Famously and controversially called ‘Chairman’ a name he earned after chairing the men’s conference on Valentines’ day, Jackson Kiprotich Kibor, an ambitious farmer-cum-politician was undoubtedly a man of the people.
A wealthy and healthy businessman of approximately six feet tall left a wide gulf that is yet to be filled in the Kalenjin community. The celebrated Chairman succumbed to kidney failure after battling Covid-19 related complications for two years. An assertive funny confident man with vast acres of land, Kibor passed on at the age of 88.
The name Kibor among the Kalenjin bears a hidden meaning. Kibor is a name of a male child, born at the roadside. Such incidents may occur after the mother labours on the road following a long journey. Be it known, the etymology of the name is Kiy-po-oor meaning one from the road.
Alternatively, a child can be named Kibor after undergoing a death cheating ritual called Keteger where a child is delivered and left by the mother at a busy roadside for some time. A villager who knows the storyline would stumble upon the child and alerts the villagers about the scenario. Upon the surprised villagers’ arrival, the child would be handed over to the mother as if to adopt her, a thing done to confuse the evil spirits. This ritual was done to cast away the spirits of death haunting the lineage of the family. It was then believed that the evil spirits would spare the child because they would think he/she does not belong to the mother. Other synonyms of Kibor include Kimeto or Kikwai.
Born in Kipkabus, Uasin Gishu County in 1934, Kibor grew up in a humble home. His mother later moved with him to Nandi County but soon passed on forcing him to relocate back to Kipkabus. His father had earlier on died in the mid-1930s. This made him an orphan at the very tender age of nine. Kibor dropped out of school due to a lack of school fees in class five.
‘To make ends meet, I resorted to selling wattle tree barks to fend for my needs,” he said during an interview. Although he never went back to school, he worked at a tanning company in his local area and resorted to being a lorry driver, a skill he gained at the company.
At the age of 15, he would sell chicken and eggs and even farm pyrethrum. His determination while working as a driver to two billionaire great farmers, Jonathan Kibogy and Churchil Chemasit, developed his interest in farming. Here he would a get a monthly salary of Ksh 75 in the year 1958.
In his twenties, Kibor would drive lorries to Kampala and sell potatoes and maize, a business that later diversified across East Africa. He was an industrious man in nature. He recalls that at one point he had to part ways with his fellow drivers since he did not see them any serious in the business and there he fully did it on his own. He saved a lot from his profits.
“I used to drive lorries transporting maize and potatoes across East Africa, life was tough and I learnt the important lesson of saving my salary. After some time accumulated an amount I used to purchase the potatoes that I sold in Kampala,” he said.
“I used to buy a bag of potatoes at Sh6 per bag in Chepkorio and Metkei areas using Sh3 per bag for brokers and transport, while in Kampala I would sell a bag at Sh16. I saved the profits which I used to buy my own Canter lorry and got another lorry shortly after” he added. He also traded maize using his cargo train in Kipkabus and Ainabkoi areas. His side hustle that earned a lot of income then was playing darts, a game he was never beaten.
“I borrowed Sh55, 000 from the Land Bank and added to the Sh35,000 and bought my first land measuring 836 acres in Kipkabus where I grew maize and did a lot of dairy farming. My first wife Mary helped manage the farm and repaid the loan before I married Josephine in 1965, who also stayed on the same farm,” he stated.
By the time of his demise, the adventurous Kibor boasted of large parcels of land that he invested in large scale farming and dairy farming. He also ventured into the real estate business across the country. As many would put it, Kibor was productive and committed to his work. Noted is that he became a millionaire at the age of 29 and at the time of his death, he died a billionaire.
As a politician, the late Kibor served as a councillor for two wards, Wareng’ and Kipkabus. During his tenure as Eldoret Municipality Councillor, his political voice was highly respected. This saw him being elected as KANU Chairperson by the late president Daniel Moi after introducing multi partism in the country. Although Kibor was against the idea of the multi-party state in the country, he had to give in to the idea.
