“Let’s go for lunch,” The Senator says while standing at Alice’s desk. As usual, it is not a request. But again, as usual, it is not said in a domineering way. It is said with The Senator’s usual charming authority. He is authoritative and endearing at the same time. That is one of the qualities that has made him the most powerful man in the country.
“Sure, Senator,” Alice says as she rises from her seat. She takes her phone, diary, notebook, and pen and places them in her bag, then follows him through the door. She doesn’t know whether he just wants her company over lunch, or, as is often the case, they are going to work. Most likely the Senator is meeting someone for lunch, and Alice will be expected to take notes of what is discussed and do a follow-up later.
The Senator’s bodyguards have already started moving, although anybody watching would hardly notice them or realize they are guards. They are dressed in classy suits, shirts, ties, and shoes, and could easily pass for his business associates, or at least senior executives in his group of companies. Alice is dressed in a navy blue trouser suit, a sky-blue top, and maroon heels. A silver wristwatch completes the look.
She steps out of the office and finds the Senator waiting for the lift while chatting with one of the bodyguards. They are discussing football. The Senator is a Chelsea fan and the guard is a Manchester United fan. Alice has recently started following football, and she chose Arsenal as her team of choice. She and the other guard, a Liverpool fan, are soon looped into the conversation, and she teases all of them because Arsenal is currently flying high in the Premier League.
Alice’s confidence and self-esteem have grown a hundred-fold in the last five months, ever since she started working for The Senator. She still cannot believe that she is here, working for the most powerful man in the country. She often pinches herself to remind herself that she is not dreaming.
Senator Fredrick W. Ruguaru is a tall, well-built man. At 45 years old, he is young enough to be referred to be referred to by the media as a ‘youthful politician’. He is good-looking, he is charismatic, and he is well dressed; he is powerful. The Leader of the Majority in the Senate is referred to simply as ‘The Senator’. He is the Party Leader of the President’s party, something that is unheard of in Kenyan politics. It is generally understood that The Senator calls the shots in the Christian Party. The President is known to be his stooge, someone who has been warming the seat for him for the last nine years while The Senator got ready. All the appointments that the President makes have to be approved by The Senator.
The Senator announced last year that he would be gunning for the top seat in next year’s election. Fredrick has had a fanatical following since he was a twenty-three-year-old preacher. He established his church at the age of twenty, shortly after he returned from the UK having completed his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. His father, Benson Ruguaru, was a business mogul with interests in banking, insurance, manufacturing, real estate, and agriculture was at first worried that his only child would stray away from the family business.
But Ruguaru proved to be both smart and hardworking. For three years he worked his way up in his father’s organization, while at the same time doing low-key preaching at a hall in the city. At the age of 23, when his father was satisfied with his progress in the business and made him a Vice President of the conglomerate, Ruguaru Jr. went huge on his Christian ministry. He rented a huge hall which he filled on the first Sunday. Some people murmured that he had paid the worshipers to fill the hall. Whatever the case, the church was always full from that day onwards.
Ruguaru worked with marketers to ensure that his ministry was featured on radio and television twice a week. Within a year, he was well-known in the country. At the age of 24, he held a mega crusade at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, and that is what officially catapulted him into Christian stardom.
His church has grown tremendously over the years. It is now a mega-church with 40 branches countrywide. The mother church, which sits on a twenty-acre campus in Juja, accommodates six thousand worshippers weekly and has a private primary and secondary school and a restaurant with the compound. The administration block of the church is an impressive six-floor steel and glass structure. Ruguaru is the Bishop of the Ministry and used to be referred to as ‘The Bishop’ up to halfway through his first term as a Senator. That is when he started being referred to as The Senator. After he was elected a Senator, his wife became the lead pastor and is the one who now deals with the day-to-day operational issues of the church assisted by the other pastors. That frees The Senator to pursue politics, although he retains general oversight over both the business and the church.
Unlike Pastor Pius Muiru who launched his 2007 presidential bid directly from the pulpit, Ruguaru decided to enter politics at the regional level first. He made his Senatorial bid at the age of 30 and chose his native Tharaka Nithi County over Nairobi, although he was born and brought up in the capital. Supported by his father’s deep pockets, he launched his own party, the Christian Party. By the time he went to the polls, the Christian Party was the big thing in Tharaka Nithi politics even though it was a fringe party nationally. It swept all the seats in the County, except the Presidential slot where it had no candidate. That was the first indication that Ruguru was headed for great things.
Fourteen years later, Ruguaru is the President’s party leader, and he has a fanatical following across the country. He is expected to win next year’s election by a landslide. Six years ago, Ruguaru’s father died, and The Senator took over the leadership of the conglomerate as the Group Chairman. His influence therefore spans corporate, political, and religious circles.
