By Peter Opiyo
Government literally turned up to pray for the soul of a public servant whose dedication earned him the nickname Sirkal, which is a Kiswahili corruption of Government.
Pearls of mirth punctuated the requiem Mass, momentarily interrupting the sombre mood, as friends, relatives, and Government officials relived the life and times of the late Assistant Minister for Internal security.
The merriment mirrored the life the Ndhiwa MP lived in the social and political circles. A dose of it was deemed in order to bid farewell to a man who was described as dedicated, amiable, committed, and likeable.
And for the first time since Grand Coalition Government came to power in 2008, Prime Minister Raila Odinga broke his silence over the tension between him and Ojode over his failure to give him a Cabinet post despite his having earlier rejected Kibaki’s offer of a ministerial seat after Kibaki kicked out the PM from Government in 2005.
Raila told the congregation that included President Kibaki, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, and House Speaker Kenneth Marende, among other dignitaries, Ojode actually complained to him on the matter.
“When the Grand Coalition Government came to power, Ojode was not happy that, I had not given him a flag. He complained to me and we discussed. I explained to him,” added Raila, without elaborating.
Ojode had been a strong defender of the PM and even turned down a ministerial position in Environment, after Raila was left out.
The Head of State had just dissolved the Cabinet following the defeat of Government in the 2005 referendum on the Draft Constitution.
Thursday, Raila told mourners that he later asked Ojode whether he could move him to another ministry, but he declined saying he was comfortable where he was.
And, indeed, despite his ranking as Assistant minister, Ojode bore the clout of a minister in Parliament as he answered questions. He gave his statement the finality and authority of Government.
After he finished speaking, you were sure his will would be done.
Earlier at the service, it looked like Ojode was addressing Parliament – in his trademark comedy-laced assertiveness – as a former MP and friend, Owino Acholla, narrated how the towering former Ndhiwa MP ‘baby-carried’ a taxi driver blocking the entrance to a night club they had visited.
Having been friends with Ojode for 20 years, Acholla confessed he took comfort in Ojode’s towering frame. He described to the congregation how people referred to them as the ‘Short Guy’ and ‘Tall Guy’.
“You know Ojode was lengthy (sic), and I am not very far from the ground,” he recounted, making the mourners break into laughter despite the cruel reality all that was in the coffin.
Face of Government
But amid the hilarity, the pain of the loss was evident as Government officials and friends, led by President Kibaki, talked passionately of a man who lived his life to the full and was the ‘glue’ that held the Grand Coalition Government.