County Assembly Speaker Johnson Osoi says he is ready to serve at a higher capacity, but is playing his cards close to his chest
By Kajiado Star Team
On his first day at work in the new year, Kajiado County Assembly Speaker Johnson Osoi was set to chair a County Assembly Service Board meeting to discuss payment of hospital bills for an MCA who was involved in an accident a month earlier.
“Matapato South MCA Hosea Toshi, who had been in ICU at the Nairobi Hospital, has exceeded his medical insurance limit; that is why we are having this meeting, to see how the bill can be cleared,” explained Osoi.
The Speaker said that the Board was also set to review the 2018 performance of the Assembly as well as set goals for 2019. This includes setting the legislative agenda for the next session when the House resumes. “I am upbeat that 2019 will be a better year for the County Assembly in undertaking their constitutional mandate.”
But barely a minute into our meeting, Osoi revealed that this may well be his last stint as Speaker. Although we could not get him to tell us his future plans, he hinted that come 2022, he might offer his candidacy in an elective position.
He said this in relation to rumours swirling around the county that he may contest for either governor or senator.
“With the experience I have gathered, I now feel I have come of age and I’m ready to serve the people of Kajiado at a higher capacity,” he said matter-of-factly.
“For now, I am content to do my duty as Speaker to the best of my ability.”
All the candidates eyeing his seat in the 2017 general election withdrew from the race, leaving Osoi to retain his seat for a second term as Speaker at the Kajiado County Assembly, the body mandated to formulate laws that govern and allocate resources to the county.
In his first term, his firm but friendly hand steered the Assembly, filled with excitable first-time MCAS, through tricky times, ensuring that they did not hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. This was no easy task considering that he presided over an Assembly made up of 39 Jubilee-affiliated MCAs and only three ODM MCAs, with an ODM governor.
The majority Jubilee MCAs wanted to test their might and try to oust Governor David Nkedianye. “They twice raised impeachment motions against Dr Nkedianye but I vetoed them as they did not meet the threshold,” said Osoi. “I urged them to shun supremacy battles but instead concentrate on what brought them to the Assembly: Service delivery to the people of Kajiado.
“I also asked them to respect the wishes of the people of Kajiado, who put him in office. We gave Dr Nkedianye the necessary tools to work effectively as governor.”
At some point, the MCAs slashed the governor’s budget to only Ksh6 million from Ksh120 million. Osoi prevailed upon them to revert the budget to its full status.
He asked the ward representatives to cast personal differences aside. “I told them to differentiate between the individual and the office that person holds.”
The Speaker has some kind words to say about Governor Joseph ole Lenku. “Lenku consults a lot, which is a good thing as it enables him to accommodate the views of others. Whenever he has a Bill he wants approved in the Assembly, he takes time to listen to our input, which lessens tensions between the Assembly and the Executive,” said Osoi.
He termed Lenku’s government as “ideal”, as opposed to the one of Dr Nkedianye. “By having a majority of MCAs, the governor is in the majority party as opposed to Dr Nkedianye, whose party was in the minority,” he says.
“In the current Assembly, there are 13 opposition MCAs, which means that we now have an opposition voice on the floor of the house, and they are able to form oversight committees like PAIC, which checks the Executive.”
But the thing he values the most is the independence the Assembly enjoys. “Whenever we feel strongly about a Bill or an appointment by the Executive, we turn it down and for good reasons.”
The Assembly recently stood its ground and declined to approve Lenku’s appointee to the County Public Service Board. The Appointments Committee accused the candidate, Jeremiah Ncharo, of dishonesty, arrogance, and having questionable integrity, among other things.
A similar fate befell an appointee — Joseph Sankale (Water and Irrigation) — whom the Assembly found to be unqualified for appointment to the County Executive Committee when Lenku was forming his Cabinet.
Osoi was on Jamhuri Day awarded the Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (MBS) for his services, including as chair of the County Assemblies Forum (CAF). He is also in a contingent of leaders who will be travelling to Washington, DC, in February to attend the US National Prayer Breakfast to be presided over by US President Donald Trump.
All this for a village boy who had a watchman for a father. As a young boy growing up in Ololtulugum village in Kajiado Central constituency, Osoi knew that he wanted bigger things in life, but he just didn’t know how to go about it.
His father’s pay was not sufficient to guarantee him a decent education.
“For 23 years, my father served as a watchman in coffee farms in Kiambu. His highest salary was Ksh3,000,” says Osoi.
So, how did he beat the odds to be where he is today? “Well, by sheer determination and a burning desire to make it in life,” he says in a confident baritone. “From very early on, I knew that my path to success would be through God’s grace and education.”
Born in 1973, the man who would be the first Kajiado County Speaker went to Ololtulugum Primary School, where he performed well in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams and was admitted to Nairobi School.
He lasted at Nairobi School for only a year. “My father could not raise the fees, so I went back home and became a moran for a year,” he says with a smile.
A relative later secured him a place at Olkejuado High School, where he sat his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams in 1992.
Even though he obtained admission to an education degree course at Kenyatta University, Osoi instead chose to go to the Kenya Medical Training College for a diploma course in pharmaceutical technology. He chose a course that would take the least time possible as he wanted start working so that he could take care of his parents and siblings.
His first job posting was at the staff clinic at Kenyatta National Hospital.
He then moved to the Gertrude’s Garden Children Hospital as a pharmaceutical technologist. “By then, Gertrude’s had only onen branch, in Muthaiga,” he said. “I later moved to Guru Nanak Hospital as the head of the pharmacy department, where they still use the management system I introduced.”
Osoi later branched into medical sales, starting off with Aventis Pharma, which was later bought by Sanofi Synthelabo, a French-based multinational. He got his big break in 2008, when he was headhunted by Becton Dickin son, an American medical devices company, dealing with TB diagnostics, blood culture, and immunology.
“By the time I left the company, I was in charge of sales in 34 Sub-Saharan African countries,” he recalled. “Such was my industry that I was at one time voted Best Sales Manager of the Year and was promoted to take charge of West Africa,” he explains.
When Constitution of Kenya 2010 was promulgated, it ushered in county governments. Osoi then vied for the Speaker’s seat and got all 25 votes.
Osoi, who has a law degree from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), went on to become the chair of the County Assemblies Forum (CAF), which brings together County Speakers. He holds the position to date.
Apart from his law degree, Osoi also holds a political science degree from CUEA and a master’s degree from the University of Nairobi.