Norman Magaya upbeat despite EALA loss
At the crack of dawn after he failed to go through in the East Africa Legislative Assembly (Eala) race, National Super Alliance CEO Norman Magaya sent out a tweet that went viral amongst friends and foe.
For all his energy, bravado and skill deployed to the service of the opposition coalition over the election period, Mr Magaya was by-passed by MPs who opted for Dr Oburu Odinga, Kennedy Musyoka, Abdikadir Aden and Fatuma Ibrahim.
“Unapologetic, tenacious, relentless, unremorseful, non-compromising and principled,” he opened the tirade as he rocked his baby to sleep.
“Will never beg on my knees for favors. Keep them. Forever stay on my feet. There is dignity in being firm. Forever grateful to my mentor James Orengo. Charismatic!” he ploughed on.
Immediately, the ever-ready “Kenyans on Twitter” seized upon his tweet, flaying it hither and thither. Scorn, praise, admiration- all in equal measure.
Held by the nostrils
“Perhaps you should start by changing your profile pic where you are on your knees,” one KOT retorted as another comforted him: “I feel for you. You’re so deserving; sharp, articulate and visionary. Oburu is so un-inspiring, only qualification being he is Raila’s brother!”
Some were openly cheeky; “You should move to the Supreme Court and ask for the server to be opened.” “Kijana mambo ya politics hapa Kenya ni kama barabara ya plastic kanyaga pole pole bro, you will sink and nobody bothers.” (The political journey in Kenya is like walking on a plastic road)
The Tweet presupposed a bitter man, thrown into the deep end of Kenya’s turbulent political waters and held by the nostrils under the water by the very benefactors who invited him into the race.
But the Magaya we met for this interview was a complete contrast of the bravado depicted in the tweet; calm, composed, balanced. He arrived for the interview looking quite easy- clad in dark blue polo shirt and a khaki trouser.
“I consider it as just another day in politics. I am happy to have lost because of the hatred of Jubilee than to have won because Jubilee thought I was user-friendly and malleable,” he shrugged it off.
Arrayed against his candidature was the Jubilee hatred card, the outsider tag, the money factor and the bad political culture characteristic of our politicians. He nevertheless prodded on in his bid.
“I campaigned even among the rank and file of Jubilee, Aden Duale, kipchumba Murkomen… they told me I had been a thorn in their flesh but they would see what they can do. Most of them told me there was unanimous informal decision among them that I should not go through,” he says.
Besides, most of the people he was competing with were either former MPs or, as he says, relatives of the principals. The revulsion from Jubilee side, also cited by NASA MPs, combined with the bad culture amongst failed politicians in Kenya locked him out.
“Once they lose elections, they look at the next available opportunity at the expense of other cadres within their parties. And usually, they close ranks,” he says with a scorn.
He’s not lost to the fact that he has served his coalition better or even more than the candidates who sailed through. And the Kimilili High School ex-boy was not shy to talk about it either.
“Between July and now, when our people went through the most difficult times, where was Abdikarir? Where was Oburu and where was Fatuma? They were nowhere, they have no fidelity to the cause…” he says.
At the height of the election season, Magaya collapsed at Bomas National Tallying Centre of exhaustion and fell ill. On the day he was admitted to hospital, his dad passed on and no sooner had he buried him than he got sucked up in the presidential petition preparation and defense.
He takes consolation in belief that those who are handpicked rarely last long. He says the struggle to achieve against the odds in politics is much more virtuous, more attested and more rewarding.
“I can assure you that I will be in that parliament sooner or later,” he says with conviction.
He credits Siaya Senator James Orengo, ex-Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama and NASA partly leader Raila Odinga for sticking by him. If he could sing psalms, he would certainly do quite powerful lines for Orengo:
“He’s certainly the most experienced, most tested politician on our side after Raila. He’s the one who is most available to me and we rarely differ on issues. He had not been coming to parliament but on Thursday he was there principally for me.”
And of Raila, Magaya says: “He was the first person to call me after the loss and he was extremely disappointed. I have enjoyed unparalleled support from him. I take consolation in his political journey.”
To those who expected him to throw tantrums and follow the path of those who have ditched the NASA leader, Magaya has this to say: “They obviously don’t know me. This has never been about me and my ambition. If anything, this has given me more resolution to fight on. I do not intend to tone down. My tempo can only rise.”
Then we reminded him that before him, many more have spoken like him but coiled their tails in betrayal and utmost surrender. The Ababu Namwamba’s, the Miguna Miguna’s and Magerer Lang’at’s.
“Oh, that’s why I am wiser! I have seen them all and the trajectory their politics took. Most of them are self-destroyed as we speak, they ran ahead of themselves. For me, I am taking a different path, and my time will come.”
Pulled from class
The father of two daughters and one foster son has settled for the fact that the EALA race was not a matter of life and death. “I still have a coalition to run. Our plan of action is on course and we are moving with our resolve to swear in the people’s president.”
He’s already writing a book documenting his experience of running the opposition coalition. At the same time, the Tanzanian educated lawyer is winding up his PhD in oil and gas. Off politics, he spends time teaching the subject (oil and gas) at Kabarak University’s School of Law, practicing law and rocking his daughter- born in-between the repeat elections- to sleep.
The 36-year-old last born in a family of seven has had a rebellious streak- expulsion in high school for shaving “Jordan” style against school rules, expulsion in university for standing up for fellow students and now political repulsion for sticking up to his coalition.
“I was not pulled from class to keep Jubilee in power. My role is to kick them out. We have to take the long and trusted road that guarantees constitutionalism, democracy and development