Legislator Okoth positively impacted lives in his constituency

Friday, August 2nd, 2019 00:00 |
Angeline Ajwang, mother of late Kibra MP Ken Okoth, during the memorial service at the Starehe Boys Centre in Nairobi last week. Photo/TABITHA MBATIA

The drumbeats of sorrow have not been silent in July. The angels, it seems, have been hungry for our best. First it was Bob Collymore, the former Safaricom CEO whose demise, although seen beckoning, still shocked the nation. Kenya mourned her adopted corporate titan.

But then followed the boy from the slums of Kibra who bore his pain publicly. Ken Okoth had shown great bravery in the midst of adversity. Cancer devastated his body eating him up slowly before our very eyes. If anybody had put up a fight against the ailment, then Okoth did and not quietly. 

Then as if two public deaths, caused by the same suffering, in one month is not enough, Joyce Laboso, the indefatigable governor of Bomet also lost the fight. Laboso had come from a tried lineage. 

The don from Egerton had inherited the parliamentary seat of Sotik which death snatched her sister from after serving only a few months. The late Lorna Laboso held laughter at her fingertips and easily made friends. But a plane crash near the Masai Mara Game Reserve in the outskirts of Narok cut her life short. 

Joyce paved her own path rising to be the first female governor of Bomet, and indeed, one of the only three female governors to win elections in 2017. In the cast of such stars, who do you mourn first and whose funeral do you turn up for? 

May be the youngest of them all, for in Okoth, death stopped in his tracks a young man with so much promise. The optimist parliamentarian who was in his second stint in representing Kibra constituency seemed to have been cut from a different cloth than the typical Kenyan politician. 

He has been eulogised by many who pointed out his humility, his passion for the slums that nurtured him, and his commitment to pulling his compatriots out of the slums one school at a time. 

We love to hate our politicians. But they always give us reasons to do so. Once the votes are in and they board the next flight to Nairobi for the beginning of the parliamentary session, you could as well guess what their first order of business is going to be. 

Fate has been kind to MPs and given them a fund, the Constituency Development Fund which is theirs to manage. How most of them have managed it is the story for comedians. 

Doting across this swathe of land are motorcycle shades, pit latrines, bus stop shades and all manner of shady projects that supposedly drained this kitty at the constituency level.

Most of our MPs find their way back to Parliament not so much because of their development record, but rather because of the curse of this nation: clan arithmetic. Okoth was different.

If one thing distinguished the Starehe Boys’ alumnus from others, it is how he used this CDF kitty. Today Kibra boasts a monument in honor of Okoth: Mbagathi High School stands out like a light house, testimony of a dream realised. To compare it to classrooms built elsewhere by other MPs would be akin to debasing the spirit of the dead.

Okoth did not stop at building schools; he was passionate about education, sending many kids to school. His death drew an outpouring of sorrow from his constituents. Seldom has an ordinary MP been so mourned! 

When life is lived and the curtain falls and the roll is called up yonder, very little matters at that point. That little has very little to do with how much you made in this life. It was the story of Okoth, the people he touched, that is what stirred Kibra to turn out to mourn.

But it was also the story of Bob and Joyce – the people they touched in his life. At the end of the day, only one-thing matters — who you impacted. —The writer is Dean, School of Communications, Daystar University.

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