From the military into politics, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Nkaissery is known to be a no-nonsense man. His wife, Hellen Nkaissery, gives us a sneak of the other side
How did you meet Nkaissery?
In our Maasai community, only a few were lucky to go to school. So, all the ‘educated’ people knew each other. The first time we met, I was in primary school while he was in secondary school.
But we lost touch and came to meet later in life. We have been married for 37 years now and we have four children.
Describe Nkaissery’s character in three words.
He’s neat, hardworking and strategic.
He is known to be a no-nonsense man. How is he at home?
He is jovial and loves cracking jokes. He’s a staunch Christian and always starts his day with prayers and thereafter goes for workout. He never misses his 40 minutes exercise, no matter how tight his schedule is.
Does he stick to this regimen even when he’s out of the country?
Yes. I remember there was a time we were in a plane for 18 hours and when we alighted, as I was busy finding a place for us to spend the night, he was looking for a place he’d do his exercises! He was in military for 29 years.
How did his schedule at work affect his family?
We got married when he was a young military officer and he used to travel a lot. Most of the time, I was alone with the children. When our children started schooling, we decided to stay in Nairobi for his convenience.
He would be posted away from home at times and any opportunity he got, he spent valuable time with the family.
When did he start displaying leadership qualities?
When he was in high school, he brought students together to form Matapato Students Association. They saved part of their pocket money and whatever little money they would get to put up a nursery school.
Even when he started working, every year he had a project he was supporting, ranging from church to school and water projects. He would initiate partnerships with some of his colleagues at the military to fund-raise for the projects.
Some of the schools he started from scratch are Maparasha Primary School and Ilbissil Girls Secondary School both in Kajiado. He did all these even before he joined politics.
So, how did he get into politics?
There was a lot of pressure from the community. At last he gave in. He did not know where to start and how to conduct his campaigns but surprisingly, the Maasai people believed in him.
In 2002 he vied for the Member of Parliament of Kajiado Central and captured the seat. He did a three-months campaign, which was quite unbelievable. Being a man in charge of security can ruffle many feathers.
Does he face any threats when doing his job?
Threats are always there but we believe in standing for the truth, doing the best and leaving the rest to God. He always tells us that there is no job that doesn’t have threats.
That you should not focus on threats while discharging your duties. In fact, he says he faced more threats while he was in the military than in politics! Women are attracted to men in power and those who are financially stable.
Have you had any experience of women who are after him?
(Laughs) I have not experienced that, I thank God. Maybe his no-nonsense character has saved me from that.
What attributes do you admire most in him?
He is the most humble person I have ever met. Secondly, he always encourages me and has really built me as a person. He will never stop at anything that would add value to my life.
For instance, he supported me to attend the International Women’s Conference in 1995 in Beijing, China. He did this because he wanted me to understand global women issues and also for me to grow strong as a woman.
What do you do for him on special days?
My husband does not love surprises. So, most of the time we go for an outing as a family and enjoy ourselves. He is also into athletics… Yes.
In fact, when he joined Parliament in 2003, he formed a team of MPs interested in taking part in marathon races. They would travel abroad such as, Poland to compete. He even won a silver medal in Poland in 2005. He usually run in the 20-25 kilometers race.
What are some of his weaknesses?
When he is driving a point home, you would think he is going to pounce on you the next minute. But it’s just a way of stressing what he believes in. Some people see this as being tough and because of this, they feel he is inaccessible.
What else is he involved in?
My husband and I are dairy farmers.
What is his plan for the future?
He is passionate about his work and when he decides to do something, he gives it his best. When the time comes when his services will no longer be needed, he will be more than happy to go back to his home and continue herding his cows.