On October 30, at a few minutes past 9am, Quick Talk meets with NBS TV’s Simon Kaggwa Njala at his workplace. There, he reveals that, no, he was not named because he was born during a famine; the name was his grandfather’s.
I am going to kick the interview off by taking your background details ….
[Before Quick Talk can elaborate, Njala tells her:] I was born to a strong and very Catholic family in Jinja Karoli on Bombo road.
I always thought Jinja Karoli was in Jinja!
No, it is in Kampala. I am also a father, a proud father. I have three beautiful girls and a boy. The rest, I don’t know [sputter-sputter…]
What?! Do you suspect there could be more children?
It would be a big accident if there were, because I have tried to be faithful. For now, I have none. [Phew! Quick Talk is sure Njala’s wife will be happy to hear that clarification.]
Let’s talk about who you are some more….
I am flexible and sociable. I am also a journalist by profession and I think I can now claim to be a veteran. I am getting close to two decades of practice.
How old are you?
I made 39 on October 11. I started practising when I was a student. I had a brief stint with print. I wrote for The Crusader. I also wrote for the now defunct Marketplace newspaper. My career has largely been spent at Radio One, Akaboozi Ku Bbiri and NBS. I also hosted Uganda Speaks in 2011. Now I am venturing into politics.
I read about that. Busiro South is the constituency you are going for, isn’t it?
All the best. Your friends, [read opponents] are campaigning already but you are here hosting your show!
I campaign every day. Every time I appear on TV, I am campaigning.
That’s true. You need to do interpersonal campaigning too, though!
I have done it and I do it every day from 3 o’clock. I have engaged with community members through outreach projects like the seven medical camps I organised. I have also planted 5,000 fruit trees; avocadoes and mangoes. I care about food security; so, I have given families seedlings.
Oh! Where are you getting the money for the campaigns? Nga people are spending! [Peter Sematimba, one of his opponents, is not poor…]
I hope by the end of the interview, you will have parted with some money for my campaigns. [Uh-oh! Quick Talk does not know about that!] I fundraise from friends and I appreciate the value of every penny. Five thousand shillings (Shs 5,000) can buy me a seedling.
When did you become political, by the way?
I have been political all my life. I grew up in a family that is staunch [Democratic Party].
Uh! Yet you fraternise with Prof Gilbert Bukenya. You were reported to have introduced him at his August delegates’ conference which he held in preparation of his presidential bid!
He is my good friend. He invited me to emcee at his event and even after his U-turn, he is still my friend.
That U-turn was embarrassing!
He is not my role model [Quick Talk surely hopes not!] but he is my friend. When he speaks about his mother and his humble background … [Njala says he comes from a humble background too. His father was a head teacher while his mother was a teacher.] I also like his ambitious plan to turn Uganda into an agricultural country [well, clearly not anymore; his ambitious plan has since become to fulfill President Museveni’s ambitious plan].
How have the campaigns changed you?
A lot has changed. They consume a huge portion of my time but I am quite steadfast, I spare time for my family. [But] I have found them fulfilling.
But those grassroots people; nga they can abuse contestants! What has been the worst abuse hurled at you? [Muhammed Kibedi, who was contesting against Salim Uhuru for the Kampala Central Division LC-III slot in the NRM primaries, told Uhuru mbu he (Uhuru) only knows how to boil pilao! People are tough!]
None that I can remember. Maybe the greatest insult that has gone down my throat has been my opponents saying I do not belong to DP. I am a DP cardholder but I do not boast about that. My loyalty comes from the heart.
That’s a wonderful sentiment. What beer do you take to relax from the campaigns?
On a good evening, I take Bell beer. With spirits, I love Johnnie Walker.
That Johnnie Walker is uh-uh!
You should take it after munching nyama choma. I am a social drinker, by the way. I drink when I go out but I won’t crave beer if I am not out. I also like going to the beach with my family and we eat fish. My mother is from Ssese.
Nice! You are well-spoken. Which schools did you attend?
Thank you. I went to Jinja Karoli P/S; my father was the head teacher there while my mother was a teacher.
Was one of them your English teacher?
My father was but he didn’t teach me. [His father was polygamous, and did not live with his mother.] I nearly went to the seminary [after primary school] but my mother took me to Kawempe Muslim School for O-level.
At that time, the school was popular for caning students and because I was naughty, my mother took me there. She told the deputy head teacher to beat me. I went to Uganda Martyrs H/S, Lubaga for my A-level and then I joined Namasagali University. I am one of the people who were groomed by Fr (Damien) Grimes.
I studied mass communication at university. [On why Njala didn’t become a priest: He says social life called when he completed S6. His parents’ lack of holy matrimony, also denied him the chance when he was younger.]
Finally, what was it like working with the beautiful Doreen Komuhangi?
It was a beautiful experience. Ask me why.
Because people had all sorts of speculations. When we met, we connected instantly. She was also strong, flexible, willing to learn and pleasant on TV. She would engage me off air to learn.
Uh! By the way, is she the TV presenter with the best butt you have ever seen or is she the most beautiful?
No! My wife is the most beautiful. Doreen is an iron lady. [Well, your wife is not on TV. Njala says he looks at brains, not butts. Oh, he also says he has seen Straka’s butt but it is not nice.]