OTIENO AMBALA: WHAT MANNER OF A MAN!
Updated: Jan 15, 2021
His son’s eulogy spoke for the entire Luo community that just “one speck is what Luos want to remember. Just one speck!”
At the burial of former MP for Gem, for no longer than 3 years of the 5 year term, the son was grossly inaccurate. The son was overwhelmed by accusations coming left right and centre and like everybody else in the next 48 hours after his death and must have concluded that his father did it. This line of 'concession' was used by major newspapers to try and justify Ambala involvement in the recent sitting MP's killing but Luos are never that stupid. In the long run they will find you out.
Aggrey Otieno Ambala had served as the MP for Gem Constituency overthrowing the then longest serving Gem MP Isaac Omolo Okero in the 1979 general elections. The defeat of Okero was like a lightning bolt out of the blue. Going into election year Okero was massively popular in Gem. Even when his friend Mathews Joseph Ogutu was being stung by wasps in Ugenya and William Odongo Omamo in Bondo was sweating throughout the night with Ougo ling'-ber-ne, Okero was sleeping soundly. Unbeknown to sitting MP Isaac Okero, business man Aggrey Otieno Ambala was planning a master stroke delivered with military precision. In any class of strategic planning it has to sit up there with the best illustrations. It was effortless and inexpensive. And he was having fun awhile while delivering it.
OCHODO WON KONG’O (Asset stripping)
Businessman Aggrey Ambala was the MP for Gem for less than one term. Ambala replaced popular Isaac Omolo Okero in 1979 in a freak election. Okero had been returned to parliament in a resounding win 1974. And Okero had a massive support even when going for the elections but Ambala business man threw in a strategic masterclass.
Ambala as a business man had studied the Nyanza political environment very well and had seen that without Jomo Kenyatta, Nyanza electorate will flex their muscles in a payback back time for all those insults of kuma za mama zenu in Kisumu. He knew that a kind words from Jaramogi would work wonders. So he warmed his way and married a Jaramogi daughter. Despite the resistance from the Odinga sons, he managed to get in. In dholuo lingo it’s called “Ichodo won Kong’o”. In other words, you have warmed your way to the brewer’s heart. Ambala had indeed made his way to Jaramogi house with guarantee of full returns. And Jaramogi was picking the winners. The sitting MP Okero was tossed aside come election day. He lost and threw in the famous parting words, “punde oseyiero punde wete gi”. Prophetically Ambala like a real donkey was to later display a classical “Ahsante ya punda ni mateke”
The whole marriage turned to marriage from hell for the Jaramogi family with the Odinga lady flying to Zimbabwe in the arms of another Zimbabwe hard man, Edgar Tekere. Tekere was a feared man that even South Africa would not touch but Ambala went in hot pursuit. However, all these stories of domestic violence and wife abuse were just swept aside until we recently read the words of an Odinga in the social media.
All the same Ambala’s past seems to precede him. In short Ambala in less than 3 years had broken into the Odinga home, used his daughter’s name to kick Okero out and there was nothing wrong with that. For Over 1000 years Luos have been doing that and toppling the most feared empires. It is only that Kenyan Luos have gone soft and that is the tragedy with latter day LUO of Kenya. They marry into rival "yellow-yellow" tribes, but are instead thrown out in the cold with nothing but their uncovered buttocks to show for years of male domestic financial and physical abuse.
Ambala is an alumni of Howard University, USA. He became a very successful and ethical businessman in Nairobi. He had solid ethical businesses then like any Kenyan African businessman ventured into politics. It’s the place to be for more business contracts. I just wish he had stayed clean in business
Somehow Ambala had built a reputation that seemed to precede him even when he was remotely connected. Jumping at Ambala to blame seems to come easy and naturally to all and sundry.
On Moi Avenue at a place now called Munyiri Fish and Chips, Ambala was running a posh Fish and Chips place called Bird Cage. Bird Cage name was borrowed from the street near St James park, London, England where the Engineering institute is based. Ambala did attend Military Engineering training in the UK after the first degree. A degree that meant that he was a no-no in Jomo Kenyatta administration. The name Bird Cage must have endeared him. I am not sure of the equivalent in dholuo.
The naming of Bird Cage was not an issue. All returnees were naming spots they used to frequent while abroad like Alvaris, Hole In The Wall towards London Bridge in London and towards River road in Nairobi etc. Bird Cage Fish and Chips was unique. Up to 1973 It was the only Fish and Chips place in Nairobi. It was then joined with Gloria Fish and Chips on Ronald Ngala and then Wimpy. Wimpy opposite Melodica was stupidly expensive with supermodels the only regular customers apart from Wazungu.
Next to Bird Cage Fish and chips was a dancing club that hosted youths up to 6.00pm on Saturday and Sunday and then adults. Up to 1973 it had a resident band from Eastern Congo known as Hi Fives led by trendy Kibushi dancing duo Le Tenor Maua and Vicky. After the revelling the youngsters would pass for a packet of chips. This one Saturday a Gor Mahia player passed by and had a disagreement with the girl cashier. Just a juvenile thing ended up in years’ jail term confinement for Nicodemus Arudhi the ace no 10 of Luo Union and Gor Mahia Fcs. Just as the football ace was being jailed, Mr Ambala’s first wife died while giving birth at Nairobi hospital. Luos being Luos had a karma riot act to read as punishment for jailing a young boy over a packet of chips. Aggrey Otieno Ambala wod gem had nothing to do with it. Maybe he was not even aware that the greatest football player that Luos have ever known was being jailed for a packet of chips.
