he name has been on the lips of many Kenyans since President Uhuru Kenyatta nominated him for the Education Cabinet Secretary job. But on March 14 during a National Assembly vetting, it was the turn for this man to utter the name himself .
Professor George Albert Omore Magoha. The title and names slipped off his tongue as he introduced himself and went on to summarise his 91-page CV, which recently caused a stir on social media. If he was nervous, it did not show, although he did momentarily slip by stating that he was born “some 52 years ago” when indeed, his birth date is July 2, 1952.
After that, however, it was a roller coaster ride on fastened seat belts. The man who divides opinion, who is considered tough – to some authoritarian – displayed wit in answering questions posed to him by lawmakers.
With near surgical precision, Prof Magoha sliced through the barrage of questions at a National Assembly vetting which was deprived of a showdown between him and former adversary, Babu Owino. But the former University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor did acknowledge the Embakasi East MP when he mentioned that some of the “leaders of the university” could tell the room how he worked with students and student leaders.
Potential sideshows aside, the surgeon who is set to take over the Education docket as Cabinet Secretary insisted he is the right person for the job as “everything he touches turns to gold.” At the end MPs came out either as ignorant or afraid to ask him questions.
Excerpt from the vetting
Hon. David Ole Sankok: How do you intend to ensure regional balance and tribal balance given that you will be working with CAS from your community. And you’ll also be the third CS from Nyanza region.
Prof. Magoha: I would like to believe that the reason I was given this job is because I am best qualified to serve Kenyans. I do not think I was put here to represent Jaluos So don’t take me there. If you don’t want me to serve Kenyans, I will go do other things. So please don’t take me there. I am the wrong person to represent political interests because i am very apolitical.”
He portrayed the image of a man with a bleeding heart for the country, narrating how when he was abroad, he left a salary of “well over Ksh100,000” in 1987 to come earn Ksh6,000 in Kenya “because I thought I had to.”
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Then came the first boost of self-confidence. “On coming to Kenya, I took a job which was basically below what I was expected to do. I started on as a lecturer but within a year I had gone on to become a senior lecturer.” The rapid rise in ranks throughout his career didn’t stop there, and Prof Magoha didn’t stop telling.
“Within two weeks, I had come with Ksh10 million from my Korean friends,” the Education CS nominee narrated, recalling when he was dared by a University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor that there was no money out there to be looked for.
Unable to use the money for the purpose for which he had sought that money in the first place, Prof Magoha took another six weeks and raised a further Ksh20 million.
“Some we will agree with, others we will not. If we agree with everybody, then one of you must be either a fool or one is cheating.”
The former UoN VC was even not afraid to criticise people with whom he had worked with before, such as Joe Barrage Wanjui whom he said brought in private sector influence to public universities at a time when he had raised UoN to “heaven.”
A Starehe Boys Center alumnus, Prof Magoha also credited the UoN Tower (which the glint in his eye just told you what he thought about it. Majestic!) to prudent financial management, in large part because he had gone to Stanford University in the US to learn business. “We did not get money from the bank,” he noted, “and government did not loan us.”
The National Examinations boss also said that he does not delegate fully, as he was trained at Starehe to “never trust anyone fully.”
And what about his so called mechanical style? “I am definitely not mechanical. In the way I work, psycho-motor activity must be there. Do not forget that I am a top grade professor. If I was mechanical, I would never have succeeded at the university.”
An anecdote, however, showed the inner levels of humility and pride residing in the professor as he talked of how he stopped university student leaders from coming to the VC’s office with their supporters, because he was a “senior person in society” and so they should give him a call to book an appointment.
As to his working in the Education Ministry, Prof Magoha said, “Some we will agree with, others we will not. If we agree with everybody, then one of you must be either a fool or one is cheating.”
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