Why student’s ‘otonglo times’ may be over


The Ibo in Nigeria say when a child washes his hands, he can dine with kings.

And Daniel Owira aka Sylvester Ogwamfumbe has done just that and is now the envy of his peers and talk of town.

Owira met President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday at State House and the Head of State even took him on a tour of ‘the house on the hill’.

It all started during the National Drama Festivals last week when he performed a narrative, Otonglo Time, that left the audience, who included President Uhuru and his wife, Margaret, in stiches.

The Form Two student at Highway Secondary School even surprised his audience at the end of his performance when he said, “Mr President, tweet me.” Before he left the stage, the impressed President stood up and the two shook hands. Judging from his performance, one would be forgiven to think he comes from a rich family. But no.

“Mr President, it is now over years since I came back to my village of Nyamfoi. Transformation is evident. My name has been admitted in the Forbes magazine for being the first Kenyan to lend Bill Gates some loose change,” he said during his narration.

In the ‘Otonglo’ narrative, Owira introduces himself as Sylvester Ogwamfumbe, the only man with an English name from Nyamfoi County regional Diaspora. Otonglo refers to a ten cent coin in Dholuo.

With a proud Dholuo accent, Owira says he is the owner of vast business empire that include ‘Mr Price, McPrice, Enterprise, Car Price and for the sake of women’s representatives, I am soon building Mrs Price’.

Abject poverty

But contrary to the picture of opulence he paints in the narrative, his family lives in abject poverty and have to make to do with a one-room shanty in Fuata Nyayo slum in South B.

His mother, Rose Owiyo, a widow, has been struggling to bring up Owira alongside his sister, cousin and niece, with paying school fees for the promising thespian being her biggest headache. Otonglo in the Dholuo language means a ten cent coin.

“I live with my mother in the slums of Fuata Nyayo in South B. My father died in 2000. I want to become a lawyer so that I can assist people who need justice,” Owira said.

The hilarious narrative that thrust him into the national limelight, however, seems to be the lucky break that may turn the fortunes of his impoverished family.

The family was invited to State House on Wednesday afternoon where the President awarded Owira a full scholarship up to university. The President said he would be monitoring Owira’s education progress, perhaps only stopping short of declaring he had adopted him.

“You are now one of my sons. Make sure you give me your report form every end of term,” President Uhuru said at the meeting on Wednesday after presiding over this year’s Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Park, Nairobi.

And Owira will no longer need to trek from the slums to Highway High School as the President has also offered to pay his boarding fees.

But even as the President made a commitment to ensure the talented teenager gets the best education, he did not hesitate to urge him to continue doing what he does best – drama.

His mother did not go away empty handed either. Uhuru promised to help revitalise her fish selling business and support Owira’s elder sister who works as a volunteer assisting girls in the slums.

The story of the boy who had a humble beginning went viral on social media with everybody congratulating the President for assisting the family.

 Many said Uhuru’s act of kindness had demystified the presidency.