OCHOLLA OGUR: WHAT MANNER OF MAN
Updated: Jun 7, 2021
“After a bulldozer, road-grader and heavy machinery have completed the road construction, they are deemed a nuisance, undesirable, irritant, obsolete, not-fit-for-purpose, an eyesore and are not even supposed to use the smooth tarmacked road that has been constructed”. This was how an elderly woman in East Ugenya described how monogamous men are these days abandoned by their wives who cling to their modern urban and educated children. As for me this is exactly how I see the pioneer Nyanza members of parliament of yester years. And it appears that is the same historical neglect that awaits yesteryears peoples’ representatives like Tobias Ocholla Ogur of Nyatike Constituency”.
But who is Ocholla Ogur who lived some 82 years and was elected 3 times to parliament. What endeared him to Nyatike people of now Migori County? Why did they hold him so dearly to their hearts?
I think part of the answer can be found in a eulogy by the grave side by a top money man who was at one time a kingmaker in Luo land. The Kingmaker narrated how the guided democracy from the deep state directed him to prepare a replacement for Nyatike constituency to replace the lovable pretty face Owigo Olang’ Gogni (And Ocholla Ogur also had too much of good looks for a politician!). I will transcribe the eulogy verbatim in dholuo in order to capture the aesthetics of the moment.
After the Kingmaker summoned Ocholla Ogur to his plush office with money vaults everywhere, he proceeded to break the news.
Kingmaker: it has been decided that you are going to be the next mp for Nyatike.
Ocholla Ogur: hey to mae itimo nadi? (what in the world are you saying?)
Kingmaker: We have no choice. The deep state has decided that you are the next MP for Nyatike.
Ocholla Ogur: Mae tek tatata. An kaka inena ni, an “Pesa-less” (It is impossible as I am suffering from pecuniary embarrassment right now)
Kingmaker: Is that all?
Ocholla Ogur: An kaka iranga ni, an “mtoka-less”. (I do not have the transport logistics to mount a meet-the-people tour let alone campaign)
Kingmaker: Is that all?
Ocholla Ogur: Sama awuoyoe kodi ni, an “ot-less”. (As I am talking to you my house the, the symbol status of a Luo home is needs fit-for-purpose uplift)
Pensive Kingmaker paused.
Ocholla Ogur: Kaka abet kae ni, an “dhako-less” (At this juncture, I am temporarily estranged)
Kingmaker: Nitie “less” ma odong’? (Any other constraints?).
Ocholla Ogur: ooyo mago kende ye “less” na man an go. (Only that)
King Maker: Ka iwuok kae, Cashier dhi miyi 10000/-. Less moro en ang’o? (When you leave here the cashier at the vault near the reception with give you cash to be more liquid. What was the other less)?
Ocholla Ogur: Erokamano (Thank you).
Kingmaker: I am sending builders to renovate the house and expand it with a reception for electioneering. But you can tell the electorate you did not need it by then.
Ocholla Ogur: “Mtoka-less”?
King Maker: Mano ter garage wabiro loso. Odong’ “less” adi? (take to the Garage and send me the quotation, meanwhile I will lend you my other car. How many “less” are left?).
Ocholla Ogur: Odong’ “less” achiel. (Now I am remaining with only one “less”)
Kingmaker: Dhi-dwaro-riya, mano to kit Luo ma nyaka nene kendo onge richo kanyo. Ahinya ahinya kuom jo mon achiende ka un. Onge chi Luo ma oyie weyo ni nyieke dichuo (Estrangement is allowed and is normal in Luo culture especially when you are monogamous. It does not translate to "dhako-less". That one is a do-it yourself- issue, the Luo way).
In the above are two salient mannerisms about Ocholla Ogur that greatly endeared him to Nyatike people. And the above conversation brings out the best in his honesty and ability to even laugh at himself.
Anybody that dealt with him knew that he was going to be extremely candid about his situation and Nyatike peoples’ predicament. He was so gifted in light heartedness and humour that laughing at himself came readily to him.