No one doubts that The Senator is the most powerful man in the country.
Two years ago, President Albert Wela tried to flex his muscles by using state apparatus to undermine The Senator. It is alleged that he wanted his Deputy, Winfred Kinya, to replace him as Head of State instead of The Senator. KRA started sniffing around the Senator’s business; EACC raided his homes. And the DCI arrested his daughter. Within a week of the visit to The Senator’s Nairobi home by the EACC, the Leader of the Majority in the National Assembly sponsored an impeachment motion against the President. All the MPs, including opposition MPs, rallied around it. Senators loudly asked their Assembly colleagues to hurry and ‘send it up’.
The President ate a humble pie and quietly apologized to The Senator. He promised to call off ‘his’ people (who were supposed to be independent in the first place). The EACC chairman, its CEO, the KRA Commissioner General, and the Director of Criminal investigations resigned the following day. After the truce, the MPs quietly dropped the impeachment motion.
The Senator had made his point.
The lift stops at the seventh floor of Ruguaru Towers in Westlands, Nairobi. This is The Senator’s private office, the headquarters of Ruguaru Group. This is where he conducts most of his business, although once in a while he sits at his Senate office and his other office at the church. Alice also has offices in those other two places. The Senator and his assistants step into the lift while still chatting. That is the other thing that people love about him: The Senator has no airs at all, and his relationships with the ordinary citizenry always seem to be authentic. This, commentators argue, is the reason he has been so successful as both a Christian and political leader.
The lift goes all the way down to the basement, where the driver has the car ready. One of the guards texted him as they left the office, to alert him that the boss was on the move. One guard opens the back-left door for the Senator and then hops to the front seat. Alice and the second guard head to a second car, whose driver has it ready as well.
“No, Alice. You will take a ride with me today,” The Senator says, through the rolled-down window. “Come and join me. We have a lot to talk about.”
Alice is surprised, but she obeys. They are probably heading out to a meeting with some of his business or political associates and he wants to brief her. She has been working for the Senator for five months now, and her life has been transformed.
Alice graduated from Kirinyaga University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Actuarial Science. However, for three years, she was unable to secure employment and had to do odd jobs to make ends meet. She worked as a shop attendant at an animal feed store for a year, before she moved on to become a waitress at a restaurant. When she met The Senator, she was working at her church as the church accountant, earning twenty-two thousand shillings per month.
While working at the church, she got married to a volunteer pastor called Bernard. Bernard worked as a boda boda rider during the week, but on Sundays, he volunteered in the church as a youth pastor. He also assisted with midweek and lunch-hour services and got three thousand shillings per week. If he preached in the main service on Sunday, this stipend would rise to five thousand shillings.
Bernard has a diploma in Biblical studies, having gotten a C+ in KCSE. Since his parents were not able to send him to college, he became a boda boda rider. But Bernard is an industrious man, and soon enough he had his own motorbike. He is also a committed Christian, and when their pastor noted that, he recommended him for a scholarship that enabled him to pursue a diploma in Biblical Studies at a local Bible college. However, the church couldn’t support two full-time, fully-paid pastors, so the pastor engaged him on a part-time basis.
Although Alice had been a student leader at Kirinyaga University, her self-esteem suffered due to joblessness and she could hardly address a congregation of more than ten people by the time she met The Senator. She became extremely shy and reclusive. She remained active in her local church, but she only volunteered for those positions that allowed her to remain in the background, such as hospitality and intercessory.
She prayed hard for a job, but as time went by, she began to believe that God wanted her to remain in the station of suffering. Their wedding, which was conducted about a year ago, was small and largely sponsored by their congregation. Their rings were cheap brands that they got for fifty shillings each. Her gown was donated by a lady in the church. The food was sponsored by the Ladies Fellowship. The bridal motorcade was made up of the five cars owned by the church members, including the pastor. Bernard paid for the cake and his suit, and that pretty much wiped out his savings. Their pastor sponsored their four-day honeymoon, which they spent in a cheap hotel in Embu town. After their honeymoon, they returned to Bernard’s rented double room in the market center.
This is not the kind of life that Alice had envisioned when she was at the university. In her dreams, she would become a leading corporate woman in the country, a mover and a shaker. Her wedding would be one that people in her village would talk about for ages, and she and her groom would honeymoon in a top hotel in Zanzibar.
She thought she would be a philanthropist helping the poor. Instead, she ended up being “the poor”. It crushed her spirit, her soul, and her entire being.
