• Stephen Osieyo

MATHEWS OGUTU: WHAT MANNER OF A MAN!

Updated: Jan 15, 2021


Ugenya electoral politics is a stark graphic of the political metamorphosis of the Kenya. First there was Odero Sar who was the pioneer member of Parliament. Those days they were basically consensus candidates based on which political giant was influential in Kenya by then. Was it Tom Mboya camp or Jaramogi Oginga Odinga camp


Then in 1969 general elections came Mathews Ogutu from public investment background and everything he did was public investment. It's what he knew best. He was in road construction and attacked his task in Ugenya only in terms of road network, schools and water sources.


After Mathews Ogutu, there was James Aggrey Orengo with his politics of advocacy. Orengo was the opposite of Ogutu. And all that Orengo is about needs no explaining.


The 4th mp is Archbishop Stephen Ondiek. Ondiek came with the background of educational entrepreneurship offering second educational chance in the mould of American Independent schools. In fact I will stick my neck out by asserting that long before UK university under a Tony Blair started offering mature students degrees starting from Masters programme, Archbishop Ondiek had seen that there was a cadre of students who could not afford boarding fees, teen mothers who also needed a shot at life improvement without following the formal set up.


In summary I am saying that it is not easy to find an evaluation paradigm that will put the 4 Ugenya MPs side by side and measure their performance. And this may apply to Gem, Alego and any part of Luo Nyanza.


And some of this can be inferred in the politics of United Kingdom of Great Britain. Whenever Labour came in to government, a plethora of Independence was negotiated with the colonies. When the conservatives took over they never went back to reclaim the colonies. The credit goes to the people of Britain. After the Margret thatcher and the Conservatives ripped off the big government amid Labor’s protests, Labor never returned the big governments. In away all advancement in a nation are never accomplished by one leader. Everybody just chirps in a bit then moves on.


Ogutu came in for detained Odero Sar, the determinant was religious politics. And Ogutu being a Catholic was unstoppable.


And it follows that since the electorate was not knowledgeable elections tended to focus on how much maligning you can make stick or look grave on your opponent. And this is how they operated in Luoland in general. Technocrats and professionals were lynched at the altar of slander. It did not matter if your opponent was chased naked from University hostels if he can make your womanizing school girls stick


I first met Mathews Ogutu in what you may compare to watching porn or adult movies and smoking weed of these days. In my time whenever there was a dance party then pre adolescents’ kids would sneak just to sit by the fence or tiend dero and watch the whole spectacle of merrymaking. And that was a ‘high’ to be talked about for days in school. At cattle herding chores you would compete in imitating the dance moves while mouthing the base guitar or lead instrument. It is mostly boys who were into this mischief, not girls. And that was our youthful perversion whose equivalent in the present liberalized generation I cannot even print.


In 1969-74 Ogutu invited a catalogue of nationwide dignitaries to conduct fundraising in Ugenya. And most of the time the evening event would be concluded by a dance for who-is-whos at Ukwala Social Hall. As usual we, preadolescents would be hanging by the fence just to catch a glimpse of people doing pachanga. That was our indulgence. Sometimes the police would arrive with hipo whip, boka to scatter us away. They just enjoyed a run. Malice had not penetrated the Kenyan police because the police force was a respectable upper middle class career. In fact by then Siaya girls considered Askar and Reru men a real catch. And at times we would run 400 yards away swearing in the only few English words we knew. I think we used to swear catholic prayer rhymes. We would kiss our teeth jab our fingers at them and then shout insults at them “OUR FATHER, HOLY GHOST HOLY MARY, BLESS US ALL. ...."


Then once they calmed we would move back near the hall. This would go on until 2.am when we would decide to go home to sleep with a few altercation with night runners on the way. Oh yes there was this one called Ochonjo whose nocturnal daughter, my cousin ended up dating. It was fun while it lasted.


This one time I think Ogutu was retiring early for the night, about 1.am and me and my friend Peter were near his beige Mercedes. So he greeted us and stretched his hand out with money to go buy soda. Just like that Hon Mathews Joseph Ogutu, Assistant Minister for Local government gave us money. I think now you understand why Ukwala Road in Nairobi is more prominent than many upcountry named roads. The man was a commoner but that is not enough in this business.


It was Kshs 5 note in the East African currency with pictures of elephant tusks. Just to give you the cost of living index, this was enough to pay for the most advanced return fare from Kisumu to Nairobi. In other words Mathews Ogutu randomly gave me $133 accompanied with that squeaky voice of his. And we did not even ask for it.


The second encounter was even at close quarters. He was driving past our home and we had cleared a small patch near our home, erected a haggard looking volley ball court and were just enjoying a nice kick about. Driving past Ogutu slowed down and reaching out of the window he complemented the effort with one or two words then said something that took us eight years to make out that he had actually said, "If you clear the rest of the bush here, I will buy you kits". You see such words like 'Hi, kits, kindergarten, boss' had not arrived in Africa. And when they arrived you were not supposed to use them in school grammar. Okay we knew he wanted us to clear the bush but we did not know what he wanted to give. Anyway it was another 30 years for me to understand that actually Mathews Ogutu came from a public investment background and saw the benefit of rewarding us after we had done some public good or CSR (community social responsibility) if you may term it so.


