Gachuri’s punchline: Magoha’s loud slur


Gachuri's punchline: Magoha's loud slur
Education CS George Magoha with Uasin Gishu County Education Director Gitonga Mbaka at Langas Primary School, Eldoret on November 6, 2020.

In the last few days, I have been reading some clever writings of one Amit Kalantri, an author, professional magician, and mentalist.

I found one interesting quote that I would love to share with you. He says: “if thinking should precede acting, then acting must succeed thinking.”

This quote reminded me of an incident two weeks ago in Eldoret, where Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, in a video clip that went viral, abused and chased away Gitonga Mbaka, the Uasin Gishu County Education Director, blaming him for the untidy state of Langas Primary School.

In that clip, Prof. Magoha is heard asking mbaka: ‘Nikisema wewe ni mjinga…” in the presence of pupils, staff, and other ministry officials.

I don’t know what you think, but in my opinion, the good Prof. Magoha went way too far and crossed the line by a mile.

Make no mistake, I do not condone inaction or laziness and I understand that Prof. Magoha may have been under pressure owing to the rising COVID-19 cases and the need to keep schools safe.

But you see, in life, and especially in a leadership position, how you say something is often just as important, if not more important, than what you actually say.

That public officer is a Kenyan, he is perhaps a father, a husband – a member of a family somewhere but he was humiliated in public.

A quick look at Article 10 of the Constitution reveals something called ‘human dignity’ as one of our national values.

If Gitonga Mbaka had fallen short, there are clearly stipulated ways of dealing with such cases.

And after due process, you can suspend, demote, even fire him but to call him ‘mjinga’ is unacceptable from a man presiding over the lives and presumably the character of our children in school.

But that’s not even where my main interest is. I am more concerned about the friction between the Cabinet Secretary and the Public Service Commission Chairman Stephen Kirogo that followed the Langas Primary School incident.

PSC responded by stripping Magoha off the human resource powers, and handed them to Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang.

Prof Magoha on the other hand, disregarded the PSC memo, insisting only President Uhuru Kenyatta, his appointing authority could make such a decision; so unless President Kenyatta intervenes, the Magoha-Kirogo tiff remains.

And that is where my concern is. I am not a master of the workings in public service, or an authority on the bureaucratic structures therein, but I know there ought to be order and clarity in management of public affairs.

Otherwise, what stops another cabinet secretary from dressing down his or her junior, with words such as ‘mjinga’ or even worse, without a care?

And is it symptomatic of the situation in the cabinet? well, not so long ago, Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko had a run-in with Deputy President William Ruto, over that ‘clerk’ remark.

Every so often, talk of a split cabinet, with divided loyalty, has been the subject of public discourse. It is at this point that probably we should invite the appointing authority to rein in his troops.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is probing the Langas Primary School incident – and that is welcome.

But while I may not want to pre-empt eacc’s investigations, I wonder what will happen to the PSC directive should the anti-graft exonerate Prof. Magoha.

William Arthur Wood in his definition of leadership says: “Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation…” and so for all those who hold leadership positions on our behalf, let us see the power of your example not just the example of your power.

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Story By Francis Gachuri
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