The 2009 CNN African Journalist of the Year John Allan Namu, was in Daystar this past week accompanied by his beautiful wife Sheena Makena. The couple were guests on the incubator talk show hosted by fourth year student Lotan Salapei. The students enjoyed the talk as they got to engage with the couple, learnt about their relationship, their careers and their personal lives.
John’s first investigative story was on Mungiki crackdown in Kosovo in Mathare, after which he worked on the Track It story. He was in KTN two years before his investigative partner Mohammed Ali joined the media house. Later on he had to make a painful decision to leave for NTV which provided an opportunity for him to expand and broaden his journalism career.
It was painful splitting up with his team mate Mohammed Ali as the two had become a formidable team exposing sleaze, corruption and crime in government and the corporate world. It took him a long time to make the decision to move.
“I wanted to grow as a journalist, go into different paths and explore more human interest stories,” he said.
Namu has received numerous threats in his line of work. Luckily for him, the media house he was reporting for always provides protection for him.
“Every time it happens it is a new experience and scary, but I don’t panic,” he said.
Namu’s ten-year plan is to own his own mini-network that tells in-depth African stories.
“African stories are not told by Africans and that is why they are sloppy,” he said.
He wants to tell stories that will open people’s eyes and make them aware of things happening around. He envisions people going to theatres to watch his documentaries and hopes to support free-lance reporters in future. His mentors vary from NTV’s Managing Editor Linus Kaikai, NMG Editor Joe Ageyo to his fellow journalists Mohammed Ali and James Smart.
Interestingly, Namu met his wife –Sheena – when he was 12 years old but they lost touch only to meet at KTN, where Sheena worked as an editor. They got married in September 2012 and celebrated their honeymoon in Seychelles, when Sheena was expecting their second child Zarah. They have two kids Muna and Zarah
Sheena revealed she had a difficult pregnancy with Zarah and they refer to her as the spoilt one. There was a light moment when Namu remembered how Sheena woke up at 1:00 am asking for a specific flavor of juice and roasted rocks. Apparently Sheena has different pet names for her husband depending on her mood.
Sheena is working on a play whose theme revolves around celebrating the Kenyan environmental and political activist, the Late Wangari Maathai. The play is scheduled to run for six days with all proceeds going to Nairobi Hospice.
“I left KTN to focus on my family. Media has crazy deadlines and shifts and seeing we were both in the mainstream media proved a challenge. I take my role as a wife very seriously,” she said.
She supports Namu’s passion in journalism even though it comes with threats but it has its own rewards. Unfortunately in his line of work, he has been exposed to disturbing images, bloody scenes which can be traumatic. Sheena is his counselor during such times, as he talks about it to her.
Namu’s biggest idol is Bob Marley as his life is such a profound message, and his message – Peace, love and Unity is universal. Namu also shared an interesting experience where he bumped into Holywood actor George Clooney during the Sudan referendum.
Sheena also revealed how good her husband was with accent, to which he proved by imitating his close friend Mohammed Ali.
His advice to the Daystar Students aspiring to be journalists; “Read what your viewer doesn’t know and fall in love with the subject, you should not be caught off guard.”