My third close encounters with Mathews Ogutu was when I was in second form of high school. I was the incoming secretary of Homa Bay Asumbi Ugenya Students Association (HAUSA). And naturally had to meet him at the yearend party at Sidindi home of one Jacob Odhiambo Odipo in end November/December 1973.


In one of the off the cuff talks Ogutu implored us to devote our student years to full studies. And even after school to continue with continuous studies. Then he uttered an ancient Dholuo saying that every time I think I have the perfect moral message the interpretation keeps on saying something else.


The Saying "Dhako ok har kech" needs proper digging from the older folks. To bring out the meaning beyond the vulgar interpretation.


Then our encounters got more often after he had been kicked out by Ugenya people in the by-election and was running a construction company.


My brother had an accounting firm. And I was going through the gears of accountancy training. On this Saturday I was sent to his house to help collate a cash flow plan for increased business overdraft, now that he is in it full time enterprise. By clan Ogutu is my brother. On this day Ogutu was unnecessarily wound up. I only understood five years later why (another story not for today)


The telephone kept on interrupting us I got to learn later that they were these red phone booths of Nairobi. Sometimes they just became temperamental and swallowed coins. And sometimes people had tapped them that they became faulty. The coin box therefore could keep on swallowing your coins as you keep on moving from one booth to the other. Sometimes you were lucky and found a working one. Or sometimes you were told by bystanders, ‘go to GPO and try booth no 1, 8, 11, and 12’. Meanwhile the receivers of your telephone calls would be getting missed calls because they could not hear you but you can hear them. And since the machine could not take your coin it disconnects.


This Saturday afternoon Me and Mathews are studiously working cash flow plan in his house at Gigiri. Being a student I am giving it the academic angle that the bank manager will not care about. You know the real lecture room rubbish. A complete waste of people's time if you ask me.


Then the telephone interrupts and Ogutu goes to answer, "Halo, Halo, Halo". Silence them the line disconnects. To the receiver it sounds like whoever is calling has heard your voice and has hung up because you are not the "right" receiver.


Then he came back and we continued. After about 5 minutes the phone rings again. And the same pattern follows and the caller hangs up.


Ogutu comes back irritated and we continue with the process. Once again the phone rings a third time. And he goes through the repertoire.


The fourth call did not even allow him to sit and gather some calmness. And Odiero Wod Lando (His mother was Bantu) went back to the phone seething. He swiftly picked the receiver and was intent on letting the caller know what he thought and how angry he was before the caller could replace the receiver. He did not even say hallo. Mathews Joseph Ogutu EGH went into "PIER MER, PIER MER, PIER MER, PIER MER! ANG'O MANYAKA NENDE IGO NI GA SIM I OT KA"


All delivered in one breadth. Then he took just a moment to inhale but there was silence on the other side. The caller did not flinch. Now there was no going back. Ogutu could not go back to a civil halo. He will have to fight his corner. There was a standoff. The caller was not hanging up. There was silence. I got up incase Ogutu needed someone to throw punches at the intruder.


Then what followed next even Hollywood could not plot. The silence was broken by  "iiiiiiiMathews, yuora yaawa!" Phew.


It was that charming melodious Luo women tone that has never been replicated by any ethnic group. It's a genetically inherited deep vowel vocal cords that can be enhanced for a favourite brother in law. And this one was High Octane time to obliterate competition, impediments or obstacles. And trust me on this, they can deliver. You know the musical melody I am talking about. And Ogutu just melted literally before my eyes. It was such an infectious melt down that I also melted .



Legend has it that Ogutu is Kager by blood and my sister in law Rose Oteng' used to tease me that if you are married in Kager and you want to know whether your husband is ill. Just say "kayuochi eko obiro, ok dichung' imos ye!


Actually the banter is on all Luo men that even they are on a death bed, the mention of a sister in-law will bring them to life.


To make a long story short, the sister to stupendously pretty, Rachel, wife no 3 wanted know if anybody was home so that she can come visiting for the weekend. I used to tease my in-law, Wife no 3 that she has more than enough beauty to get around in this world and she might need to stock some for life after death. So picture the influence the visiting in-law had over the household.


Did I mention that the cash flow planning task was postponed to the next weekend? Anyway now you know.


The last encounter was legendary talk and was when he conceded the election to Archbishop Ondiek after the 1983 elections.  I told you that in the absence of proper Performance measuring yardstick or aptitude of a candidate contestants resort to dog whistling. And every one does it eg Obama was born in Kenya, Michelle Obama is a man, etc. It's the same here. It was ok for Ogutu to give a boy money or stop the car for a dusty feet pedestrian in Ugenya. But when elections came all these were useful tools for dog whistling


I was not at the concession so it could be a legend but Ogutu is believed to have said "umaya bendera ni asero nyiri. Ero yier ye uru buoch aneye!"


I would like someone to translate this.

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