In the last week of January 1995, the then President of Kenya, President Daniel Moi, disappeared from the public limelight where he had previously never been out of. A state of wild activity and panic gripped every cabinet minister, every vicious opposition leader and each one of the members of the international community. Daily Nation’s writer, Kamau Ngotho, in an article titled “The Week President Moi went Underground Sparking off Panic” began by the statement, ‘In his days of power, President Daniel Arap Moi was omnipresent in every household, thanks to the national radio and television that had him as the first item in prime news every evening.’
I am envisioning the then 70 year old, boisterous, presidential mogul seated in one of the State House’s gazebo, swinging probably on a hammock that was made of the finest Dalbergia wood, drinking the infamous Kalenjin mursik, as all quarters of the country were bothered with the question, ‘Where is President Moi?’
“Mr. President, United States Ambassador to Kenya – Aurelia Brazeal has just requested a routine call on Cabinet Minister Joseph Kamotho. He is most likely to ask about you.” The Personal assistant would politely interrupt the serenity Moi enjoyed.
“Ha! Ha! Ha!” the President would laugh and add, “I am still missing! Let it remain that way to the end of the week!”
“Yes, sir! Loud and clear” the PA would answer as he hurriedly walked away to ensure the president keeps the status of missing intact.
Following a series of frustrations at the time, the President went for the tact of retreating to a man cave to cause a frenzy to all his foes that had determined to undermine his rule. Among them, the opposition brigade of Paul Muite, Professor Anyang’ Nyong’o, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi and Kivutha Kibwana who had formed a movement they termed as Mwangaza Trust and they wanted to ensure opposition unity that would have overthrown President Moi. More to that, the international community had, through the International Money Fund (IMF), halted funding towards government activities. Pressure piled up on the President. He retreated for a week. During his retreat, rippling effects were felt by every person who was related to Kenya in any way.
The term man cave was first used in an article in the Toronto Star on March 21st, 1992, with the relevance of men retreating when pressure mounted on them. A month after that article was posted, a little book called ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ was published and 50 million copies were sold across the world. Author John Gray explains the male need to retreat – as if into a cave – as a way of dealing with stress. The book title is parallelism as to the diverse nature of how men and women react to issues that affect their emotional equilibrium.
“For most men, taking time for themselves is a coping mechanism for lowering stress – and a very effective one while women’s brains are not linked that way. When a woman is stressed, there is eight times more blood flow to the emotional part of the brain, which is connected to the talking parts of the brain. So women lower their stress by talking about what is going on.” – John Gray.
After a week of President Moi’s man cave retreat, his presidential motorcade pulled up a few meters away at the Harambee House where his office was situated. Word spread that visual had been sighted on the Commander – In – Chief. A huge crowd gathered at Harambee Avenue while hundreds more craned their necks from surrounding buildings. For 40 minutes, citizens waited in earnest. Moi then emerged at the 41st minute all smiles with a heroic look. He charismatically walked through the crowds so full of himself, relishing every moment that people acknowledged him as the leader of the country. The opposition and the diplomatic community had finally acknowledged who the boss was, after all.
“Do I look like a sick man? Do I look like one who has come back from the dead?” he posed as ululating crowds pushed to shake his hand.
After Theodore Roosevelt’s Dakota cattle business failed, he went to New York and built a home in Oyster Bay where he lived till his death. This was the place he would relax, romp in the woods and revitalize his man spirit. It was a perfect place for the manliest president.
Thomas Edison’s man cave was a personal library where he designed the phonograph or Kinetoscope (an early device for depicting motion pictures). His greatest contribution to science and technology was his invention of the industrial research and development laboratory which is the model used to this day in corporate and government Research and Development labs.
Winston Churchill’s man cave was an art studio he built himself in his estate’s garden. When he felt the overwhelming force of depression, he would retreat to his studio and ensures the brush meets the canvas.
One of my favorite political commentators, Professor Mutahi Ngunyi, hilariously tweeted on May 13th, 2019: RESPECT “President Kenyatta”. EVERY man has a CAVE. Every MAN must RETREAT to his CAVE, once in a WHILE. Smoke some STUFF, Read some books and HEAR from GOD! If ADAM had done this, he would not have SINNED!
I do not know about you, but I have been to the cave severally and I’ve always emerged a better man. You need a cave, I need a cave, and every man has got to have a cave.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” – Joseph Campbell.