To Abdulswamad Nassir, 46, growing up as the son of the most powerful man in Coast did not matter ‘as privilege is earned, and not a birthright’.
These were the words of the budding Mombasa politician, who hit the news after he shed 40 kilos to gain an impressive body.
Nassir says despite all the glamour around his father, the late Kanu supremo Shariff Nassir, the old man bought him an air ticket once for an urgent trip to Mombasa.
“All the time when I was working for him, I’d be the person who would have to take the bus,” the Mvita MP told the Star in an interview.
“I became a frequent traveller on the buses plying the Nairobi-Mombasa route. At times, when his car was travelling to Nairobi, I’d use it,” he says on his experience with the late politician.
“On the many times I traversed the country with him, like to Kabarak, there was a lot I was able to learn, but the biggest lesson was the level of humility he exhibited.”
During school holidays, the lawmaker worked in a posho mill that belonged to his late grandfather.
“We used to charge 15 cents a kilo… I was brought up in a very strict environment. I am glad this exposed me to who I have become today,” he said.
He’d travel with his father to various places for events that shaped his desire to change the lives of others through acts of philanthropy — something his father felt he loved more than politics.
“I definitely enjoyed and loved working with people, especially the philanthropic part, where you get involved with organisations like the Red Cross. I have been a patron of organisations of people living with disability way before I became an MP,” he said.
He also spoke fondly of his experience at Lenana School, from where he says lessons about leadership came in handy when he joined politics.
“When I was in high school, one of the things I wanted to do was political science. I remember telling my father that I wanted to pursue the course,” Nassir said.
“His words were, ‘You don’t have to go to school for that. I will teach you what they will never teach at any school of politics’,” the lawmaker said.
The legislator says his engagement with communities began way long before, reminiscing how his organisation aired documentaries that quelled tension during the 2007-08 post-election violence.
Nassir says he prefers leading by consensus, borrowing the lesson from an experience at Lenana, where he and others had to cook for their colleagues for three weeks during a workers’ strike.
We started an initiative known as ‘Pwani for Peace’. The Rwandese embassy gave us documentaries and films on genocide. We put big screens where people could watch and learn. It worked in reducing tensionMP Abdulswamad Nassir
“Those who were in form two and three would wake up and would make tea for the student fraternity. Teachers would go in shifts to cook lunch. In the evening, there was another group preparing supper,” he said.
“We were not paid but managed to sustain the school without staff for three weeks. There was no issue of fire. No one demanded closure.”
His schoolmates included Hassan Omar, former Balambala MP Abdikadir Aden, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed and Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki. Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja joined later.
“One thing that differentiated us was our level of discipline. Leadership was being taught by example. There were always seniors who would lead. We would have to wake up as early as 4am.”