The mathematics professor and vice President is best remembered for his historical statement of there being a time when the nation is more important than an individual; a bold statement that comes to mind whenever tough choices have to be made and a balance to be sought between one’s comforts and those of national good.
The late Professor is also remembered as a trustworthy political ally and a confidant who earned and kept the trust of former president Daniel Moi for a long time. Unknown to many however, is the soft guiding hand and leadership guidance he offered to those around him.
Prof Saitoti was a teacher; a profession he had to ditch for politics but he didn’t completely severe ties and abandon his passion. Besides his political ambitions of climbing to the top, Professor found time to mentor, and to bring out the potential in them – and today stands one mentee of the late professor’s mentorship, Mrs Agnes Kagure.
For a vice president who rarely trusted anyone, having survived a poisoning attempt, to having Mrs Kagure as a trusted family associate shows the high standards of trust that Mrs Kagure had to measure up to and beat and as she once said, “You have to earn the trust of the most untrusting to have trust in yourself.”
In a business association that would extend to mentorship, Mrs Kagure saw beyond her insurance sales and began to envision herself as someone being the mover of change in an imbalanced society that often left behind women and children in its development agenda and plans.
“It’s a choice I’ve never regretted for once. Expanding my scope from just an insurance dealer to one thinking of others and how to change this society for the better and for this, I thank the late Professor.”
In a discussion with Kenya University Students Organization officials, Mrs Kagure recounted her humble beginnings, pointing out the essential role that trust plays in all successful associations with different people at different levels.
“Be it as a house help, you must earn the trust of your employers, Be it as an insurance agent, you have to earn the trust of your clients, Be it as a political protege, you have to earn the trust of your mentor and as a leader, your people must have the reason to trust you,” said Kagure.
He has not only mentored Kenyan, but also academicians across the African continent.
One of Saitoti’s contributions was the institutionalisation of Mathematics as a discipline in Africa. During the first Pan-African Conference of Mathematicians held in Rabat, Morocco, in 1976, Saitoti was involved in the creation of the African Mathematical Union (AMU).
He was elected the AMU’s Vice-President, a post which he held on up to 1979.
His rise to stardom was steady, and by 1983, he was an associate professor and Head of the Mathematics Department at the University of Nairobi.
Outside the academy, Saitoti received several public appointments. In 1972, the Minister of Labour appointed him as the chairman of the Agricultural Wages Council (AWC). He was also appointed a committee member of the Natural Sciences Advisory Research Committee (TNSARC) in 1979.
Saitoti will be remembered as a teacher, a mentor, a politician and a leader who never abandoned ethical values despite traversing through different careers in his life.
The physical teacher in him died, but his life remains a teacher to most modern generation teachers, politicians, business people and leaders.
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