As American actress Joan Collins said, “Age is just a number. It’s completely irrelevant unless you’re a bottle of wine, of course,” she might as well have thought of Benjamin Wamugunda Geteria.
In 2011, at the age of 66, Mr. Geteria enrolled for a bachelor’s degree a law degree from the University of Nairobi (UoN), which he graduated four years later at the age of 70.
On Monday he was finally admitted by the Bar Association after successfully completing his schooling and obtaining a law degree included in the list of lawyers Kenya School of Law (KSL). The 70-year-old, who turns 77 in August, is six years past the retirement age for judges in Kenya. But he is undeterred.
“I realize I can’t be a judge in the country, but I want to be useful. I deal with popular law rather than substantive law and my specialty will be litigation on behalf of the poor serving the outsiders as I am not here to amass wealth,” Mr. Geteria told the Nation.
Growing up, Mr. Geteria wanted to be a doctor, but when he got into Alliance High School, that didn’t happen as he had been involved with trees for 28 years.
“In 2011, however, I felt challenged. I was uncomfortable having all those forestry degrees, but I was unemployed. I said there must be something I can do,” he says.
The Forestry Society of Kenya President said he then decided to join UoN to finally study law and sharing classes with students as young as his grandchildren before graduating in 2015.
He then went to the Kenya School of Law in 2016 and it was not a smooth process as he passed the exam twice had to repeat and graduated in 2017.
The second born of a family of 13 remembers a few days when he wanted to fail to drop out of college, but he succeeded and found himself again.
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Some of the challenges he encountered were dealing with advances in technology , which required reading on the phone, obtaining reading material from the internet and iP ads, but the support he received kept him going.
“There was a time I thought, ‘Why bother at my age?’ but I’ve always because of my granddaughter who carried on had great interest in my studies. I passed [the exams] after two attempts last year,” he says with a smile on his face.
The Runyenjes-born grandfather says he doesn’t want to be like other officers who get drunk after being silly of retirement or die of idleness. He wants to do something useful for society in his old age.
He regrets that unless retirees accumulated wealth or started businesses, they would become useless in old age, and he wanted to be different.
“A lot of people tend to drink in their retirement or just be lazy and complain about how hard life is, but [practicing] it as a law has given me a renewed zest for life,” Herr says Geteria.
In fact, he says he’s already looking forward to the future and has set up an office in Gikomba Market ready to plunge into his new world as a lawyer after receiving a license to practice from the Law Society of Kenya.
“I’m glad I got this far. I look forward to leaving as I want to be of service to society until the last breath of my life,” he says, adding that he wants to spend the few remaining years of his life helping those in need. But why would a 28-year-old public servant grandfather put himself under the pressure of a legal career at his age?
Mr. Geteria, who is also an author, explains that his desire for justice is the injustice in society, especially for the poor, is enough motivation to become a pro-people advocate.
He argues that poverty, rather than having criminal thoughts, drives most people to commit crimes. However, the poor always end up behind bars, while other criminals who walk around in fancy suits and drive fancy cars get off scot-free because they have the wherewithal to tip the scales of justice in their favor.
“The people who need advocates are the ones who can’t afford them. I am not Jesus Christ, but I am convinced that I want to right the wrongs that are happening in society, especially towards the poor,” he said.
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He said his desire to study law had accompanied him since 1981 because he wanted to right injustices in the world.< /p>
Mr. Geteria shared how he admired lawyers and said his father, Rowland Njeru Geteria, also liked lawyers.
He well remembers a young lawyer named Ojiambo who caught his attention in 1981, when he was representing a Kitale court before the late Judge Samuel Oguk, who was a resident judge.
After the encounter, he began flirting with the idea of becoming a lawyer and began Reading books about the law and working with attorneys.
“I remember that I Listening to people like James Orengo, who was in Form One when I was in Form Six at Alliance High, and Pheroze Nowrojee articulating legal issues, that’s what slowly drew me to the profession,” he said.
< However, the injustices and poor governance that characterized former President Daniel Moi's regime left him unemployed in 1993. He lost his forestry job when the regime became hostile to officials trying to make a name for themselves.
He continued to receive contracts with the Kenya Forestry Service until 2015, when he served as Chairman of the Forestry Conservancy of Nairobi left.
Between , he contested for the Runyenjes parliamentary seat with a Democratic Party ticket in 1997, but lost due to what he called foul play.
The injustices, he says , reminded him of his father’s experiences in 1952, when he was arrested and tied up with ropes by colonial officials during the Mau Mau agitation and taken to Kapenguria along with the late Jomo Kenyatta and 77 others. Back then there was a lot of excitement about injustice and bad governance. And coincidentally, that was when lawyers screamed the loudest,” he said.