• Stephen Osieyo

OMBAKA: WHAT MANNER OF A MAN!

Updated: Jan 15, 2021

Dr Oki Ooko Ombaka was a young and dashing son of who is who renowned educationist. Everybody knew Ombaka senior. Those days education was noble and that is why so many of educationists progressed to high profile public offices. Let me rephrase. That is why people entrusted them with their lives and future generations in more responsible public offices. Teachers had more strait laced lives than prelates. You could not read teaching and Anti-Social Behaviour (ASBO) in the same book. For a very long time the daughter of a teacher was a catch. You were guaranteed a marriage made in heaven. I think they still are. I am not marrying anymore so I am not sure. I stopped discussing life after marriage. These days I only deal with life after death. Any way that is Ombaka life that consumed everything about young Ombaka and preceded him so much in almost everything he did. Ombaka was literally living the life of his perfectionist parents. His face was his passport. What a yoke to bear.


Young Ombaka living his time in this generation found himself to another calling once reaching the University. His calling was the other side of the coin of his fathers. It involved not just caring for his fellow man but protecting his fellow man. And he hit the headlines pretty fast. Some will say way too fast like odumb gunda.


What Ombaka did not realise is that on top of the yoke he inherited from his father he had just added another yoke unto himself. The image of student advocacy and campaign at Nairobi University.


OMBAKA THE BOY

There was once a disco song that had the lyrics “when boys talk, they don’t talk politics”. Its all-boys including the great Ombakas.


Now legend has it that young Ombaka just like all young boys in Gem Yala suburban went around wenching in the nearby clans. There was this urban girl also at home during those forced University closure. She was retreating in Kisumu waiting for University to open but I believe she was Ugenya. But boys will always be boys. Boys will never be idle. Gem people readily approved a son of theirs marrying nya Ugenya clan and specifically nyaKager. It’s a typical Great man leadership theory in management textbooks. That since all the rulers and who is who in Gem have been Ugenya Kager mothered, then you are guaranteed of a home maker if one person in the homestead married there.


This afternoon young Ombaka and his buddy concocted a fool hardy reason to visit the young ladies house in Kisumu Town. It was still a taboo for a man to visit a lady’s home and set his eyes on a prospective mother in law. Luos are 70% Christians but 150% Luos even today. For Ugenya please add and 1000% Ugenyans. So these things can never be erased by a university degree. When you see President Obama sheltering his assistants because of a drizzle, it is not because he is a gentleman. It is because he is a Luo and Luo tradition demands protection of women and children at all times regardless of feminism.


The story line was that Ombaka is an American Negro (African American) student at Nairobi University also stranded by the closure and is visiting Kisumu and just popped in to say hallo to a Colleague on the way Busia Uganda to meet a with other Americans in Uganda. It worked because guys like Ombaka, Sam Okoth Dawa who I suspect was the buddy had the smoothness and grooming of an Ebony Magazine pin up boy. And besides, Sam is also ja Gem ka Agola but migrated to Kamagambo.


Ombaka and his buddy are nicely welcomed and introduced in their new alias and they are also now speaking in deep New York slang. You know direct from Black American movies like Cleopatra Jones, Three the Hard Way, Shaft.


Then things started happening. There is an American saying that “Do not bother painting your face because it may rain and colours run”. It started raining tears and sweat and colours started running. The pretty African America colours started running on young Ombaka and his friend.


First an elderly auntie looked at Ombaka and remarked, “Nyere chode ni gi more dhoge mbunyore mana ka joka japuonj Ombaka!”. (One of your friends resemble the Ombaka family).


It was not a question and the lady was from Ugenya clan. You know how Ugenya people can be vulgar and provocative with words. Basically she said that the mouth outline resembles the Ombaka seniors. Then the girl pops her head out of the kitchen where she was making tea and says, “dawe mama magi gin negroe” (no auntie they are Black Americans).


Then tea is served but the two gentlemen can hardly stifle their laughter. It is killing them and energy generated with the struggle to hold back laughter turns into sweat drops on the forehead. Then the older lady departs to allow the young men to enjoy the tea and snacks but not without a last jab delivered with Ugenya flavour. This time the broadside was directed at Ombaka’s oiled and well-groomed beard, like soul singer Teddy Pendergrass, “Ma tike oyugno ka nyar jakech ni ye chot ni!”. (So the Teddy Pendergrass look-a-like is your date?).

Again it was a question but your answer was not needed. At this point Ombaka and the buddy could not practically open their mouth to do anything but release the laughter. They were choking with stifled laughter because they are not supposed to understand dholuo, let alone coded River Yala/Nzoia dialect. The old ladies excused themselves with another parting shot that from another auntie. “Ero waleng’ore, to iwach ne oliel yie tike machal ombero go”. (we give you space but tell him to shave that beard that resembles ombero)

The ladies got out just in time before the two gentlemen broke in uncontrolled tearful laughter at how vulgar the aunties were ripping into their Born-Again-Sanctified-Christian-union-pulpit-hovering-saved daughter. Ombero is an ancient Ugenya dholuo word for pruned lady’s pubic hair.

