the avid debaters in the August House. “I’m not one who is easily intimidated when fighting for what I believe is right for the country. In fact, I have been shot at twice in years past in a bid to silence me, but to no avail,” says John.
The 56-year-old legislator credits his fighting spirit to his parents, Daniel Mututho and Leah Njeri, both deceased. “Though dad was a bit diplomatic, my mother was no-nonsense when it came to instilling discipline,” he recalls. Growing up in a family of 15 in Emburu, Turi Division in Naivasha was not easy and young John had to supplement family income by working in a pyrethrum farm. “I have firsthand experience of child labour. I used to carry flowers that were heavier than my own weight for meager wages. Take a look at this depression on my head and you might just understand what I’m talking about,” remarks a pensive John. It is no wonder that last July he published yet another Parliemntary Bill that seeks to increase the minimum wages for workers in the private sector, including those working in the many flower farms dotting his constituency. Computers for schools John has also left his mark in the educational front. Through vigorous personal intervention and financial mobilisation, he helped revamp the hitherto nondescript Naivasha Girls Secondary School, realising 467 admissions to public universities within the seven years he served as chairperson of the school’s board of governors. Despite such initiatives, John was unceremoniously kicked out of the board by persons he claims were envious of his record. He says: “Some people thought I was getting too popular and decided to clip my wings.” During the 1990s, John was invited to preside over a harambee to raise funds for a computer project for St Joseph School in Molo. The funds, he says were poorly utilised being used to buy inferior computers. Upon learning of the development, he dispatched a friend to Canada to investigate the possibility of procuring good computers at a reasonable fee. This initiative gave rise to the non-profit making organisation, Computers for Schools Kenya (CFSK) in 2002, of which he is the founding chairman. To date, CFSK has distributed more than 70,000 computers to various schools countrywide.
“I wore a shoe for the first time in Form One let alone using a computer. I wanted children to enjoy what some of us missed in our early schooling,” says John. The MP attended St Brendan’s Primary School in his locality emerging the best pupil in the then Certificate of Primary Education in 1970. However, he failed to enroll at a top government secondary school for lack of fees and instead became a day scholar at Michinda Secondary School in Molo. He went on to acquire a Diploma in Range Management from Egerton University and a Bsc in Range Management and Agriculture from the University of Nairobi. He also has a Post Graduate Diploma in Resource Economics and an Masters in Environment Economics from Latrobe University, Australia. Unknown to many is that John has worked in the civil service for more than 11 years, two years as a coordinator for international agencies and Government projects in Arid and Semi Arid Lands. The strong desire to reform society is what informed the legislator in initiating the ‘Mututho Law’. Kenya, and Central Province in particular, was losing too many young people. “I foresaw a situation where there would be no country called Kenya in 15 years since most of the men in the productive age bracket would have been wiped out by alcoholism. I saw it in my own brother who, despite being a successful businessman, died a miserable man some years ago due to the vice,” he says. Drinking age John, who has never used alcohol or smoked, says some people may have misunderstood his intentions when he drafted the Bill. He has nothing against moderate use of alcohol but decried the amount of time and resources many Kenyans spent in drinking dens let alone the consumption of dangerous substances. “When someone has a drink between 5pm and 11pm, he still has the time to go home, sleep for almost six hours and report to work the following morning for another productive day at his place of work,” says the legislator. You have not heard the last on this issue yet from John.
He is working on an amendment that will raise the drinking age from the current 18 years to 21 in order to harmonise it with other countries. Implementing the ‘Mututho Laws’ is not a problem in his home where none of his eight children consume alcohol. Not only has John ensured that his family retains good morals but has literally worked hard to keep his political life away from them. He says: “My home has two living rooms. When I want to discuss politics with another politician, I retreat to one of the rooms leaving my family in the comfort of the other.” With such military discipline, I am curious to know just how he proposed to Jane, his wife of over 30 years. “Mututho never beats about the bush. I looked at Jane straight into her eyes and told her, ‘You are a beautiful girl. Please be my wife.’ She agreed,” says John with a grin. He is an avid reader, his favourite being A Doctor in the House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. A copy of the book, personally autographed by the author, former Malaysian Prime Minister under whose tenure the country experienced rapid modernisation and economic growth is always within easy reach.