For a person whose reputation as a hard-nosed man-hater is legendary, Ciku Muiruri – she who “busts” cheating partners on live radio – offers startlingly contradictory wisdom.
“Don’t ever, ever bruise a man’s ego, especially if he’s a powerful man.”
She’s obviously amused at my surprise and explains that this is a lesson she learnt the hard way.
Without naming names and places, the radio presenter of Classic 105 FM popular Drive Time show and formerly of Easy FM, (as well as columnist for The Nation newspaper’s Satmag and Zuqka pull-out magazines, and co-host of KBC TV’s Big Four Fans show) confesses that her naivete once got her fired from a job.
“A former boss asked for sexual favours. I said no and within about a week I was out of a job. The timing was bad as I’d just taken a loan and had no way of repaying it. My daughter was in school and money was tight. It was bad.”
Her advice to women in the same situation is: “Don’t say no. Just quote high.”
Now I’m confused.
“Come on … you’re a woman,” she says a bit impatiently. “Use your common sense. Let the man in question think that you really want to get with him but can’t because of a certain obstacle. It could be that you have rent arrears, or that you are working overtime to buy a new car … anything. Let him know that if he could sort out your problem, you’d be in a much better frame of mind to hang out with him. Make the obstacle expensive, that way he won’t feel the sting of rejection; he is just the one who can’t afford to be with you.”
But what if the man is able to raise the money? Hasn’t her advice ever backfired?
“As a matter of fact it did, once,” she smiles. “A house-helper called my show asking how she could put a stop to the unwanted attention of her boss. I advised her to quote high. We fabricated a story about her mother being sick and the girl being very stressed about raising the Ksh40 000 needed to get her mom out of hospital. A few days later the girl called again to say that the man had given her the money.”
Ciku’s advice then was: Take the money and split!
That’s the sort of guidance that has irritated listeners and those who read her newspaper columns. They find it unsuitable. Misleading. Wrong.
“I hate self-righteous people,” comes her quick retort. “I never give advice that I wouldn’t take myself, and that is what I would do in such circumstances. I try very hard to remain true to myself. Some people don’t agree with me but for others, it is just what they need.”
So, is she the man-hater that people believe she is?
“Me?” she laughs. “The majority of my friends are men, I’m closer to my brothers than I am to my only sister, and the number one person in my life was my dad. He passed away when I was 12 years old.
“I think it was clearer to other people than it was to me that I was his favourite. OK, there was the stuff that all folks love
-I was smart and gave him good grades. But on the downside, I had lip. Even way back then he’d say, ‘You will give a man trouble one day.’ But he always said it affectionately and with a smile.”
Some of Ciku’s earliest memories are of mothering her dad. She’d bring his sandals to the doorstep when he came home
from work, and she gave herself the duty of giving him his ulcer medication after every meal.
“I did this from when I could barely walk and kept going for years. Taking care of daddy was second nature to me – and it still is, for any man whom I hold dear. That has carried into the present, so no, I don’t hate men.”
This is surprising considering she has at least two very good reasons to: One is her brother who frittered away her late father’s wealth, effectively denying her an education, and the other is the father of her baby, who beat her when she was pregnant and has refused to have anything to do with his child. These are two men who should have treated her better, but didn’t.
Although many people have heard the story and know the connection between Ciku and her famous older brother, Tony Gachoka, she is reluctant to discuss him and that dark time in her life.
“That is my brother. That is blood,” is how she justifies her reticence.
The only concession she makes is to say: “I could play the victim but what’s the use in that? True, I didn’t finish university but all my experiences, even the bad ones, are what have made me who I am today. I am thankful for this.”
She holds the same opinion about the father of her baby.
“I hesitate to speak about him because he’s had a hold over me for so many years; a vice around my neck. How would you explain the coldness that washes over you when someone’s name comes up? He scares me because he is a constant reminder that you never really know anyone. How do you live with someone for two years, have their baby and only then understand how flawed they are as humans? When this person turns his back on his own flesh and blood? Don’t you question what you think you know about anyone from then on?”
Still, Ciku is thankful to this man for giving her a baby.
“Being a mummy is the most spectacular thing that’s happened to me,” she says.
She describes her daughter Erica as ” 12 going on 30, she is so mature”.
I ask whether Erica knows about her father and Ciku replies with this story: “I wanted Erica to know the truth about her life so I took her to a restaurant for a chat. I explained that I left her father because he was abusive but that I loved her and had never regretted having her.”
At some point Erica started crying and Ciku hastened to reassure her daughter.
“I told her to stop crying, that there was nothing wrong with her, that her father’s rejection was not her fault and that she was perfect to me. Then Erica interjected, ‘Mama, you think I’m this wonderful person, but you’re the one who’s raised me to be like this and here you are being worried because of me. I am fine’.”
