Written by Joseph Amunya Otieno
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Former Webuye Mayor John Luvisia Ngome who quit his teaching career for politics 28 years ago and he is yet to let go of his ambition. [Photo \ Joseph Amunya Otieno]
Councilor John Luvisia Ngome has had to contend with a gamble he plunged into 28 years ago.
“Bored with chalk and the classroom I quit my job as a teacher without any inkling of what I would do to eke a living for my young family,” said the eloquent and burly civic leader.
The former Webuye municipal council mayor said he had been recruited as a teacher several years earlier but 8 years into the job his heart never seemed at ease with imparting knowledge to the young ones.
“After quitting in a huff as a teacher, I landed another job in the city but still felt I needed to be closer home which forced me to resign again and head to my Lwandeti home with no slightest idea of
what I was going to do,” he said.
While in the village he successfully tried his hand in farming and that is when he realized that a political bug had bitten him. “
I tried my luck during the 1979 general elections as a councilor for the Lwandeti ward but lost miserably but that did not dampen my spirits,” he said adding that fortunately parliament was dissolved four years later before the mandatory period elapsed which opened a door for me to try again in 1983.
The electorate this time round liked my campaign strategy and I was elected on then famous KANU ruling party with a landslide and joined the then Webuye town council.”
Since then I have never looked as I have been elected six times through different political parties and
now I am serving my 28th year as a civic leader,” said Ngome during the interview.
“In 1988 I was elected the council mayor the position I held from 1988 to 1992,” he added.
Lwandeti ward councilor John Luvisia Ngome in one of the functions in Lugari.
From KANU, he reveals, he moved to FORD Kenya in 1992 to catch up with the then Wamalwa Kijana associated political euphoria in the area then lastly switched to KADDU during the 2007 last general elections. Starting with a paltry monthly allowance of Sh 2,000 to the current Sh23, 000 and now at 68 years the civic leader has withered myriad political storms.
The councilor who lost his Webuye municipal council mayoral seat this year (2011) reveals that being approachable, down to earth and development focused have remained his strongest secret weapons that have endeared him to his electorate.
“At times I have to stop my motorcade to listen to my people, other times adjourn important council meetings and even pay them personal visits to condole and celebrate,” he said.
And indeed these attributes are real as during this interview fellow councilors call in unhindered to confer with their former boss.
Occasionally, he dashes out, leaving the writer to handle urgent matters requiring his attention from employees and members of the public outside without much ado.
“These simple virtues have enabled me to remain a float in the turbulent waters of the Kenyan politics,” he said pointing out that last election he tasted the honesty of his voters by declining to seek re election under the flagship of the then very popular parties such as the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Party Of National Unity (PNU).
“Nevertheless, the electorate proved me wrong and overwhelmingly elected me through the little known Cyrus Jirongo led party KADDU,” he recalled with a chuckle.
The former webuye mayor John Luvisia Ngome [R] with some councillors and council workers outside the Town Hall.
Recalling his memorable times in politics, the civic leader cites moments he served under the fire spitting hawk eyed then KANU secretary general Burudi Nabwera in Lugari, powerful Bungoma politician and Foreign Affairs Minister Elijah Wasike Mwangale and the colorless Malava MP the late Joshua Angatia.
“In my ward I was answerable to Nabwera and at the council where I served received instructions from Elijah Mwangale,” he said adding that the two leaders were so powerful to the extent that any initiated
programs moved smoothly.
As the first mayor of Webuye then working with the duo was meticulous as they gave each politician space to implement their activities without fear of reprisals and could move mountains while implementing public projects.
“The only difficult and unpredictable politician I had to contend working with was the Late Joshua Angatia,” recalled Ngome, adding that though the MP also initiated a number of development projects during his tenure.
Ngome noted that several shuffling of his ward affected the initiation of development projects.
“At one time I have operated from Lugari, moved to Malava back to Lugari and then finally to Webuye,” he said adding that the movement created uncertainty and lack of sense of belonging to his electorate.
But despite all this, he said he had managed to initiate several development projects in his ward.
“I have supervised from scratch the establishment of two secondary schools and three primary schools
in my ward,” he said adding that this had saved majority of students the agony of traveling long distance in search of knowledge.
The former mayor John Ngome in the parlor
During the two tenures I have served as the town’s mayor, Ngome said, many development projects aimed at attracting investors and turning the Webuye municipality into a hub of activities had been initiated.
Noting that it has not been an easy ride to remain at the top as electorate’s expectations at times overwhelm us since they act as a link to honorable members of parliament.
He adds that it calls for patience to be able to serve all your electorate to their satisfaction adding that coupled with the little allowances they receive the task was Herculean.
“Our allowances should be reviewed as a matter of urgency since compared to MP’s who pocket handsome allowances we have remained impoverished despite being grass root leaders,” he observed.
Equally, as legislators, Ngome argues, their allowances should be increased adding that a civic leader’s whole five year salary was equivalent to only a month’s allowance for a parliamentarian.
“Am bitter with our legislators because they have failed to agitate for our welfare following an inherent fear that we shall easily dislodge them if well remunerated,” he moaned.
All the same, he noted, being an ardent farmer has made him augment his little earnings to meet the ever increasing demands from his electorate.
“I grow maize, sugar cane and practice horticulture farming which at the end of the day gives me some tidy earnings,” he boasted.
Asked whether contented with his current position, councilor Ngome chooses to reserve his comments.
“At this moment I reserve my comment, but with the new constitutional dispensation, have chosen to keep my fingers crossed,” he said.
The councilor who has vowed never to quit KADDU says so long as the electorates have faith in you they will always be with you and the can’t leave you just because of the political party you are using to seek their votes,. ‘I believe what matters most is the individuality not political parties,” said the longest serving councilor.
On luhya unity the Ngome said since time immemorial luhya leaders have never spoken with one language when it comes to politics therefore it was a big dream for anyone to imagine that the community will ever unite on political ground.
Therefore he said the only on potion was left all those who aspire to vie for presidency to go ahead with their ambitions and whoever the Kenyans will vest their interest will carry the day. He played off claims that some politicians from the region were playing politics spoiling games saying every aspirant
should be left to go ahead with his/her ambition and thus criticized those who were condemning Lugari Cyrus Jirongo for his bid.
The elderly politician observed that if either the Deputy Premier Musalia Mudavadi or the house speaker Kenneth Marende came out clearly and declared their interest in the top seat they had the potential of
carrying the whole of western votes and other parts of the country and perhaps make it to the statehouse.
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