Founding father who put national interests first
By Patrick Beja
| May 4th 2012
By PATRICK BEJA
His dream of a devolved system of government and realistic approach to politics had him always placing the country’s stability and growth above his own political ambition.
Ronald Gideon Ngala was a central figure in the shaping of the country’s political landscape.
His fame was drawn from his impressive performance in national politics during and after the struggle for independence.
By the time of his death in 1972, he had attained a unique status in national and Coast region leadership.
For many years, praise songs were sang in his Mijikenda language to mourn him.
“Taa la Pwani limezima (the Coast light has dimmed out ),” the sad news went.
Nearly four decades after his death in a road accident, his spirit still lives on in the Coast region.
When the then Tourism minister Najib Balala recently named the second Utalii college at the Coast after him, it only served to confirm that Ngala is an undisputed fallen hero not only in his home region but nationally.
And as his family put final touches on his Sh10 million mausoleum at Vishakani in Kilifi County ahead of his death anniversary on December 12, they are clear in their minds that they are doing it to honour a true hero.
Many have fond memories of him and believe the Constitution has finally appeased Ngala’s spirit.
“The new Constitution contains the ideals that Ngala stood for. Kenyans have finally fulfilled Ngala’s dreams many years after his death,” says a close ally and former Kaloleni MP, Dr Chibule wa Tsuma.
Dr Tsuma, who at one time contested for the presidency, confirms Ngala as his political mentor and that his attempt to run for the presidency was meant to push for a devolved system of government.
Referring to him by his Giriama name, Ngala wa Vidzo, Dr Tsuma believes Ngala played a crucial role in the struggle for independence. He organised the Kenyan delegations to pre-independence talks at Lancaster House in London.
“This is the man who put a lot of effort in pre-independence talks and putting in place the Independence Constitution,” Dr Tsuma says.
Former long-serving Msambweni MP Kassim Bakari Mwamzandi says Ngala was unwavering in his majimbo ideology and that he was determined to realise this dream throughout his political career,” he says.
Mr Mwamzandi adds: “Ngala tried to implement majimbo after independence when he chaired the Coast regional assembly as its president but he was frustrated by the Government through inadequate funding.”
He says Ngala used the regional assembly to address matters of education, land, health, environment and culture, which were close to the hearts of Coast residents.
Noah Katana Ngala, his eldest son and the family spokesperson, says his father contributed a lot to the region and the nation at large.
“He was unwavering on devolution and democratic principles, a nationalist and a team player. He sacrificed his political ambition for the country’s unity,” he says.
Mr Katana, who is a former Cabinet minister, says Ngala defended the rights of Coast people and Kenyans as a whole throughout his political career. “Nobody has risen to his level at the Coast so far and therefore he is a hero,” says Mr Katana.
The younger Ngala, who is an aspirant for the Kilifi County Senate seat, says Ngala’s team comprising retired President Daniel arap Moi and the late Masinde Muliro, among others, proved he was a skilled politician and a team player.
He says the family was happy President Mwai Kibaki had indicated the Government would honour Ngala with a monument after the one for independence hero Tom Joseph Mboya in Nairobi. He says a road in Mombasa and Nairobi, a school in Malindi, Mombasa and Nakuru also bear Ngala’s name as his legacy.
Ngala is remembered for putting the Mijikenda community on Kenya’s political map and as one of the country’s top leaders in the fight for independence.
He ventured into politics in 1947 and became one of the 14 Africans to win a seat in the first elections held for the Legislative Council (Legco) in 1957.
In February 1960, Ngala led a united delegation to the Lancaster House Conference to oppose an attempt by the British to control Kenya’s path to independence.
Ngala later served as treasurer of Kanu, president of Kadu, leader of government business, leader of opposition following Kanu’s win in 1962 and finally Cooperatives minister and Social Services when Kadu merged with Kanu.
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