OTIENO KAJWANG: WHAT MANNER OF MAN
I don’t think you can term the meteoric rise of Homa Bay School as an abuse of power by the late Minster Thomas Joseph Odhiambo Mboya but if you do then it was not personal wealth acquisition. The way Homa Bay School rose from zero to be a national school was definitely above the pale. Overnight Homa Bay School had caught up with Kisii, Yala St Marys and Maseno. In fact, Homa Bay was now at par with Alliance High, Lenana High School and Nairobi School even in pioneering New maths and sciences. And they even arrogated themselves the Nairobi school motto of To the uttermost. The concepts of topology (set navs), Tessellation (graphic design), etc. were being introduced as new maths units at Form one. Tom Mboya had sought to make Kenya an industrial power in Africa and was busy reading from the “retooling play book” page by page. But that is not all.
When sitting for primary school exams, I had already opted for Homa Bay School for my secondary school studies because I was fed up of sectarian bullying and jeering in my part of Siaya. I could not stand another sight of non-protestant schooling. Ugenya is in the catchment of Uganda and you all know that Uganda daily lives was based on sectarian until general Idi Amin put aside that nonsense by the gun. He declared only 4 denominations. Protestants, Catholics and the Muslims. The Army was supreme followed by Muslims.
So when I arrived in Homa Bay I surprisingly found all the perquisites they talk about in national schools were there. The school fees was lower than Yala St Mary’s. We were issued with more supplies than all the Nyanza schools. Our meals were superior to any school in Nyanza Province. Our dormitories were modern and even storeyed which apparently is better for crowd control. We had 3 career choices of streams, of Arts, Sciences and technical subjects. And wait for this out of our 29 teachers only the Headmaster and the Swahili teacher were Africans! Those days Black is beautiful was still considered a myth- according to racist, the greatest lie on earth. Somehow, in securing resources to match the elite schools of Kenya, Tom Mboya had a pact by some global organisations to post teachers direct from USA, Canada, UK, Scandinavian and Baltic nations direct to Homa bay School.
Among these staff was a very likeable Mrs Abel and the husband Mr Abel. They were very liked by all students but they used to fight all the time. Domestic violence, ile kihome. And their house near the dormitories did not bother them. According to my friends Odiero ok dhaw ka jarateng’ (the white man’s domestic violence was not like the local). Some claimed they heard how the flare ups started. This is how these boys narrated how white couples fight.
Mr Abel says: I love you.
Mrs Abel says: No it is me who love you more.
Mr Abel answers: No I love more times more.
Mrs Abel: I love you more times infinity.
Mr Abel: I love you more times infinity times infinity.
And then twarf, twarf begins. Even though these are Luo with hyperboles. Philosophically, Yes, domestic strife is a result of intense love. So where is Otieno Kajwang in this violence.
One afternoon, in the second term of his fifth form Otieno Kajwang was going to the staff room and met Mrs Abel coming from the staff room. Of course Gerald Otieno Kajwang was barely a month in the school having reported a few weeks for fifth form. He could not have known Mrs Abel very well. Besides Mrs Abel only taught English grammar to Form ones and Form Twos. There was no interaction with Form Fives of Otieno Kajwang’.
How it started nobody knows but Mrs Abel grabbed Otieno Kajwang’ shirt to pull him back to the class rooms. Otieno Kajwang resisted saying he has urgent matters to sort out. I am guessing it was school fees since they had just reported. It is alleged that she struck at Otieno Kajwang first. Wolololo yaye. This mapambano alianza zamani angali bado kijana.
Gerald Otieno Kajwang returned fire. In any case pulling Otieno Kajwang by the shirt alone was enough provocation to fiery temper of former Mbita MP. Anyway Otieno Kajwang returned the fire with a good slap.
Mrs Abel staggered and spilled the books in her kikapu hand bag carrier. As she bent to collect her books, Otieno Kajwang marched on to his way to the staff room. Mrs Abel followed him there. To make a long story short Otieno Kajwang was expelled! Of course in the west Mrs Abel could have been charged in a court of law and would never take another teaching job near students in her life. That is how despicable her act of even pulling Otieno Kajwang by the shirt was. In the west female teachers are even jailed for sleeping with male students!