Then both of them were crying.
Even as Ciku recounts this episode, she tries hard not to cry; she looks up and blinks rapidly but two big drops disobey her and roll down her cheek. She wipes them away slowly, thoughtfully, as she takes time to compose herself.
“The waiters in that restaurant were looking at us wondering why these two chicks were crying,” she says with a teary smile.
It is obvious that Erica is the centre of her universe.
“I called her Erica because I’d thought I was having a boy. I had chosen three names; Eric, Matthew and Alan. Eric was easier to feminise.
“Sometimes I regret giving her a mzungu name. I should have given her a nice African one. But at least she has dreadlocks,” she adds.
Although Ciku would like to get married, she’s not sure she wants to have another child.
“That poor child would have a tough act to follow after Erica,” she explains.
Her ideal man, therefore, would probably have a child of his own. He would also have to be “God-fearing, successful and very well off, one who respects me and thinks I’m beautiful inside and out, one who will allow me to grow spiritually and professionally. And since I’m a bit of a procrastinator, I need someone to push me a bit. I, of course, need to be attracted to him – I love confidence in a man.”
She knows that what she wants isn’t easy to get.
“I have been told I have unrealistic standards but I have sent out my wish list to the universe and, since energy follows thought, it will come back to me. That perfect man is just around the corner.”
She clarifies that she is not interested in someone who is finding himself.
“Let him find himself first, preferably in Muthaiga,” she grins impishly, “then he can holler.”
But what if the perfect man is afraid of her and her bad-girl reputation?
“If someone avoids me because they think I’m a bad girl then that’s OK. I don’t want to be with them. I want someone to fall in love with me, not my radio image.”
Ciku is philosophical about her image. “Well, everything happens for a reason. Ciku is not a ‘bad girl’ but it works for me. People leave me alone; they’re afraid of me. And those who aren’t think I’m crazy. Very few people are acquainted with the real Ciku.”
She describes herself as loyal, artsy, and the best and worst employee at the same time.
“I’m a very, very good friend. I know how to hang tight when things are tough and I require the same of my friends. I am artsy and I don’t compromise when it comes to art. I am not trying to climb the corporate ladder, which is a good thing. I’m the best and worst employee: I will go to the very top to get what I want and will give you 100%, but I will not conform.”
She confesses that she doesn’t trust people easily, but when she does “it’s fully and whole-heartedly”. Which is why she says she never understood why the father of her child hit her.
“That’s why I was so bitter. That’s why I lashed out.”
She says that after she calmed down, she reached out to him and tried to talk to him about his child, but he ignored her.
She tried repeatedly over the years: When her child was sick, when she had no money and her mom had to bail her out financially, when she was struggling to make ends meet; he ignored her each and every time. She has heard that he tells people that the child isn’t his. Her response is classic Ciku. “Dude, whatever helps you sleep better at night.”
In her quiet, peaceful apartment on upmarket Riara Road, Ciku Muiruri exhales. She has come a long way. She is no longer angry or bitter. She is no longer a victim. She has risen out of the ashes of adversity a stronger, more focused, more powerful person. She is happy.
If these walls could speak what would they say about you, I ask?
“That I need to get some,” she quips. And we giggle like school girls.
Then she becomes thoughtful, quiet. “It is possible to make bad decisions because of grief, but I encourage women not to. There are so many who feel like their lives come to an end when a man walks out and they’re pregnant, but realise this: God will never give you something and not provide a way to handle it. He’ll never leave you alone. You’ll never walk alone.”
Such wisdom; and from one so … how old is Ciku anyway? She fobs me off with a long quote by Douglas MacArthur.
” ‘You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.’ ” So on a really bad day, I’m 60, but most of the time, I’m still rocking 21.”
So there you have it. Everything you thought you knew about Ciku. Busted.
- She is shy. “Working on radio is basically just talking to yourself in a little room.”
- She is going to South Africa for the Soccer World Cup in June.
- She has started taking shooting lessons. Yes, with real guns.
- She can, and does sometimes, wear her daughter Erica’s clothes.
- She read politics, sociology and business administration for her A-levels at Oxford Business College.
- She worked as a chambermaid at the Randolph Hotel – “the poshest hotel in Oxford”.
- She can now afford a suite at the Randolph Hotel.
- Her aborted degree was to be in business administration, majoring in human resource management. “It was for the best I guess; imagine me in an office issuing memos to staff?”
- She has a close relationship with her mother, though this only started after Erica’s birth. “She took over in the most amazing manner. She’s been wonderful.”
- Her mom did not want her to study anything media related as she did not think there would be any future in it.