Kenya’s new central bank governor rejected the grand house that comes with his prestigious job. The BBC’s Abdinoor Maalim writes this is a rare move which has created a lot of interest in the single 54-year-old, who is a member of the Catholic group Opus Dei.
Kenyans are enthralled by the new central bank governor. And it is not because they are wondering what he is going to do about the Kenyan shilling weakening against other currencies.
Patrick Njoroge seems to be from a different planet altogether.
His “refusal to take his turn to eat is surprising” says business columnist Otieno Otieno in the Daily Nation. While Victor Nyakachunga writes in the Standard “many were challenged” by him opting for the simple life.
Kenyans are used to senior government officials leading lavish lifestyles.
It is an issue which has provoked protest, not least when parliamentarians awarded themselves a pay rise of 319,000 shillings ($3,200; £2,100) a month, less than two months after being sworn in in 2013.
Mr Njoroge’s predecessors in the central bank lived in the luxurious Muthaiga Estate in Nairobi.
They drove Range Rovers or Mercedes Benz accompanied by security cars.
The house is famous for its beautiful gardens which are used to host parties.
It is near the residences of the US and UK foreign envoys and Kenya’s former President Mwai Kibaki.
Mr Njoroge has dismissed these perks, preferring to live in a communal house in Nairobi’s Loresho estate.
He went to live with his fellow members of an organisation of the Roman Catholic church called Opus Dei.
The organisation, which means “work of God” in Latin, teaches that ordinary life is a path to sanctity.
It is widely credited with developing his humble stance.
The Opus Dei website says members aim at “humility, justice, integrity, and solidarity” and to work “hard and well, honestly and fairly”.
“In God’s eyes, what matters is the love people put into their work, not its success in terms of money or fame,” it adds.
What is Opus Dei?
- A branch of the Catholic Church founded in 1928
- Has a reputation for secrecy
- Featured in the Dan Brown bestseller The Da Vinci Code where a member whips himself until he bleeds
- Self-flagellation is an expression of remorse for sins
- The Opus Dei website says members do perform penance and sacrifice but “not like the distorted and exaggerated depiction in The Da Vinci Code”
Offered a wife
When he was being vetted by MPs for the governor position, he surprised the committee by revealing he didn’t own any property in Kenya.
That is despite commanding a presumably large salary in his previous job as an advisor to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Deputy Managing Director.
“I don’t have a single asset here in Kenya,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean that this how it will be forever. I subscribe to being very deliberate about that. This is my economic model and maybe years after retirement, I would want to invest in other things,” he said.
But it is not the only element of the banker’s private life which has caused a stir.
He is also single.
MPs were so intrigued by Mr Njoroge’s marital status that he was asked about it during the vetting process – a move BBC Trending reports was mocked online.
The MPs gave him a rare offer. When they found out he was single they requested to get him a wife.
“I am single by choice – it’s not because there’s a problem or shortage,” he replied.
His character has attracted offers of marriage and admiration on Twitter.
“And then, that new #CBKGovernor just made me re evaluate my life goals..man is so humble and content.” tweeted an inspired Anthony Mbugua.
His colleagues are equally taken by him.
“Totally devoid of ego and instinctively averse to self-advertisement,” is how a senior treasury official and long-serving central banker described him.
Kenyans hope his austere nature means he will keep their luxury-loving politicians in check and safeguard their economic future.