Meet Abdallah Kassim; Governor Nyong’o’s no-nonsense Chief of Staff who quit plum UN job to take up less lucrative county position

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Abdallah Kassim is not your ordinary Chief of Staff.

When we reached out to him to seek for an appointment for an interview for this story, we did not expect it to be this soon.

He is not the kind of Chief of Staff who will take a journalist round and round with excuses such as; ‘Send a mail with the questions you would wish to ask’ or ‘see my secretary to book you in my diary’, or the not so civil ones who ask ‘how do I know you are a real journalist?’ especially if they have not met you before.

“Between tomorrow and Thursday, which day is okay with you?” he asked on phone as soon as we introduced ourselves and stated our mission.

We picked ‘tomorrow’ which was Tuesday January 18, 2021, thinking that if we took so long, he would change his mind, as it has happened to us before, severally.

“Are you fine with 10am?” he asked again, and we responded in affirmative.

That is how we secured an appointment with Mr Abdallah, the first of his exclusive media interview since his appointment as Kisumu Governor Professor Anyang’ Nyong’o’s Chief of Staff few weeks ago.

Friendly but stern

When we got to his office, he was finalizing a meeting. We registered our presence with the secretary, and before ten minutes elapsed, a gentle looking face popped out of the partially closed door and gestured us in as he followed with “welcome my friend.”

As we sat down to begin the chat, he realized the seat was not comfortable enough to allow us jot down our notes.

“I can see you are not comfortable there, come this side,” he gestured us into another room with more comfortable chairs and tables.

And after a short introduction, we begin the interview, choosing to start with what we thought were tougher questions, just in case we run out of time.

“How would one quit a reliable and well-paying job at the United Nations to take up a little known political position in the county government, especially six months to the general election which no one can be sure of his fate?” we ask.

He throws a lazy smile and responds; “With all the money and the privileges at the UN aside, what satisfied me was the kind of transformation we left in the lives of the people we served. I came here knowing very well Kisumu may not offer all that money, luxury and privileges, but I came to support the Governor in the journey of transforming the lives of Kisumu people.”

Mr Abdalla was born in Kisumu 48 years ago, and he attended Lake Primary School and Kisumu Day Secondary School before moving to Uganda to undertake a Bachelors Degree in Development Communication at the Islamic University in Uganda.

He then pursued a Masters degree in the same field at the University of Nairobi, where he again registered for a Phd, which he is yet to complete because of his heavy workload.

Abdallah Kassim. (Photo: Kevine Omollo, LRB)

International job experience

Mr Abdallah got a job with an international organization, CGIAR – Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres, where he worked for four years before joining United Nations where he served for 17 years.

Despite not having worked in the government, Mr Abdallah is clear on his mandate as he takes office.

At the UN, his work revolved around building partnerships, identifying projects and programs, and negotiating with donors and the recipient countries on their implementation.

In Kisumu, he hopes to replicate the high standard service delivery at the UN, and he is confident of contributing enough to make it even better.

He is however stern in his desire to help the governor achieve his mandate to the people, even if it means some people have to lose their jobs.

“Only the Governor and his deputy cannot be sacked in this government. All the rest are dismissible including myself. So anyone who cannot help the Governor deliver his mandate to the people, they better pack their bags and depart government before we run them out of service,” he said.

His mandate past August 9, elections

And on whether he will be able to achieve all these before August 9, elections, Mr Abdalla throws another smile and responds; “Just like Cristiano Ronaldo, Professor Nyong’o has no one to be substituted with at this critical time in the history of Kisumu. His contribution in governance is unmatched. We are here to help restructure this government in preparation for the next five-year term.”

As we conclude the interview, we inquire if he is okay sharing a bit about his family, and he responds that he is married to one beautiful woman, and has three awesome children.

He recaps his accolades about Governor Nyong’o whom he says is a worker who means well for Kisumu.

“He is a doer. Most often he works till past the normal working hours forcing me to literally stop him from working, and he hates it when I intervene. He is a blessing for Kisumu, but he cannot do that work alone. That is why we have to get down here to support him,” he told Lake Region Bulletin team.

We conclude the interview, and he ushers us out of the office while reminding us that he requires the support of everyone including the journalists in order to get the job done, which is to assist the governor in his goal to transform the county, and make it a better place for the future generation.

Later just as we were putting down this story, we get a text from Mr Abdallah, and quickly open it, suspecting that he may have forgotten to share something, or he needed to clarify a point.

But it is not so. He appreciates us for the meeting, and adds; ‘next time don’t open the water bottle and throw the plastic wrapper on the flour. I advise that you keep the wrapper in your pocket and dispose it later in a rubbish can.’

I had no idea I had dropped the plastic wrapper when he offered me the bottle of water, but I remembered what he had said about himself during our interview.

“I am a perfectionist, and I know many people don’t like perfectionists. It kills me when I see people arriving late for meetings. We are 50 years late in development, why do you want to delay us further?” I expect things to be done as per the design, if I ask you for water, please don’t bring me a lemon juice,” he had mentioned this during the interview.

Kevine Omollo
Kevine Omollo
Lake Region Bulletin is your one stop multi-media platform for news from Lake Region Counties of Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Kisii, Nyamira, Vihiga, Kakamega, Busia, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Kericho and Bomet. Email: komollo@lakeregionbulletin.co.ke omollokevine@gmail.com

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