• Stephen Osieyo

OKERO: WHAT MANNER OF A MAN

Updated: Jan 15, 2021

Isaac Edwin Omolo Okero was not really a populist. He did not have the acumen or stomach for trench time, dark alley and daggers of  popular politics.


In political philosophy in  US politics he would be a republican to roll back the boundaries of a nanny state. Reduce big government spending and reckless subsidies. Cut taxes and to cap wealth redistribution. This is the form of government some anti-gonya Luos admire of Kikuyu mode of government zero-participation in welfare. Why because he trained hard, worked hard and cannot understand why some governments distribute wealth and freebies.


Okero the former MP for Gem was well educated in Kenya and overseas. I believe when he came back from overseas studies he had nothing in his mind except to live an ordinary life as a specialist. You can even see that in his retired life he has steered of popular politics.


In public life he tried to run away from values that did not represent who he was. I am not sure I can say that of many lakeside leaders today. Still the man left behind legendary tales to be told. I will share with you just four.


LEGEND 1.

One legend has it and this legend might well be very true that once he was Kisumu Municipal Council employee of some sort providing legal expertise. I don’t know. Some people say it is true. Some people say so. Then in some local civic elections in Kisumu a former bus stop pickpocket was elected a councilor.


Now if you know the structure of the legislature then you should know that Okero was now answerable to this pickpocket. A whole wuod NyaUgenya trained to love the law was being made to be answerable to a common pickpocket.


Ordinarily it is like saying a football star Lionel Messi is the boss of the pilot of his private jet. To most Kenyans today pick-pocketing is a profession just like any hassling. You only hassle people's pockets and ladies handbags full of everything including love charms.


Sounds fine to most Kenyans today because experts are there to help non experts. And Okero probably had no problem with this. Except one small matter. This one councillor out of so many was a thief because pick-pocketing is theft. And to wuod NyaUgenya, thieves do not employ anybody but fellow thieves. So Okero resigned to be jobless rather than be employed to work for a thief.


That is the level of his ethics that these days some people are okay with but not all Luos of those days.


Most of Luo politicians immediately after independence were trained experts. To compromise with this was beneath them.


POLITICAL CAREER.

Okero was a reluctant entry into popular politics. Even when by passed by for the Attorney Generals job or deputy (public prosecutor), he just moved on to the next position before finding himself practicing law in Kisumu via Mombasa stop gap.


Somehow Gem people in their clamor for another lawyer to replace Argwings Kodhek upgraded the position when Wasonga Sijeyo was detained.


Wasonga was the detainee who refused to apologise to Jomo, refused to embrace KANU while all the rest begged and were released. Jomo in return threw away the keys after Wasonga still told Jomo off. In fact Jomo told him he will rot in Jail.


When Kenyatta died he was not released as it should happen automatically because people inside and outside had forgotten about Wasonga Sijeyo. It says everything you need to know about being a hero and blindly pursuing some of these community agenda. When he was released, Gem peopled not only forgot him  with his uprightness but were just prepping to oust Okero another upright person.


So Gem people clamored for and elected Okero as their member of parliament in 1969. Also elected were top notch technocrat William Odongo Omamo (Bondo) and one non technocrat Mathews Ogutu (Ugenya).


Note that OKERO was a guy who was once again being shoved into public life after he rejected the chance to be answerable to a thief.


The end was lamentably predictable.


Being Gem MP was not bad. He got a long with populist and a man of limited education like Mathews Ogutu and technocrat Odongo Omamo. His closeness to Mathews Ogutu could be placed on his mother-ship connection. Luos no matter how well educated will always respect mother-ship connection. And this Okero mother-ship connection would one day get Okero into big trouble with some electorates.


In Luo Genealogy Gem and Ugenya are twins. It's deeper than that. They generally avoid talking ill of each other, avoid public face off. Even if there is bubbling below the surface it is quickly hidden. Even when they steal each other’s wives there is a cordial ambiance about it. It's a ridiculous failing if you ask me because here they behave like breeding dogs where there is no loud complaint. There is this anecdote I have to tell you about.


ANECDOTE

This is a true story. Don't repeat it elsewhere. Even if you do I will deny it. I had a clan nephew and football friend. An easy going Mr Otieno Kachambare. His nickname because he could never enjoy meat without this leafy condiments.


