Before she died of Covid-19 last month, songstress Mercy Wairimu aka Wa Ciama had, despite her modest wealth, set herself the target of becoming a billionaire by 2026.
She hoped to achieve this through her business portfolio, which includes Televangelism TV station, her music and real estate investments.
Her best hits include Njaura (relieve me), Ndi Mu-eninginje (I’m engaged – to God), Ni Unjoyaga (You lift me up), Himbiria (Embrace me), He Ugi (Give me wisdom), Oya Ikinya (Take a step) and Ndingitengemana (Will not crash).
Before she breathed her last while receiving treatment at Murang’a Level Five Hospital, Wa Ciama had shared her vision with Talented Musicians and Composers Sacco chairman Epha Maina.
“She had confided to me that she was tying the loose ends of her mini-empire and that she was keen to have bagged her first billion by 2026,” Mr Maina told the Nation.
The dream had been a long time coming for Wa Ciama, who had started out as a house help who worked in exchange for shelter and food.
This was after a rough run in school that saw her miss classes for many days due to lack of fees. Nevertheless, she not only braved the challenges to sit her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams, but was a budding media mogul who also ran a successful evangelical ministry, besides recording several albums and investing in the property markets.
“If only death could be appealed, hers would have needed an urgent petition so as to spare her soul,” a dejected Mr Maina said.
The sacco chairman further revealed that Wa Ciama had disclosed to him her worth, which she estimated at Sh36 million in assets, a Sh125,000 account balance and Sh18 million in manageable liabilities as of January 2021.
“She was keen to reduce her liabilities to less than Sh2 million by 2025 and start solidifying her investments,” he added.
To get that far, she had to sacrifice a lot, Mr Maina said, adding that she had at times gone hungry, worn cheap clothes and lived in low-end estates. Besides leading an austere life to accumulate savings, she had gone back to school and earned a certificate in sales and marketing and later media studies.
A week before her death, she had narrated to the Nation how she had nearly dropped out of Class Seven after her mother was admitted to hospital for six months.
“Since my father worked in Nairobi, the duty of taking care of my seven siblings fell on my young shoulders. Poverty would not get off my back and, even after I resumed learning and got admitted to Thika Girls High School, where well-wishers catered for my entry fees, I had to be transferred to the less expensive Kiranga Mixed Secondary School the following year,” she had said.
After her KCSE exams, she requested her mother to give her Sh30 to travel to Thika town, where she had been promised a house help’s job, whose pay turned out to be food and shelter.
Two years later, she moved to Wikai Products Company, where her salary was Sh2,500 a month.
In 2002, she got another job that paid a monthly salary of Sh7,000, then another in 2005 that came with a Sh15,000 pay. By 2008, she was earning Sh30,000 at yet another firm.
By 2005 she had founded her own establishments – Blegco, Wundertat Properties, Embracing God Revival Church ministries and Kiheo Television.
Born on July 13, 1975 to Mr Jackson Kamande and Mrs Peris Njeri in Gathungururu village, Murang’a County, she had told this writer that “the kind of poverty I was born into could easily have been passed on into the future but God gave me a strong fighting spirit”.
Her ministry journey started when she was in Class Six at Gathungururu Primary School, when she switched from her family’s Catholic faith to the Akorino church as a born-again girl.
“My father would hear none of it, but I told him I was only searching for the peace of mind I needed to stay afloat,” she had further told this writer.
In 1998, as a member of the Gospel Revival Centre, she thought she had found a husband but it did not work.
“When he realised I had a stable income and some properties, he resigned from his work and started depending on me,” she had revealed.
“I gave him capital to start a business, paid for his driving course and bought him a car to venture into the taxi business…He, however, refused to work. The church intervened but he insisted on starting a maize-roasting business in Thika town,” she revealed.
Though she had earlier defied advice from spiritual leaders who said the man was too lazy for her and had gone on to choose him out of seven suitors, there was no way she was going to accept to be married to a man who sold roast maize.
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“Call it pride, but a woman must have some basic standards,” she had told the Nation.
She later realised the relationship was headed for the rocks and after seven years of trying, she quit with her three daughters.
By this time, Wa Ciama’s music was doing well. She had also started televangelism shows at Njata TV and later on at her own Kiheo TV.
Interestingly, even after they had separated, Mr Samuel Mwangi offered to bury her when she died.
He eulogised her as “my wife who sired me three beautiful daughters and for whom I had paid full dowry”.
Mr Mwangi said he was saddened by news of her death, “considering the resilient and entrepreneurial mind humanity had lost.”
“Just as she was about to soar, Covid-19 came and all her expectations were ruined. Covid-19 ruthlessly crushed Wairimu’s iron heart for good. May she rest in peace,” Mr Maina concluded.