NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 14 – Known for his no-nonsense approach, his entry into the County Hall Chambers at 9.45m to undergo approval hearing to become the next Education Cabinet Secretary, was not without gusto.
Renowned and tough talking Professor George Magoha made nothing short of a majestic entrance before the National Assembly Committee on Appointments.
The committee that has a membership of 28 is chaired by the Speaker Justin Muturi, deputized by his deputy Moses Cheboi with the composition of the House Majority Leader Aden Duale, Minority Leader John Mbadi among other members.
Magoha who is hoping to become the fourth Education Cabinet Secretary under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government was picked in Executive Order Number 3 last month to steer the operations of the ministry.
When he took over the reins of power in 2013, in his first term in office, President Kenyatta’s first choice of Cabinet Secretary in the Education ministry was Professor Jacob Kaimenyi who was later replaced by Fred Matiangi, then came in Ambassador Amina Mohamed and now Magoha.
On Thursday morning when he introduced himself to committee, Magoha painted a picture of a man who has never tasted failure in his past experience, noting that “Failure has never been in my vocabulary,”.
He went on to add: “Everything I have touched in the past I have always succeeded”.
Magoha who served as the University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor for almost a decade told MPs his track record when he was at the helm of the biggest institution in East Africa is out there in the public domain to be scrutinized and judged.
He bragged about being a thorough performer who spearheaded numerous reforms at the institution, notably the construction of the UoN tower which he personally supervised.
“The construction of the tower was achievable because of purely prudent use of finances. We did not outsource for external funding at any given point,” he said.
According to Magoha, the building that he estimated to have costed Sh2.68 billion is one of his proud achievements during his tenure at the institution.
But even as he expressed himself before the committee with a lot of confidence and authority, he admitted that his success was exclusively attributed to the fact that he empowered his support system.
“As I come before you Mr Speaker I know if I don’t have you as part of the larger team then I shall not deliver. I believe in order to deliver you must empower all the people that are working for you,” he said.
As he was getting more comprehensive in his introductory statements with some members seen shaking their heads in approval or being impressed by his coherence in expounding on his leadership philosophy, Magoha noted that working from backwards as always been his mantra.
“My major weakness is that I start from the end of the goal that I want to achieve and work backwards and make sure it achieved. Throughout my short period in public service I have found out that processes are so good but when you want to measure your achievements against those processes you’ll be surprised that nothing has been achieved,” he said.
When Muturi opened the floor to the energized members who were ready to quiz Magoha it was Kathiani MP Robert Mbui who threw in the first punch seeking Magoha’s thoughts on the cancellation of registration of candidates who were found to have used fake birth certificates to sit their exams.
Mbui’s blow was however blocked by Magoha who assured that no candidate will be denied an opportunity to sit the national examinations under his watch due to the ongoing rollout of the National Education Management Integrated System.
Close to 370,000 candidates were locked out by the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) because of the fake certificates but were later told that they would be given another chance to correct their registration details.
Magoha pronounced himself on the matter and said that he would oversee a seamless transition to the new registration system that assigns learners unique identification numbers.
“If by the grace of God I am confirmed because I believe that it is God through the President who nominated me because I do not lobby, I am completely apolitical and I will die for it, I want to state that under my watch no child will be denied the ability to take their exams,” he said.
The Professor of Urological and Transplant Surgery said he will work with relevant government agencies to ensure the processing of birth certificates is expedited to eliminate hurdles faced by learners during the registration process.
While responding to a question from MP David Sankok (nominated) that touched on integrity, Magoha was very categorical that he does not tolerate corruption at all costs and made it clear that he would resign if someone in government forced him to do things which are wrong.
“My courage comes from God and I believe people in authority ought to do the right thing,” he said.
Suba South MP John Mbadi accused Magoha of being “too mechanical” in his leadership approach and feared he would be “too dictatorial” when handling teachers’ concerns especially industrial disputes.
While responding, Magoha jokingly asked the vocal MP to read his book ‘George Magoha’ so that he can get to understand his personality better.
“If I am mechanical I would have not succeeded when I was at the university,’ he said.
Magoha who has been largely accredited with overseeing a flawless process in last year’s examinations together with his then boss and now Interior Cabinet Secretary Matiangi told MPs if approved he will be the best serving member of the Cabinet outshining “some politicians who claim to be more supportive of President Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda.”
His remarks were prompted by a question from Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali who was concerned how Magoha would conduct himself if he were to be drawn into the murky political arena.
“I will not entertain politics and in fact I don’t belong to any political party and my appointing authority is fully aware of that,” he said.
He went on further to dismiss claims that his nomination was driven by the need for the inclusion of Luo Nyanza in the Cabinet, maintaining that his nomination by the Head of State was purely based on merit.
Magoha promised to oversee a smooth transition of the new curriculum even as he endorsed it to be the solution to the perennial problem of unemployment that has witnessed a huge number of graduates lack formal employment.
According to Muturi, members are likely to retreat this weekend and write a report which they will table on the floor of the House next week on Tuesday.