I loved Mrs Abel very much but for some reason I refused to see Otieno Kajwang as the wrong one. I was one of these school weaklings who are always mothered by women teachers. This mothering of mine will never cease. But I was non-committal on Otieno Kajwang saga. I did not take sides with my “mother”. The next time I met Otieno Kajwang was in Nairobi streets much later when I was now working. I was with his Mbita village mate and he came with that oversized flailing suit of his. He flushed his famous cheeks and bantered with me. In short Otieno Kajwang can be described here that he wore his heart on his sleeve and it was evidenced with this actions, mannerisms, speeches. He lived his life like he loved.
Internet records say Gerald Otieno Kajwang was born in Nyeri among the temperamental Agikuyu community in 1956. This is the mecca of Mau violence. Nyeri is still the citadel of the most vicious domestic violence because the men and women wear their hearts on their sleeves. After his tempestuous education Gerald Otieno Kajwang graduated with a Law degree in Makerere University then attended the Kenya School of Law.
You can safely say he was in opposition politics even before he entered University. Why so? Because Mbita is the home area of slain popular politician Tom Mboya. Gerald Otieno Kajwang was born with the tough thankless task of making up for the unfinished work of Tom Mboya. And even if not so, the society likes to compare. Every Mbita MP is measured in how close he is to Tom Mboya.
With unyoking of the powerful and choking government of Moi and his Kanu political party, Kajwang rose up to a Cabinet minister before his untimely death and by stroke of fate it was not violent death. It could have been proceeded to violent damage to ribs on the left side of the body. Otherwise every premonition in his life pointed to a violent exit. We all have our own charted departure lounge.
Why did the nation fall in love so deeply in love with Gerald Otieno Kajwang. I think because Kajwang spoke directly from the heart and everything he did was from the heart. And the public are not stupid even if people think so. Otieno Kajwang spoke from the heart and acted from the heart.
If he thought it was time to slap back the teacher, he did so and faced the consequences later. If he thought it was time to dance on the rostrum, then he did so. Take for example his statement that his party was more popular than God. How was is that a lie or blasphemous. How many people choose to live a Godly life even for 5 minutes even now as we speak. And Otieno Kajwang just made the same observation that any preacher would make like how come you dance to rumba music with more gusto than a Christian song?
And the way he wore his clothes. A friend by the name Tabu once told me that the tightest fisted men are the ones with nicely polished shoes. They are so clean when going for a date, yet they don’t know that most women like to be showered with praises and gifts. Actually everybody loves being showered with gifts. The sight of Otieno Kajwang with his coat flailing over him as if it was just thrown at him was a comforting sign. It was interpreted as an honest person who does not window dress for lies. He never bothered to tailor his looks.
And in party matters he minced no words with deceptive act of doctoring candidates. He openly told them, we will doctor these nominations because we know the things you do in the dark out of the sight of the electorate. Period. Otieno Kajwang has told you. Deal with it. Of course in such cases the public has now been made aware that you are a double agent.
And Kenyans loved him because of his straight from the heart intense engagement when communicating. The mapambano way. Electrifying the crowd came naturally to him and with only three sentences the decibels would reach a crescendo. Did he have short cuts to the crowds’ minds. I don’t think the so. He was just a straight talker. He was so straight laced that if he was a thief he would be caught so easily because stealth was not his gift. He walked with a thud in his life and everybody from a mile away knew he was coming. Which lands me gently to his detractors.
Gerald Otieno Kajwang was cut from the cloth of the early post-independence politicians. The yesteryear politicians who threw their lives onto public services without any handbrakes. They invested all their fortunes and much more in public service. And like those early patriots and nationalist they had a big heart to accommodate big families. And Like all those early patriots and nationalist their professional lives suffered or simply came to an abrupt stop. And like those early patriots they ended up being the best performers. My greatest regret is that those early patriots are getting fewer and fewer and the small family tight fisted public servants are taking centre stage. In our hearts and minds is Gerald Otieno Kajwang forever.