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Wednesday, 25 January 2023 – Prof. Magoha. A Gem Out of Gem.
Babu Owino. I think I should start here and get him out of the way.
It is a weekday late afternoon sometime in 2011 and Prof. Magoha, then the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nairobi has summoned us, a bunch of SONU Caretaker Committee, entrusted with restoring SONU leadership back to the students through democratic elections.
We were like three or four of us, briefing him on the progress of the Constitutional changes to allow self-sponsored students to run for the Chairperson post. Hitherto, only government-sponsored students were allowed to be SONU chairpersons.
But now, there is a young, reportedly moneyed kid by the name Babu Owino who is a nightmare to the University Administration. He is determined to end the nonsense that only government-sponsored students can run for SONU’s top post, yet self-sponsored students paid double the SONU subscription fees.
However, for this to happen, we have to amend the SONU Constitution and Babu Owino was relentless, using any means necessary to ensure that it is amended expeditiously and elections are done immediately. Babu had become a recreational nuisance around campus, but for a good cause.
Now, in his office, Magoha is genuinely concerned on the best way of ensuring elections are credible to avert any crisis that had precipitated the current stalemate, occasioned by a strike a year earlier, the first strike under Magoha Administration. We were debating if to hire the newly constituted IEBC that had most recently installed our new Constitution and had good will and credibility across the country. It is an idea. A suggestion. As the caretaker committee, we are opposed to this of course. Part of the reason being, it is our money and we couldn’t allow an external body to eat even a penny of it, but we must hear out what Prof has to say.
Babu has heard the rumours and he can’t even entertain the idea of IEBC. There is mutual suspicion that the Administration is conspiring to rig him and he had invested is blood, sweat and a good coin into the elections.
So, as we deliberated in office with Prof, I am not sure how Babu Owino cheated his way through the thorough security detail to the VC’s office. What I remember is that I saw Magoha rise from his seat, charge towards the door like an enraged bull, picking Babu up like a piece of paper and throwing him up and out, warning him of unspecified consequences. Magoha is like two metres tall, and huuuuuge, and Babu is not even half his size. We were awed by Babu’s bravery, to stand up to Magoha whom we revered.
That must be the afternoon Magoha called James Oswago, retired military man, then CEO of IEBC and sent us to his office across the road at Anniversary Towers to consult with him and see if IEBC can take the onerous task of conducting the blown-out-of-proportion elections. At IEBC, Oswago received us, and we had a brief meeting where he expressed extreme reluctance to involve IEBC in the messy and murky SONU elections.
Beyond other senate meetings where Magoha would talk down on administrators and fellow professors, this was the closest one-on-one engagement I had with him. He was a hands-on manager committed to running a behemoth that UoN was at the time and doing a thoroughly good shift.
By Silas Nyachwani.
The Kenyan DAILY POST.