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Meet woman who gave Raila Odinga the name ‘Agwambo’

By Kevine Omollo | Published Wed, January 18th 2017 at 13:00, Updated January 19th 2017 at 09:48 GMT +3
Grace Akumu, the party leader of Citizens Conventional Party. (Photo: Denish Ochieng)

Opposition Leader Raila Odinga is one of the prolific politicians in the country whose name rings a bell in any corner of the world.

His experience in the political scene has earned him a host of nicknames, ranging from; Tinga, Hummer, Agwambo, Baba, Jakom, among others.

Tinga means a tractor, a name he got in the 1990s when he was the National Development Party (NDP) leader, the party whose slogan was Tinga.

He got the name Hummer in the 2000s after imported a Hummer model ahead of the 2007 general election. Baba became his latest nickname he got from his political cronies who considered him a political father.

Jakom which means Chairman is however derived from his activities in the political and social scenes which include chairing high profile deliberations.

The name 'Agwambo' is however undoubtedly the oldest and most famous among the nicknames. The word 'agwambo' is a Luo word which has been translated to mean 'Mystery' or 'The Unpredictable' in English.

Even though Raila is considered one of the most unpredictable politicians in the country, the name has no relationship with his political character, and not many people can however trace the origin of the name which has stood a number of political regimes, and which has not shown any sign of disappearing.

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This is according to Grace Akumu, widow to former Central Organisation of Trade Union (Cotu) Secretary General, the late Denis Akumu who has come out to claim the right for the name.

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Ms Akumu who is aspiring for Kisumu County Women Representative position in the 2017 general election last week stunned an audience in Seme when she revealed how her family donated the name to Raila in the 1980s.

According to Ms Akumu, her family and that of Kenya's first Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga had been close when Jaramogi joined the opposition.

She said Jaramogi and Denis shared a lot in politics, and occasionally visited each other as they stayed in a neighbouhood at Jericho Estate in Nairobi, apart from the many encounters in political arena.

And in the late 1880s after Raila had been released from detention, Ms Akumu said, the son of Jaramogi never hesitated to visit her family for pleasantries.

"He (Raila) had just come from detention, and he was coming to visit us when he lost his way to our house. He then tried to inquire from the neigbours," said Ms Akumu.

She added: "Most of the neighbours referred to my husband as 'Baba Agwambo' (Agwambo's father) since I had a child named Agwambo. So the neighbours brought him to our house."

Ms Akumu however noted that Raila was not familiar with the 'Baba Agwambo' name as he had never known that I had a child with such a name, hence when he got to the house, he inquired about the same.

"Raila was impressed by the name, and as he was leaving he jokingly said he would wish to adopt the name, and we reluctantly allowed him," she said.

And this is how Raila became Agwambo.

Ms Akumu who presided over the handing over of a community dispensary to Kisumu County Government in Seme was dispelling perception that her Citizen Convention Party (CCP) was formed to battle Raila's ODM in Nyanza politics.

"From that history can I be against someone I consider my son? Raila is therefore my son and I cannot compete him in politics," said Akumu.

Ms Akumu vied for Nyakach parliamentary seat in 2013 on an ODM ticket where she lost to the current MP Aduma Owuor at the primaries.

She however moved out of the party and has become the first Luo female politician to form a political party, the CCP, where she is the party leader.

She has been moving across the region to popularize the party as an alternative political vehicle to area politicians who may not find space in the orange party.

But with the area dominated by ODM, some politicians have seen Akumu's move as a way of denying ODM maximum representation in the legislative houses, and have instead been calling for a six-piece voting system in the ODM stronghold.

"With that long standing history between my family and the Odinga's do you think I can stand on Raila's way to State House?" posed Akumu, adding that: "This party supplements ODM and we will not be fronting a presidential candidate in the forthcoming election."

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