When they were leaving the mother came to say bye but had “nice words” in dholuo to be translated by the very sanctified super daughter. “Waduoko erohamano, to inyise ni thurwa koni ok ba kite ka maro. Koro kite ma obayo ga iskul kik okel ka” (Basically we know this is the son of Ombaka that leads strikes at the University but that is your choice).


EARLY YEARS

Young Ombaka had good looks. As a matter of fact, Ombaka had too much of good looks that you need to get around with. The ladies used to tell me. And the thing with men with good looks they are always ready to reach out to less endowed human beings. They are always overflowing with humanity. It explains why all dictators are so Ugly they chase pretty women to make up for their looks.


I think at High school he showed these qualities but only when let loose at the University that he now exploded into full advocacy and campaign.

Ombaka the son of a high profile educationist went to Ambira High School. I would never want to bear the Ombaka name because there is little room for manoeuver. The Ombaka name is too much of a cross to bear. I am in this world to live a little. Maybe I am just not up to it. When I was looking for an image in Wikipedia, the first image I bumped into was Ombaka National stadium in Angola. It is really an impressive stadium that makes our own national stadium look like manyuanda-od-otenga. However, it gets worse.

When the Angola national stadium was being built the ministry of Finance of Angola won the best awards for being the best ministry in all fields by the way the it went about executing the building of the stadium. It appears that it is excellence galore when it comes to the name Ombaka. As if the name Ombaka means to the uttermost

I am not even sure what Ombaka means but Gem and Ugenya clans of the Luo have retained some ancient names from our ancestors. Names like Othieno, Ombaka, Anditi, Awich are dying out but these two clans have persisted with them. And interestingly along the South west African corridor there is another tribes people who resemble Gem and Ugenya people so much in Anatomy. A photograph of a Himba woman might as well be from Ulumbi if you shed off the red ochre. The ritual removal of 6 lower teeth just complicates matters as if they are some lost Luos. Then next to Gem people area there is a major town known as Luanda which is spelt and pronounced the same as the major town in Namibia Angola corridor. If I spice the mix of young Ombaka resembling Teddy Pendergrass whose ancestors was extracted from this west African coast line, then you should be forgiven for imagining that a branch of Luo exodus went all the way to the west coast of Africa.

Since we have already opened with Ugenya verses Gem clans of the Luo Nation let us just conclude. Ugenya and Gem never went to war and have always lived side by side. The two Luo clans are brothers and share the same ancestry. Their genealogy might as well be all related to Angolans. Ombaka is from Gem clan.

Ragam (b1560), Gem (b 1562) and Ugenya (b 1564) are the three sons of Ochielo (b1531).

Ochielo is the son of Ramogi Ajwang’ or Ramogi III (b1500).

And Ramogi Ajwang’ is the son of Ramogi II (b1469).

Ramogi II is the son of Podho II (b1450).

Podho II and Aruwa (b 1448) are sons of Ramogi I (b 1419). During the exodus Podho II went South eastwards towards Kenya; Aruwa went South westwards after the acrimonious split. So it is conceivable that Ombakas of Ulumbi near Luanda market and Ombaka stadium in Luanda the capital, and late soul singer Teddy Pendergrass are one and the same person or spirit just living in different bodies and places if you are not a Christian but is still spiritual enough.

Ombaka’s sub clan the Kojuodhi has provided 4 MPs of the 8 MPs and are the most influential in Gem politics. They are very educated and occupy an academic citadel. Their nickname Kojuodhi Tipo is because the clan blooms so fast and creates a shadow over other Gem sub clans hence Tipo (shadow).

Young Ombaka after joining the Nairobi University created a name for himself in SONU the students body. He was expelled and completed his studies at Dar es Salaam University in TZ where all Pan African revolutionists made home from home. Tanzania with Liberation training camps for Mozambique, Southern Rhodesia, Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda and Congo became the mother of African liberation. Dr Ombaka was practically in a spiritual retreat in Dar es Salaam.

Unlike many Nairobi University firebrand student leaders who abandon their siasa kali with the graduation robe Ombaka like Orengo are the few chosen ones who brought the University fight from the lecture corridors to parliament corridors. Orengo got a jumpstart when he was shoed in Ugenya seat, and their style meant that Orengo would upstage Ombaka in newspaper coverage. Why Orengo is a street fighter like most Ugenyans. The joke I used to get is Ugenyans could hassle anything. Bootlegging stamps, selling chang'aa in government offices or running a brothel in Essex England ‘manned’ with East European girls. Gem people had class in what they do. The motto seems to be ‘it is not what you do but how you do it’. Can you imagine Okero family growing sukumawiki in his garden in Lavington Nairobi. Or Argwings Kodhek bargaining on the price of meat per kilo. But Orengo would be at ease battling Kenya Meat Commission in Parliament without batting an eyelid. It reminds me when one Rusinga lady came to ask me what was wrong with Ugenya people. “Why is Orengo fighting over meat?”