Kachambare's wife left him for this Gem man in Nairobi. When Kachambare found that she was now cohabiting with a Gem man, he did not complain.


Kachambare did his investigation and found out that this guy had wives at home at Gem Uranga. He then made a few weekend trips upcountry instead of watching football with me. In one of the weekend rendezvous he wooed the 2nd wife of the man from Uranga to Nairobi.


Six  months down the line, Kachambare estranged wife sneaked in to check on the kids and found a confident and flamboyant house help and also noticing that the 2 children she left behind are not malnourished.


She noticed something else. The new house help looked very familiar. It bothered her even on the way  to her 'house' until it clicked that portraits on the wall and the new maid are the same person.


Meanwhile back at Uranga first wife not aware of new arrival in Nairobi did not tell all to bi-monthly visiting husband. She was enjoying fat allowances and the sporadic visits. It was a win-win situation for her. The return of good times, so  she thought. " Aaah nyieka jabudho ga ka odhi korgi. Ang'o ma idware kuome ma oremi?" She answered to mean, she will be back, I spoke to her last week.


After pondering her choices, the estranged decided that Othieno Kachambare just like any wod Nyager is worth fighting for. So she rebounded. Ridiculously Kachambare and jaGem kept off women affairs as there was no pain no gain anymore. And I find this a sordid affair.

When Kachambare briefed me on the dialogue, I declined to join the tribunal of the returnee. I have to inquire how it ended because I went out of circulation.


The moral story of my anecdote is ‘be careful of what you wish for’. Would you not now prefer an Isaac Omolo Okero as a governor of one of the counties after his record breaking performance at Kenya Airways? I would.


LEGEND II.

The second legend surrounding Omolo Okero is around a radio station that was to be built around Yala town. And let me repeat that the legend might well be true.

So when it came to the building of a radio station near Yala, for the first time ever in 400 hundred years a strife was looming between Ugenya and Gem


The area marked was inhabited by Kager of Ugenya settlers. Their presence in that area meant that Okero had jo-Kaneye (her mother's people) close by. These were hanging fruits in terms of votes. He would never have to campaign for. In other words home bunker. To build the station there would mean to disturb his votes not only in that small area but all people of Ugenya connection in Gem constituency. Most of all it was a sacrilege. You have to be a Luo to know that next to God is your mother and all that pertains to your mother.


Now legend has it, and again the legend might well be true. I don't believe Okero did anything untoward. But legend has it that he paid a courtesy visit to the office where maps are drawn which was staffed by some members of the clan in the designated location. Just a general talk about Ugenya genealogy to tell them about his mother's people. Then he left.


When the eventual Nyamninia complex location map was released it had left the Ugenya settlers intact and evicted only jo Gem to make room for the station.

I wonder how he did it if indeed he did anything.


LEGEND III

At the end of his second term there was new tide and Gem people started complaining. In the 1979 elections Gem people preferred a different candidate. This about turn was on the back of his landslide win in 1974! What happened in a mere two years? Surely what could Okero have done that was so upsetting in 12 months preceding the elections?


At the county hall in Siaya, Okero went and verified the results of the loss from returning officers and his chief agents; smoothed over their complaints and thanked everybody.

As he passed by he noticed at one corner an agitated Mathews Ogutu frog marching the opponents’ agents with a revolver in the ready to avoid losing to unknown Archbishop Stephen Ondiek.


Okero respectfully had a word of advice for Ogutu in Dholuo. I am sure he meant to say "A people deserve the leaders they get".


For translation in orthodox upper river Yala dialect Dholuo Isaac Edwin Omolo Okero  chose, "Punde ose yiero punda wetegi, wa adhi!"


OUCH! I felt that


LEGEND IV

After this defeat he terminated all interest in popular public office and went back to his practice. And he chose to do only conveyance and property stuff. Listen to his reason to criminal lawyer S M Otieno. "Nera, I don't ever want to be in a position where I have to address the court that I will get instructions from my client"


One more time Okero did not want to be taking instructions from thieves, murderers and the deplorables like other criminal litigators do.


That sort of income is beneath Isaac Omolo Okero.

THAT IS THE LEGEND OF THE MAN.

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