The Senator was invited five months ago to help fundraise for the construction of a stone sanctuary for their church, together with decent Sunday school classes. A church member knew someone who knew someone who worked for The Senator, and that is how the invite was extended. To their utter surprise, The Senator accepted the invite and his assistant called the pastor to confirm his attendance. Although Alice’s local church is in Tharaka Nithi, and The Senator is their representative in the Senate, he is now a national leader and they did not expect him to come personally. But he did. He came early on that Sunday morning. Alice was volunteering in the hospitality department and was part of the team that served breakfast to the Senator, his team, and the local pastors.
It was while she was serving tea that her Pastor mentioned that she was a graduate and that she had struggled to get a job. She nearly fainted partly due to embarrassment, and partly due to the unwanted attention that that declaration initiated. She wished the ground would swallow her. The Senator was accompanied by his wife, a couple of political leaders, and his assistants. He quizzed her about her education and then asked her whether she would like to be his Personal Assistant since the previous one had unfortunately died in a road accident just three days before.
She agreed immediately. She did not know what the job entailed, or how much she would be paid, but she instinctively knew that working for such an influential man would open doors for her. Their pastor quickly added that Alice’s husband was a pastor, and was the man seated next to him. However since the church could not afford to pay him, he volunteered the pastoral services and worked as a commercial motorcycle rider to earn a living. The pastor pointed him out and wondered whether The Senator would be willing to take him under his wing. The Senator readily agreed.
The Senator’s wife Carol called their parents, who are members of the church, before the service began and told them that she and her husband would be taking both Alice and Bernard back with them to the city. Alice’s mother wanted them to go home and collect their clothes before the service, but Carol told them it would not be necessary as she would be buying them new clothes. Bernard gave their pastor their house keys for safekeeping.
That afternoon Alice and Bernard rode with the Senator’s security team back to the city. They slept at The Senator’s home that evening and were really pampered by Carol. The bedroom they were assigned was more than double the size of their rented shack. The following day, Carol took Alice out and bought her new clothes and shoes. The Senator’s driver went with Bernard to get him new clothes, under The Senator’s instructions.
On the third day, Carol took Alice to the office in Westlands where she signed her employment contract. She was stunned when she realized that she would be earning a salary of two hundred and fifty thousand shillings. That was more than ten times what she had been earning in the church. In addition, she was informed that she and her husband would be given a furnished apartment in one of The Senator’s apartment blocks. Carol, who worked as the Executive Director of Ruguaru Group, instructed her personal assistant to spend the rest of the week orienting Alice on her new role. That evening she learned that her husband had been hired as a youth pastor in The Senator’s church and had been given a salary of three hundred thousand shillings. In addition, the church would sponsor him to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Theology.
It has been five months now, and Alice is getting used to this life, although she occasionally pinches herself to remind herself that it is true. She and her husband moved into their assigned apartment in Kileleshwa, and last month The Senator bought her a Mazda Demio for her birthday. Her husband had already been assigned one of the church’s cars for his official and personal purposes.
Alice has not forgotten her roots. She has been sending her parents money for their upkeep, and helped her mother set up a grocery shop that she is told is doing well. She intends to buy her father a second-hand vehicle that he can use as a taxi. She also cleared her older brother’s children’s fee balances. With her first salary, she sent the pastor of their local church thirty thousand shillings as her appreciation for the role he played in getting them jobs. And even though she now attends The Senator’s church and gives her offerings and tithes there, she sends five thousand shillings to her former pastor every month.
Her confidence is back. These days she rocks suits and high heels. She wears designer perfumes and her hair is made in high-end salons. She meets high-profile individuals almost daily, from senior politicians to corporate leaders and senior clergymen.
“Who are we meeting for lunch?” she asks her boss as they hit the highway.
“No one. We are just going to have lunch and go back to the office. I just figured that you have been serving me so efficiently but I hardly ever do anything for you.”
“You have done more than enough, Senator. You rescued me from the jaws of poverty.”
They chat about this and that until the vehicle pulls into a hotel. They are taken into a private cottage within the hotel grounds and are ushered into the dining room where they order their meals. This is not unusual. The Senator hardly ever eats in open restaurants, because he almost always gets unwanted attention.
What is unusual, however, is that after the meal the guards and the driver disappear quietly, and before Alice realizes it, she is all alone with The Senator.
“You are so beautiful, Alice,” he says suddenly. Alice looks at him, surprised. Her heart skips a beat when she sees the lust in his eyes.
“Thank you, Sir.”
She calls him “Sir” to ward off any unwanted seduction. But the Senator is not in the mood of seducing. He goes straight to the point.
“Ever since I laid my eyes on you, I have wanted to make love to you. I have really exercised restraint these five months, but I don’t want to anymore. I want to make love to you, baby.”
He rises from his seat, pulls her up from hers, and holds her in his arms.
“Please Sir, we cannot do this. We are both married.”
The Senator chuckles.