People do not remember great strides in terms of grand white elephant projects in Nyatike during Ocholla Ogur’s 3 tenures as member of parliament where he was even an assistant minister for health. The only public investment that readily comes to mind is the abundance of ambulance supplies more than any geographical area in Africa. He found favour with appropriate technology and was a student of North American bias of “it is health issues that impact on public investment issues and not the other way round”.
For a person who was fond of his constituents this did not appear normal in a culture of random uncoordinated grand projects leading to nothingness. In fact, this is reckless on the face of it. But not until you look at the political environment in Nyanza and the general patronage that came from the state at a cost. These were difficult times to be an mp. And all over Nyanza it was not easy to implement projects. The Harambees were not coordinated and came at an expense of being used by the state or you are a pariah. And even after being used for political gains you could be slaughtered like a goat or dumped and flushed down the toilet. Does Ongili, Ouko and Ambala remind you of anything?
Some great progressive members of parliament had their reputation tarnished for good when they allowed themselves to sing blasphemous platitudes for the state. Professors turned into zombies overnight for state favours. And in Luo Nyanza it could just be the end of the political turncoats because Luo electorate would also turn their backs on such political gymnastics.
The political environment for Nyanza mps were turbulent like the ocean waters of Bermuda triangle and could not be tamed if you were a Luo.
Ocholla Ogur was elected in the turbulent years of 1988. What appeared as safe election time turned sour when a simple US like caucus primary elections (mlolongo) was used to eliminate unfavoured contestants by the deep state. Then in the main elections a further list of incumbent Luo mps were rigged out. As fate would have it, the deep state turned to eating her own children when the much liked Dr Robert Ouko was found murdered after being helped through elections. This was followed by the clamour for multiparty elections. It was siasa mbaya maisha mbaya period. Not much took place as Nyanza mps were hounded by the population on one side and the government on the other side.
In 1992, being in the opposition, Nyanza was doomed and I remember when El Nino rains came, and bridges were swept away, it was not possible to access some part of Ugenya which used to be the constituency was the greatest number of kilometres of road network.
Then came 1997, and Ochola-Ogur was voted out for palling with the unwanted Kanu ruling party as a punishment for defecting to Kanu. Yet in 2002 when he came back the Nyayo much abused Harambees were banned by the new government, as development was rightly pushed back as a responsibility of the government of the day. And here was where Ocholla Ogur’s playing field was levelled. That onerous task of legislators being weighed down by the yoke of development projects was removed. Now you could judge Ocholla Ogur purely on his character as a motivator. In any case which part of Nyanza had strides in development projects anyway apart from sporadic uncoordinated tokens?
American cheer leading presidents
Why did Nyatike voters love Ochola- Ogur so much? Is it just because of his jokes or his honesty. For example, during the electioneering bribery spree, that had been made normal, he told the electorate to elect him ‘on account’ because he did not have money. And the electorate preferred honesty by then and elected him. In short he delivered his story laughing at himself but in the process telling the truth. And Nyanza electorate loved that.
Electorates are human beings. And people in general like to be identified in the narrative of a contestant. Nyatike voters were first attracted to his easy to get along with humour and then his narrative of where they were as a community. His speeches made sense more than long dry talks promising nothing since independence. And that is the hope orators bring- the belief in tomorrow.
In other words, orators make good speakers become good presidents. Good speeches make admirable presidents even if the presidency is not admirable. Ochola-Ogur was admirable to Nyatike voters who loved him. And it does not matter how he got in the first time or how many times he defected from the party. Everybody loves a lover and Nyatike people would always find a reason to vote for him because he loved them first.
It is the same reason the Congo Empire used to elect the best dancers as the leader. And it is the reason why strangely enough most American cheerleaders have made the most admirable American presidents. This means if Ochola-Ogur was an American president, he would be sitting pretty next to JF Kennedy, Barrack Obama and all those Americans who left admirable presidency.
As for now, the road has been constructed in Nyanza, we do not need the Ocholla Ogur heavy construction implements by the roadside of history. They are an eyesore obstructions and distractions and may just cause an accident to smooth driving 4x4s. All pioneer Nyanza mps are being towed away to obscurity, the way that monogamous Luo man is being abandoned out of eyesight by the family he helped make.