Thuo Mathenge, popularly known by his campaign slogan ‘No wangúkú’, sojourn in politics ended in tears. The renowned businessman and industrialist unsuccessfully vied for the Nyeri gubernatorial seat. He has vast interests in the hospitality, real estate, property and agriculture sector.
WoK brings you the story of the man who rose from rearing chicken to becoming a billionaire and has claimed to be second largest employer in Nyeri County.
Thuo Mathenge was born in 1964 in Nyeri County. His father died fighting for the independence of Kenya while the mother was detained by the colonial masters. He was brought up by his grandmother.
“We were weak because our grandmother could not afford to give us three meals a day. At night, she gave us a sack to sleep in, and my siblings and I would share the sack. It was the bed, blanket and sheets,” he told the Daily Nation of his tough upbringing.
Details of his education background remain scanty but he claims to have secured a scholarship to study at the Fairland University in Europe.
In 2013, Justice Wakiaga ruled that Mathenge had not attended the said university as he claimed:
“He did not attend classes at Fairland University and, therefore, the degree certificate awarded to him was not validly awarded. Mathenge was not eligible to run for the office of the governor”
He established Brade Gate Poultry Industry, which was the first private hatchery in Nyeri County. They hatch and sell day old chicks to local farmers in the Mount Kenya region. With Thuo Mathenge as its Chairman, the facility has grown from selling chicks to buying thousands of chickens from farmers. It has a capacity of slaughtering about 1,400 chickens per hour and more than 30,000 on a daily basis.
He invested in Mbo-i-Kamiti, a land buying company that was founded in 1971 with the aim of settling widows of Mau Mau fighters and laborers who worked on the settlers’ farms. Thuo took over the company as the Chairman in 2017 and since then the members have been getting title deeds for the land which is worth over Ksh 7 billion as reported by DN.
The billionaire owns a college, a resort, a wheat mill, a bakery, chicken and chips outlets in five major towns all under the Brade Gate brand name. He has vast parcels of land in the Mount Kenya region, a Ksh 800 million hotel in Nyeri town and properties across various major towns. In 2013, Dr. Thuo during his campaigns revealed that he has employed almost 2,000 people, including casuals, in his businesses in real estate and industrial sectors.
“I am the second largest employer in Nyeri County after the Catholic Church, and one of the biggest in Central province,” he said.
In 2018, his properties faced the auctioneers hammer. He owed I&M Bank Ksh 95 million, Family Bank Ksh 121 million and Jamii Bora Bank Ksh 80 million. The latter sought to sell a 1.9 hectare piece of land in Kirichu, along the Nyeri – Nanyuki highway and one of Mr Mathenge’s poultry businesses.
Family Bank on the other hand sought to auction the Ksh 800 million hotel he was constructing in Nyeri town for as low as Ksh 200 million. He however obtained orders from the Nyeri High Court stopping the financial institution from the auction process. Dr. Thuo revealed that the delay to repay the loans was caused by the delayed payments from suppliers.
Thuo first tried his luck in politics 2013 after unsuccessfully vying for the Nyeri county gubernatorial seat, which he lost to the late Nderitu Gachagua. He tried again to vie in 2017 but was disqualified by the Jubilee Party on the basis that he did not have a degree.
In 2022 he was cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to vie for the same seat under The New Democrats (TND) political party. He used the phrase ‘No Wanguku’ which means ‘It is just Chicken’ in his campaigns but unfortunately lost the seat to the incumbent Mutahi Kahiga. He was captured in a viral video crying and praying for his enemies.
“I have so much. My God, may you be praised. I have forgiven all my enemies who have been humiliating me. I have also forgiven them and prayed that they come to my side and say ‘No Wanguku! No Wanguku! No Wanguku!” he prayed amid tears in the Kikuyu vernacular language.