How does this define Ombaka. In this 1992 era of multi part politics in Kenya the government throttled the MPs so much that development was carried out by Harambees instead of the national government. Now there are three Harambee cliques or school of thoughts.

1. The ones that could take any dirty money for harambee projects especially from coyed Asian business men and dirty tender kickbacks.

2. Then there are those who accepted Harambees but participated in only clean money like Dr Robert Ouko the slain Former foreign minister

3. Ombaka belonged to the lot that believed development is government docket. Theirs is to make laws and govern. And they will make laws that will ensure no more dependency on dirty money. Cue 47 county governance in the constitution that he authored

This Ombaka lot were the Jaramogi school of thought on development projects used to siphon money from the government. And they dug their heels in and were supported by conscious part of the country like Bishop Okullu, Bishop Some Mugo, Bishop Festo Olang’ some envoys, etc. Of course there were other church men like Mwana Nzeki who saw nothing wrong with evil money that he even accepted a dirty Mercedes Benz from a filthy senior politician.

Combined with his University record and proximity to the doyen of opposition politics, Ombaka had little room to leverage Developments Harambees himself being from the opposition party Ford Kenya operating in opposition land. In any case he hardly got his tooth in when tragedy struck and he lost his eyesight.

Fate had other ideas and moved him out of the time consuming parliamentary politics and moved him into the fast lane of position where he left indelible mark. He took his new role in the constitutional review process like a duck in the water. It was time bound and real results were the out put. No ifs No buts.

When he passed on we had even forgotten the parliamentary representation. We remember Dr Ooko Oki Ombaka with the Student University years, the pro-bono work and the new Constitution review role much more than we remember him for his constituency representation work. That is his mark of greatness.


OMBAKA THE CATALYST

Did Ombaka ever have personal influence on my life? Yes. Once or twice or thrice I came into contact with him. Okay severally but I was just a nobody in the crowd together with any government agent who might want to poison him like in a plane.

There was an eatery on the verandas outside Rescue Hall Kaloleni in Eastland’s Nairobi. I had just started my first full time employment and was feeling so brave but could only afford the eatery menu of Shs 1 for Aliya, shs 2.50 for spare ribs. You get free Ugali and ghee. I think matumbo was less than a shilling but it depended if you wanted it spiked with delicious tago or ludh-bor (flat intestines). Otherwise oduko (bible trip), lokro (sweet breads), akwacha (tripe ti), chino (honey-comb tripe) were just the normal price. Just to give you a fair representation, Lunch at up market Nairobi Steak House (Kimathi street) for 2 was Shs 97.60 and the Tamarind Carnivore Restaurant used to charge Shillings 110 per buffet or the same for that game meat carnival on Lang’ata road. Sometimes that is how I used to roll courtesy of my brother Phillip. And here we have a top lawyer in Italian hand stitched suit from Milan with that Teddy Pendergrass look wearing Monsour Dandy cologne enjoying Aliya, osuga and mor-nyaluo as if we were eating grandmother food somewhere in Siaya. He was so at ease that it radiated on you and the people around.

You know with such people you want to hang around just as a souvenir, a keep sake to one-day impress that I dined with an Ombaka son. It is like watching a beautiful girl pass by. You just want to step on where her shadow was and you are sorted. This time, me and my cousin got a seat near him and were bubbling about that primitive drunk girl Tabu Ley came with (Mbilia bel make up was over the top). By then I had been fed the story about his escapade with Ugenya mother of the sanctified born again Nairobi university colleague with my friend Joe Tex of Kisumu. He drifted into our conversation then explained to us to keep on doing this lunch thing here to deny big business this money and give it to small business whenever we can. He cited the story of the USA being built on small business and the Japanese Zaibatsu business models. He said small business do not load you with irrelevant stylish overheads. Why should you pay for rent that is 5 times your own house rent just to make a brand name like Wagon Wheel feel good with the American brand name in Africa[WU1] . I studiously listened to him and yet he was no more than 6 years older than me.

I don’t know what happened to the young start up entrepreneur of the eatery. I know he was a closet Gor Mahia supporter not to upset the Luo Union war fans with their disposal income. The likes James Ogoma King, Obado Okok, Owino Owiro. pipe smoking Okoth K’orombo. The young business man was about my age and had visible lower teeth that Luos enjoyed extracting in that ritual also practised by South west Africans. He had a Kamba lady assistant that he entrusted the cashiering job to. A very professional guy in serving and wore a ladies serving apron with a pocket in front. I think he was from Asembo or Seme. That general area anyway. He owes the Ombakas a cut if he ever made it to big eatery. After all Gem Yala was traditionally known for arrogance and being tradespeople more than academics.

In short that is how Dr Ombaka influenced and impacted our lives. He was a catalyst to change. Sometimes slow burning like supporting the eatery. Other times medium paced like Constitutional review. And when pace was needed he was full of speed like at the University demonstrations.


We all run our races don’t we? Those in a hurry like Dr Ombaka and Congolese rumba Colossus Franco Luambo who have booked a flight to depart this world at the tender age of 52 years of age have a tendency to pack and rush everything and in a flash they are long gone. Never to return.

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