“Both marriages are a sham, my dear. I have not touched Carol for over ten years now.”
“But I love Bernard…”
“I love Carol too, we are just not sexually attracted to each other. Look, Bernard and Carol have been sleeping together since your second day in Nairobi. I wanted to give you time to settle before delighting in you.”
The way he says it makes her feel cheap; as though she were a chicken that he wanted to fatten before eating. He says it with his usual authority, and Alice realizes that her opinion is not needed. She continues pleading though.
He cuts her off by planting his lips on hers. She resists, but he places his hand on the back of her head and steadies it. When he breaks the kiss, he lifts her from the ground and carries her to the bedroom.
She starts crying and pleading with him not to continue with his plan but he hears none of it. He undresses, then removes his clothes and forces himself on her.
“You were so delightful my darling,” The Senator purrs after he is done with his act. He is stroking her naked body. “Just be nice to me and you will have everything you need.”
Alice does not respond. She is in pain. Her private parts are hurting. But most of the pain is in her heart. This is a man she has always held in very high regard. A man who presents himself as a respectable Christian warrior. But he is a monster and she feels disgusted in addition to the pain she is experiencing.
“I have to go now, babe. I know this is all very sudden to you. But you will get used to it. You can take a rest, and when you are ready, Matteo can take you to your house. Take the rest of the day off. I will see you in the morning.”
Matteo is the driver cum guard who drives The Senator’s escort car. Alice does not turn as The Senator dresses; she cannot face him. He pecks her neck and then leaves. Alice gives it five minutes after she hears the click of the door before she gets off the bed. She puts on her clothes and then goes to the dining room, just in time to see the Senator’s car leaving. She takes her purse from the side table in the dining room, pulls out her phone, and calls her husband.
She explains to him what had happened and requests him to come, get her, and take her to the police station. Bernard pauses, and Alice’s heart sinks.
“I don’t think that is necessary, sweetheart.”
“What are you talking about? I have just told you that I have been raped!”
“It is just sex, sweetheart.”
“You are my husband, B! You should be furious!”
“Yes, I am your husband and that is why I am telling you that I don’t mind sharing you with the Senator. Plus, the next time it happens, I don’t want to know.”
“Bernard, have you gone mad?” Alice asks angrily.
“Look, Alice. You know how we suffered before the Senator and his wife gave us these jobs. If sex is what it takes for us to keep our jobs, then we should at least be grateful that they are good-looking people.”
“So it is true that you have been sleeping with Carol?”
Bernard hangs up without responding. Alice sits at the dining table and cries her heart out.
“Take me to the police station.”
Matteo pauses and looks at her. From her disheveled appearance, he knows what has just happened.
“I am sorry Alice. I think I know what has happened in there, but I cannot take you to the police station.”
“Because we are talking about the most powerful man in this country, Alice. Even the President is afraid of him. I know you don’t like having sex with him because I didn’t either. But I am not going to help you report him.”
“You were sleeping with the Senator?”
“No, the wife. Anyway, the point is, he will toy with you for several months, and then a new babe will come about, and he will forget you. Then you will keep your job without sexual responsibilities and the universe will be happy. At least that is what happened to me. Madam Carol used me for a few months, and then a new guy came about and these days she doesn’t even remember I exist. I am happy, she is happy and the world is happy.”
“Who is the new guy?” Alice asks, hoping against hope even though she knows the answer. Matteo looks at her sadly, then sighs before responding.
“Your husband Bernard. He has been keeping her quite busy since you guys came, and that has redeemed me.”
Alice bites her tongue to stop herself from crying.
“Take me to the police station.”
“I am sorry Alice. I will drop you at your house as I was instructed, and from there you can take an Uber to the police station. Or, I can drop you at the office so that you can get your car and drive yourself to the police station. But I suggest you don’t unless you want to end up like your predecessor.”
“Didn’t she die in a road accident?”
“Anna was a good girl. But like you, she didn’t like it when The Senator took her by force. She reported to the police, and of course, they did nothing. But a week later Anna was pushed out of a moving car by Maurice and Brian, the Senator’s guards that we just had lunch with. Leonard was driving the car, the same car they left with that afternoon, and he confided in me even before the news of Anna’s death broke. You could call that an accident, or you could call it murder. It doesn’t make a difference as far as The Senator is concerned. The police said it was a hit-and-run accident. Anyway, whatever you decide to do, just be careful, Alice. I don’t want to attend your funeral.”
Realizing that her situation is hopeless, Alice closes her eyes and cries freely as Matteo starts the car and eases out of the hotel compound.
(Next Friday I will take you through the mind of the Senator in the story Concentrated Power, and the following day I will comprehensively tell you the Ruguaru story in the novella, The Senator).
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