After Mrs Perez Ambala death, Ambala was not happy and blamed the hospital. He sued Nairobi Hospital. In my opinion Ambala was barking the wrong tree because he did not pick his size to fight. Nairobi Hospital not only represented the west this side of Africa. It’s the hospital where dignitaries died. It is the place where Ronald Ngala and Argwings last days’ secrets are held. Any investigation as to government issued rifle that brought down Argwings Kodhek must begin with the Nairobi Hospital. Touching Nairobi Hospital was tantamount to touching all that is Europe and America. It was practically impossible for Ambala to win. But the arrogance of Gem people knows no bounds. The courts decided Mrs Perez Ambala died of natural causes which was remarkably big headline as if celebrating the resurrection of the great Pactice Lumumba of Congo. Some experts would think otherwise especially if a person who has just given birth talks of headache.
The Ambala reputation steps in. Legend has it that one of the senior ladies of the hospitals was attacked by thugs who did not steal her money. They were never caught but guess who was adjudged to have organised the attack. Yes, you guessed right again, Aggrey Otieno Ambala.
The most gifted guitarist that Kenya has ever seen wore a crooked lower tooth from late 1973. Not many people know that Juma Toto lower front teeth were never screwed until sometime in the later part of 1973.
Juma Toto of Gem Uranga had gone to deliver a message for his friend Phillip at a café that Phillip won’t make the date that evening. Also at the venue was a supermodel Lydia Omolo aka tamtam from Seme. As was the norm those days young women always walked at least in pairs. Lydia was accompanied with another Luo lady. Someone watching over this other lady just assumed that Juma Toto was the date. As he excused himself and made his way to go home when he was pounced on and beaten and left to die on the pavement of the streets. He did survive and later died on another Nairobi pavement 45 years later after he fell on the streets and knocked his head on the pavement never to recover. Guess who was the jealous boyfriend? Yes, you guessed it right. It does not matter whether he organised the attack. It is Aggrey Otieno Ambala we are talking about. Of course he organised it. Or maybe his reputation organised it.
Musician Ochieng’ Kabaselleh in solidarity with his friend that they had just completed a joint Album record composed a song to vilify the jealous man in a record titled Maziwa na. It was a sort of sequel to Sukari Na but because of the new musical direction, it hit the music waves even stronger. From the lyrics you can see that even Ochieng Kabaselleh knew who organised the pouncing on Juma Toto. Or did his reputation precede him once more.
Nyaaaakoo kapok okende en mar ji duto
Nyiego ya nini
Ng’at ni duong’ to pok okendo
Ng’atni tang’ne; Ng'ani kachamaa/
Pesa ma ng'ani nyisi go, adundo owada
Pesa go gik gowi
It is safe to say that Otieno Ambala was a special business man. He was a better business man for the three years than he was in parliament as a populist politician. He tried but he was not cut for it. He was simply a single minded business man that had no time for popular politics. The sort of politician who believes I would rather be ruled by a Lion than a hundred rats. I think that is why massive projects cannot be found here. In any case it was too short a time for a first time politician. Before he could network to organise harambees, Hezekiah Ochuka, the Air force coup plotter had “pissed on the brew made by Beryl Odinga" and fresh elections were called. I will seek out his public service record during this period and append here.
Then the now sitting MP Otieno Ambala forgot the Luo myth of Nyamgondho wuod Ombare. He started to abuse the Beryl Odinga. She fled all the way to Zimbabwe. Legend has it that she fled to arms of Edger Tekere, the Zanu PF man who kept shooting white people in public on the same flimsy excuse that white Rhodesians had used to kill black Africans. And Tekere would use the same laws that protected the white man to legally and rightfully avoid going to jail. Ambala was not that stupid. Edgar Tekere was not the guy to mess around with. Even me I would instead congratulate him, and just mutter 'wuoyi wadu nyalo konyi ka ilewo'. If true then Miss Beryl Odinga had strategically chosen well. It appears there is no stupid Odinga in this world. I think Beryl Odinga would have vice president William Ruto for breakfast if she dared to run for against him.
The myth of Nyamgondho wuod Ombare is about the fallacy of burning bridges the way Otieno Ambala had done with the Odinga influence. Still as an MP Ambala did not do much wrong.
HORACE ONGILI MURDER.
When Moi called snap elections after the 1982 coup, Horace Ongili Owiti his friend and confidant usurped him and became the Gem MP. Which was not a surprise. Ambala was not a populist, not a politician and had no political base. Ambala was an MP on stilts of the Odinga name. Without Beryl Odinga he was nothing. Horace was easily shoed in during the 1983 elections.
When Horace Ongili was found not only murdered but viciously murdered, cut like someone gutting fish with anger; it pointed out only to a crime of vengeance. And only one person fitted the picture except for one thing. Everything else pointed elsewhere. The Ambala family and Ongili family, the court of Appeal was in agreement that it was not Ambala. In fact, the Government of Kenya later in acknowledgement of miscarriage of Justice that the wrong people were jailed did their bit, but it is too late for all those who were smeared with dirt like Ambala.
It is only later when other murders like that of Robert Ouko, Julie Ward started taking place that people started doting the i's and crossing the t's and saying maybe even that was not Ambala. A new style of political murderer was in town.
When an Ambala son gave eulogy he must also have had doubts about his father when he talked about a small dirt on a white shirt. It was just Ambala’s past preceding him even in his son’s eyes but nobody is convinced had anything to do with it.