Losing a plum military job, narrowly escaping death after surviving mob justice and serving a jail sentence are some of the misfortunes that Ashford Karemu Gitonga alias Imenti Boy, a Meru-based Musician will never forget.
“I chose the wrong path of drugs. I messed up life for Myself,” Gitonga bemoans.
Mr Gitonga, a resident and Musician hailing from Majengo Slums in Meru County came into the spotlight in 2008 after releasing his first album dubbed ‘Mwaka wa gospel’.
Two years later he was among the few lucky people to join Kenya Defence Forces, a job that made his career sparkle.
In 2011 after his pass-out Gitonga was posted to Kahawa barracks in the Defense forces ordnance décor (D.F.O.D) unit.
According to the Kenyan Ministry of Defence, the function of the Ordnance Corps is to provide supply support to the Army through acquisition, warehousing and distribution of Ordnance Stores in order to sustain Army Operations both in peace-time and war-time and limited support to the Kenya Air Force and the Kenya Navy as and when required.
Gitonga however says that his fortune did not last long as he lost his plum job due to drug addictions on 20th May 2017.
“I was suspected that I was using drugs and a drug test was done on me. It turned positive and I was terminated without a warning,” Gitonga laments.
After losing his job Gitonga says that due to desperation, he totally turned to drugs.
Gitonga says that Nigeria Ndogo in Mathare, an area well-known as a Drugs Bazaar turned out to be his second home for relieving his stress.
Recalling the place, Gitonga says that if any desperate junkie in the city wants to score, they all know where they should go to-Nigeria Ndogo, near St Teresa along Juja road and close to Baitul Maal Mosque.
Nigeria Ndogo came into the media spotlight in 2013 after the area was famed for drug peddling in the heart of Mathare slum in Nairobi.
According to a local publication, Nigeria Ndogo is an open field behind the Al Badr filling station in the sprawling Mathare slums. It is a no-go area for the police. Heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, mandrax and many other hard drugs are sold there every day.
Gitonga says his military knowledge and an armoury course he took while in the military, landed him a new job as security personnel in a drugs den in Nigeria Ndogo. He was also tasked with servicing guns for the hard-core criminals, a job that earned him Sh 1000 daily.
The Armoury Course equips one with the knowledge to disassemble, service, inspect and re-assemble various weapons systems.
The musician, however, says that his illegal job did not last long as the National Government through the former Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government Fred Matiangi ordered raids and arrests of drug peddlers and criminals at Nigeria Ndogo forcing him to flee.
To earn money for drugs, Gitonga says that he was forced to switch to pickpocketing and mugging in Muthurwa, Kahawa Wendani, Githurai and Gikomba areas.
“I did pickpocketing and mugging and when I felt that this did not pay well I switched to robbery with violence,” Gitonga recalls.
His fame and close relationship with thugs made him a broker of stolen items in the city.
He however counts himself lucky not to have died after surviving various beatings from an irate mob due to stealing among other criminal acts.
“I would always shift to another town whenever I was caught stealing. I was beaten severely by the mob but I was lucky not to die. I can confirm today that the days of a thug never exceed 40. On May 1st 2018 I was nabbed by a caretaker while breaking into a tenant’s house, the mob came and I was battered. Luckily they stopped after they thought I was dead,” Gitonga narrates.
Despite the hard beating Gitonga could not stop stealing as four days later he limped towards Moi Avenue where he was arrested for snatching a phone from a pedestrian. He was prosecuted and served a jail sentence of six months.
“I was thrown to jail for stealing. I was stealing to raise money to purchase drugs as I was an addict. A sachet of heroin which I mostly used was costing Sh 100 per gram. Every day I would use at least three sachets,” Gitonga says.
After serving his jail term, Gitonga says that he chose to retreat from his criminal life and travel home where he was warmly welcomed.
“I went home and decided to resume my music career. Inuka records producer Erick humbly gave me a chance to record various songs even though I had no money. My songs are trending well on YouTube,” Gitonga says.
Today Gitonga who is also known as Imenti boy in the music industry is an established rapper in Meru County and boasts of songs such as mutindwa jwa kangangi, mwari u kimeru, story yangu and many others.
Gitonga calls on Meru youths to refrain from using illegal drugs, noting that they lead to crime.