By Martin Mutua
Joshua Orwa Ojode was the Assistant Minister who towered over his own office and political party and had connections across the political divide, including the Presidency.
In life he may have been a junior minister by designation, but as the country’s top leaders grieved at his graveside, he attained a proportion of fame and respect in death that might have eluded him in life.
The President wept for him, a man from Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement.
One MP and former minister conceded he was the best minister Kenya never had. In turn the PM, who should have given him the portfolio, declared at his graveside that he assigned him the Internal Security and Provincial Administration Assistant minister docket because he valued the office and respected Ojode’s prowess, but in the power-sharing deal, Kibaki’s side had gone with its ministerial docket.
In all the eulogies given as he was buried, speakers from across the political divide were unanimous that Ojode certainly was only Assistant minister by designation.
Every speaker said he bore the authority of Government, worked hard to earn it and did not mince words when transacting its authority — something, which made them refer to him adoringly as Sirkal — a corruption of the Kiswahili word Serikali (Government).
They said his word bore the assurance of the Government itself, and in his conduct, he was devoid of the political partisanship that is the nature of Kenya’s politics.
“He belonged to ODM but could easily charm his way into PNU…he worked so well with a PNU minister,’’ said Raila.
In the end the Ojode that Kenyans knew was not the one who was lowered to the grave, this time with the honours associated with State burial that is only known to have gone to Kenya’s founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, a few ministers and a Vice President.
To crown the new recognition he got in death, following the June 10 chopper crash that also killed his former boss, Prof George Saitoti and four others, the Government literally landed in Unga Village, Ndhiwa Constituency to bury Ojode.
Many of the dignitaries made the journey of 400 plus kilometres from Nairobi to his home for the burial by road — probably because the horror of the tragedy that took his life discouraged many from making the usual beeline to the airport for chartered planes and Government choppers.