Business Daily | Jeff Koinange Talks About His Sagas & New Book

Posted February 7, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Book Review ~ 6,149 views



By Jackson Biko — How does one introduce Jeff Koinange without sounding like a broken record? Let’s see; talk-show host, MC, Emmy and Peabody- Award winner, Moran of the Burning Spear, father, husband, cigar enthusiast and author?

Jeff has been writing a book for the past seven years, and now it’s ready. It’s a 250-pager titled “Through My African Eyes” and is set to be launched just before Easter.

It’s been endorsed, on the back sleeve, by personalities like Thabo Mbeki and Prof Ngungi Wa’ Thiongo.

He invites me over to his snug residence in Lavington for this interview. His home is a forest of African paintings. Looking around, you’ll either see a painting, an award or a piece of sculpture.

Art reigns over furniture. We sit in his sunroom where he lights a thick cigar and leans back with his coffee. “Twist of [Bob] Marley” by Various Artists plays in the background.

I know squat about cigars, but you can try telling me which cigar that is?

This is a Cuban cigar, a Partagas Series D, No.4.

Uhm, it being a no. 4 is a good thing…right?

(Roaring laughter) Yes, number 4 is a great thing. How it goes is that number one is thinner and as you go up the cigar gets thicker. I take one in the morning and one in the evening when I’m chilling and in deep thought. (Smiles).

Look, I hate to haul out the heavy stuff first, but let’s get them out of the way quickly. Most people will want to know; does your book revisit the Niger Delta/ CNN saga and the Marianne Briner saga?

It does. I discuss the Niger Delta complete with never-before-seen photos in one of the chapters. In hindsight, it was the biggest scoop of my career and the scariest as well. The response was overwhelming, both positive and negative.

The Nigerian government accused us of staging the whole thing because they were caught off guard. They claimed we even staged the 24 Filipinos who we found captured and detained there.

I went to Niger after getting approval from CNN’s head office, and even after we camped in Abuja for 5 days waiting for an official comment from Nigeria government. Nothing. I was let go for showing the footage.

Why wouldn’t CNN back you up with the kind of background they had?

Look, there are a lot financial gains from dealing with Nigeria. Besides, I wasn’t the only one who was let go at that time for very frivolous reasons while defending their principles. Google Mike O’brien, Peter Dykstra, David Shuster, Jonathan Kline and Amber Lyon.

Then came the woman scandal…

Yes. It was too coincidental, coming on the heels of the Niger Delta story. This woman contacted me stating that she wanted to write a book and expose some ‘big’ politicians and she wanted me to introduce her to folks like Oprah Winfrey. I couldn’t because I didn’t have the contacts.

She then vamped on the Niger saga and attempted to spin the situation to gain notoriety. Lucky for me, my wife had the back-up phone logs. The whole incident was unfortunate and caused me unnecessary grief.

What exactly did that do to your self-confidence and how did you deal with it?

Of course it knocked my confidence! The one thing that kept me going was the impending birth of my son. I had fallen off the horse, but I was not going to stay down because I had a son to raise. And my wife stayed by my side. To deal with all these, I started writing this book.

You wife – hitherto “unknown” to the public – is mentioned prominently in this book (I’ve read chunks of it)…

Shaila has been in my life for 28 years and we have been legally married for 15 of those. That’s more than half my life. She keeps joking that only one of us can be ‘famous’ and really avoids the spotlight.

In writing the book, it is inevitable that Shaila has to feature prominently because the book is about my life and she is it.

When are you most insecure Jeff?

Tell you what; I’m a twitter fan. I will tweet you by your first name etc. But there are days I can do a great show and I get a lot of positive feedback then one guy, my God, just one guy comes out and says something nasty like “Ahh, that show was useless, kwanza today his hair had too much gel! (Laughs loudly).

Honestly, this rattles my cage, I mean like really?! But I always reply politely and say, “Enyewe next time, I will go easy on the gel”. Kill them with kindness, man!

I didn’t know how to introduce this, but thanks for bringing it up. That hair. How many hours do you spend gelling it everyday?

(Laughs loudly). I do my hair once every three weeks, when I’m doing a pedicure and manicure. So every morning I just gel it, comb through and I’m out.

You were raised by a single mother, which means you don’t have a reference point whatsoever when it comes to a relationship with a father. Does that, in any way, impact on how you raise your son?

(Puffs thoughtfully on cigar) It’s quite challenging, I will tell you. I’m in unchartered territory with this boy. I have to chart my own course here. I revel in the fact that I’m not alone but I’m very fortunate that I have been granted a chance to raise him the best way I can.

What has fame done to you? And don’t be modest about it?

(Laughs) Fame is fleeting, man. One day you can be on top of the world and the next at the bottom of the sea. But fame is a full-time job; I get stopped everywhere for pictures or for a chat. And people will always find something to fault you no matter what you do.

I can’t go anywhere anymore…Look, I’d like to go to Njuguna’s in Westlands for nyama choma but when I get there, there will be some chaps who will invite themselves to my table and start going (breaks into rapid Kikuyu).

You know, they will want to talk about my show or comment or have a political discussion as I’m trying to eat my meat! (Laughs). So I opt not to go. The question that fame brings to me is: am I going to be anything more than a public figure?

This house is a haven of paintings, who are these artists and why do you keep so many of them?

During my work across Africa, I met these guys – Jak Katarikawe, Edus Ogiugu, Augusta Kassis, Bimbo Adebugba – and bought these paintings. These African paintings are my escape, I see them and I see Africa and hope.

How does your typical day look like?

I wake up at 6am, take my son to school then do a 2km swim in their swimming pool. Parents are allowed to use the school pool.

Well, there is one good incentive to keep your child in school!

(Loud laughter) You know! Anything to use the pool! I have two shows a week, so I plan them either from here or from an office in town…

I always imagined you have three dutiful interns who fetch your coffee, dab your brow and call all your guests…

(Laughs) I wish! I call all my guests personally. And I keep calling them throughout to remind them about time and traffic…

Do you ever get turned down for interviews, like happens to other journalists like us?

(Chuckles) All the time, man! All the time!

Who turned you down lately? Two names.

(Laughs) Raila and Njonjo, they turned me down!

Websites say you blow some insane salary, like over Sh1.5m, tell me it’s true…

(Laughs) How I wish, man. Oh how I wish. Not even close.

So do you have a kiosk like everybody else in this town?

(Laughs) Like a side hustle? No. Look, when we host guests for barbeque and they see my paintings and inquire, I hook them up with the artists and when they buy I get my 10 per cent boom!

Close this with a quote, a maxim…

How about two; you are only as good as your last story. And, no story is worth dying for.

Age: 48 (Jan 7th, 1966)
Family: Wife, Shaila. Son, Jamal Mbiyu
Education: BA, New York University (Class of ’91)
Career: Worked for: Reuters Television, CNN, K24, KTN

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

One Comment


    Interview with Jeff Koinange is worth reading, he is an interesting guy.
    Good job guys!

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