“For me, I saw this as a move to demean Moi’s power in the country. It was an idea brought in by the Europeans to force us to borrow money from the IMF”, he said. Unluckily, Kibor was sent parking out of the KANU party in the 1990s after taking the bulls by its horns and telling its leaders that Moi should appoint his successor because retirement was creeping in.
He was, however, forced to apologize to the president by the late nominated member of parliament Mark Too. The authoritative man regardless of all this proudly refers to Moi’s leadership as one of a kind and that he has never witnessed a true leader like him.
This however did not dim his political career. He joined Raila’s ODM party shortly before the 2007 elections. This, later on, caused darkness in his political career as he was charged with incitement against the Kikuyu community but was later discharged.
The late Kibor, a proud polygamist is survived by four wives and twenty-six children. His first wife, the late Mary Kibor bore him 8 children (five daughters and three sons), his second wife, Josephine Jepkoech had eight children with him and his third wife Naomi Cheptoo bore him six sons, both of whom he recently divorced. In the year 2017, he married Yunita Kibor and had four children with him.
However, he was a man of many controversies and drama. Dating years back, he faced the law as his gun was confiscated by the government after a video went viral while exchanging gunfire with his eldest son Ezekiel who was armed with a “panga”. This was after his sons attacked him on his farm claiming that he had no right to enter the farm.
Feuds have always been witnessed as the old man was always in court with his sons who claimed that their father was not willing to share the 2,000-acre land with them. Kibor defended his stand in court. “I will only share the land to my respectful children,” he stated. “My children sold plots, farms and tractors I gave them and I am not happy with that. The gun I used is for my safety,” he added.
He went on to say that one of his wives even ganged up his sons against him and sold his rental houses in Karen and Nyali in Mombasa. This move forced him to even demand a DNA test for his sons who had confronted him. Gladly the government gave back the gun to him.
Sometime later, the action hero hit the headlines again after the court granted him a divorce from his wife Josephine with whom they had married for more than fifty years. On the receiving end, his wife claimed that mzee had neglected her and his children. Getting married to him and making wealth together, she hoped, was for the betterment of their children but during an interview, she expressed her anguish saying that what she got in return was a life full of agony.
Kibor was even heard in an interview saying that her eldest daughter Loice Jemeli was not his biological child. In her response, her daughter said that she was ready a DNA test. Mzee Kibor hilariously claimed that his wife would leave him at his matrimonial home and go to the sauna for the whole day.
Nonetheless, the strict disciplinarian again at one point got himself in the arms of the government after he plucked the chains that the county council officers had put on his car. The county government later passed an order allowing veteran politicians in the county to park their cars at no fee.
Nevertheless, the late Jackson was a very considerate father. Before his demise, he managed to solve the long-lasted land dispute in his family. He summoned his large family together with his friends and relatives. One would even say that he had had a premonition of him going back to the soil.
He asked for forgiveness and gave each of his sons 200 acres of land and his eleven daughters 100 acres each. Naomi, his wife, praised him for teaching his kids the hard way and the easy way of life as a way of shaping them in their day to day activities. His will, according to his son Philip Kibor, stated that he should be buried next to his first wife Mary.
The patriarch gave his life to Christ and was baptized by Rev Silas Yego in Eldoret, a move he said is always a good thing getting ready because no one knows when their day will come. He even donated two acres of land to a local church two weeks before his death.
Mzee will be remembered, not only because of his controversies but also as the chairman of the men’s conference. The title came to be after marrying his last wife in 2017, who was more than half his age. During his lectures at the men’s conference, Kibor passed on legit and real-life knowledge in equal measures.
“I urge men, with beards or no beards to attend the function,” he was heard saying. “Look for money as hard as you can. Money buys respect, women and good life,” he stated. He went on to advise youths not to indulge in criminal activities and at all times not to take drugs.
“Eating healthy is good. In marriage, unity is key. Respect your parents and be responsible fathers to your children by paying school fees to avoid facing the law,” he sternly said during his speech. He touched the lives of many, politically, and emotionally and he will live to be missed for his jokes and drama. His love for money saw him live a luxurious lifestyle and had very expensive cars.