All his cellphone ring tones depict the melodious tunes of songs he composed as leader of the once famous Mwakigwana Choir from Kwale.
Enock Ondego, 88, now a blind widower living as a destitute in Mtopanga, Mombasa County, remembers vividly the day Mzee Jomo Kenyatta collapsed in Msambweni, Kwale County, and was later pronounced dead. He says that was a day he will never forget.
“We had accompanied Mzee to Msambweni where he sat pensively as we belted out his favourite patriotic songs when all of a sudden, we saw him slump to his right and never woke up again,” Ondego says.
Ondego, who was undeniably President Kenyatta’s favourite choirmaster says the news of Mzee’s death hit him hard.
“I even urinated on myself and and almost passed out. I was in mourning for a very long time,” he recalls.
And as the country prepares to commemorate Kenyatta’s 40th death anniversary, Ondego now claims the founding father had expressed to him a wish to be buried at a site near Nguluku Primary School in Mswambweni. He says Kenyatta loved and confided in him as his favourite composer of patriotic songs he loved to listen to whenever he visited the Coast.
Ondego says President Uhuru Kenyatta, whom he knew as a child, met him at State House, Mombasa, last year and they spoke for some time outside the earshot of presidential aides.
“He called me to State House for discussions. He debriefed me a lot about his father for two hours. He sought some advice on governance and how he could manage the country,” Ondego says.
“I advised him to be decisive and act presidential and he has accepted and implemented some of the things I told him, but he appears to have ignored some.”
He says he holds many secrets of Mombasa’s State House during Kenyatta’s rule that he might not disclose at all, but adds that the late former president treated him like a son after meeting his father in Kiambu during the colonial days.
Ondego says Kenyatta took him to many tours, especially in Msambweni. He says some months before he died, during a live musical performance by the defunct Mwakigwena Choir, Mzee expressed his wish to be buried in the Coast.
“One day we had gone to perform at Kwale Primary School. He took me aside and we went to a place called Nguluku Primary School, which later changed its name to Dancun Ndegwa Primary School, and said that’s where he wanted to be buried,” says Ondego, adding that Kenyatta later died seven kilometres from this site.
“It was a mistake to bury him at Parliament in Nairobi and yet Mzee had expressed interest to be buried in Msambweni.”
He says he believes his revelation will upset some quarters.
Ondego says Kenyatta appeared to have a premonition of his death and summoned him to State House and ordered him to perform nine of his favourite songs. “He asked me to perform all the songs and on the eighth song he broke down and began to shed tears, wagged a finger and acted as if he was lapsing,” says Ondego, who confirms past testimonies that Kenyatta had summoned all foreign and Kenyan envoys to Mombasa before his death. “In his last days his mood changed and he did not like to be in Nairobi. He wanted to be in Mombasa most of the time.”
He says Kenyatta regularly ordered him to be returned to Mombasa whenever he tried to play truant from his orbit and escape to his native Vihiga.
On the day Mzee breathed his last, Ondego’s revered choir was on stage singing then popular hit song “Baba Jomo Mtukufu”.
“All his aides immediately surrounded him as they carried him to his official car before it sped off towards Mombasa town with police sirens blaring,” Ondego recalls.
He says what followed was pandemonium as people surged to get a glimpse of the old man.
“We confirmed later that Mzee had died. I cried like a baby and did not know what to do next.
He says prior to visiting Kwale, Mzee Kenyatta had visited his private home what is now known as Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach and was infuriated when he found a man swimming in his pool.
“He scolded those who were close to him over the act. When he later reached out to me, Mzee told me that we shall be crossing Likoni ferry the following day for a tour of Kwale,” he recalls.
Ondego says upon reaching Kombani at the junction leading to Kwale town, the nation’s founding father ordered they proceed to another place as the town was too windy.
The next stop was Tiwi, which Mzee found too dusty and they drove all the way to Bomani in Msambweni where they pitched camp. “It was at Msambweni where I heard Kenyatta say “Haha Niho” (This is the place) as the day’s events progressed,” he says. The artiste urges President Kenyatta to remain firm in his fight against corruption.
“Mzee Kenyatta was steadfast in everything he did. He led from the front.
“I am seeing these traits in Uhuru’s second and final term in office and wish he can continue with the fight to end corruption, which has cost Kenya a lot,” Ondego says.
The ageing choirmaster, who still has the prowess of an astute musician, appeals to President Uhuru to grant him audience again whenever he goes to Mombasa.
“I have issues I would like to share with him before I die,” he says.