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Speech by CJ Maraga’s daughter prompts reflection on legacy of parents

Emma Maraga, daughter of CJ Maraga giving speech at Strathmore Law School

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second is by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

When Emma Maraga, CJ David Maraga’s daughter, described her dad on Thursday, I could not help but recall these words said by Confucius.

I witnessed a beautiful and touching event that I should share with my readers. CJ Maraga was receiving the CB Madan Award, a legacy award for his contribution to the strengthening of the rule of law, constitutionalism and distinguished service to the country.

This award is the brainchild of Gitobu Imanyara’s Platform magazine to reward men and women who have quietly but deeply impacted the country.

Emma said:

I don’t know if protocol requires me to address CJ Maraga by his full title or just as I’ve always known him, Dad.

To me, he is the most loving, compassionate, loyal, and dedicated man I know.
Despite his busy schedule, Dad has been an inspirational pillar not only to me but also to our family.

He has always found time to nurture us and guide us through life. Isn’t it interesting for such an accomplished man not to have any of his children following his career footsteps? That’s the kind of man he is, never imposing his career choices on anyone but demanding the very best from you.

I remember like it was yesterday how Dad, as a respected senior counsel would gladly make the 14-hour trip by bus to Kampala to see my sister, who at that time was studying at Makerere University doing dentistry to visit and encourage her during tough moments.

It is only a dedicated father that can make a man of his stature to endure a bumpy and uncomfortable ride despite a back problem, sacrificing his well-being to inspire success and show his love, care and support towards my sister.

The many mentees he has counselled can tell you stories of how he took time out of a busy schedule to speak to them and encourage them to keep on the path they had chosen.

Just like anyone else, my father has a history. He has come from very humble beginnings to be the man he is today. My grandfather died when Dad was a young boy but before grandfather died, being passionate about education, he advised Dad to sell goats to attend school.

For the record, he joined school in Standard Three, for he did not have enough money to join school before. When my grandfather died, Dad was very small. He was brought up single-handedly by my grandmother, who took him through to university level.

All this she did with money earned from picking pyrethrum. It is noteworthy that during his studies he saved up from his ‘boom’ to build a home for his mother (for those of you who don’t know what ‘boom’ is, it was money provided by Government to university students for upkeep).

Dad’s compassion and humility is not something to talk about, it is something worth witnessing. I look at him every day and I find his generosity remarkable. This is a man who would often go ahead and pay school fees for the many orphans, relatives and disadvantaged children he supports, leaving himself negotiating with the schools where his own children went for more time to raise school fees.

My brother will attest to how when he walks through the school gates on a visiting day, he is no longer the CJ but simply a father like any other parent visiting the school. For him, it doesn’t stop there. He is passionate about mentorship, as he believes anyone given the slightest of chances would make the best of the opportunity. Those who he has taken under his wing can attest to the same.

All this has been made possible by his immovable belief in God, demonstrated throughout his personal and public life. Case in point is the just concluded electioneering period — he had to stand by what he felt was right, despite enormous pressure. A lot of speculation was made about his stand, but knowing him, I was always convinced that Dad would do the right thing.

Many people ask me what it’s like to be the CJ’s daughter, and the answer I have for them most times is: for me he is just Dad when he walks through the door. He comes home, we make jokes and laugh, enjoy a meal of ugali and chinsaga (traditional greens) and spend time together.

Sometimes we fight over what to watch on TV, then 10 minutes later, he is already dozing off. To my close friends he is a father figure and uncle and to whoever he meets he is simply a humble man who doesn’t wear his title as a crown.

Dad, I am proud to have the honour of being your daughter, for the good and bad times and for the encouragement and discipline, you have been part of the reason that I am the lady I am today and I am extremely grateful; the other two reasons are Mum, who has stood beside you for 40 years, and God, whom you taught us to love.

It takes a lot of mental strength and prayer to handle a home, children, a position of service to the country and still serve God above all. I believe that you have been running the race of life doing this.

Dad, we are very proud of you. Hongera!!! and God bless you!!!

Emma’s speech was a surprise to all, and particularly to CJ Maraga, who did not know his daughter, who rarely speaks in public, would give a speech on the occasion.

Her speech put in good context the absurdity of our superficial attitude to wealth. Confucius himself would have been ‘confused’ by the inordinate importance we place on wealth, even at the expense of mental, physical, social and family health.

We focus on and overprice material success in the media, in weddings, funerals… We place accumulation of wealth, honours, degrees and awards as priority number one in life, often at the expense of spouse, children, close relatives and friends.

Sauti Sol put it well in their song “Dollar, Dollar”. We pay no attention to how money was made. It does not matter if it was stolen from a bank vault through an excavated tunnel or tenderpreneured. All the same, we may be called heroes if we give the leftovers at a harambee.

Deeds are measured by their good legacy, and for a parent, this legacy is materialised in the goodness, not the wealth, of his or her children.

As we approach the end of 2017, we may reflect and possibly prevent the bitterness of lying on a deathbed with nothing but broken relationships and destroyed families.

No legacy, but only gold will be left behind, and that gold will one day be stolen from the vaults of a bank by the children of a generation who believed happiness could only be found in the inordinate accumulation of someone else’s wealth.

Dr Franceschi is the dean of Strathmore Law School. Lfranceschi@strathmore.edu; Twitter: @lgfranceschi