Remembering Jaramogi, the father of Opposition politics

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga inspects a guard of honour mounted by prison warders at Kamiti Prison in May, 1964. [Photo, File]

On a windy evening, 25 years ago, a Kenya Air Force plane landed at the Kisumu International Airport, causing anxiety.

Minutes later, an ambulance escorted by armed police officers sped to the airside with the siren blaring where a body, neatly wrapped in a body bag, was transferred to the plane. The pilot saluted and took off.

By this time, only former President Moi, a few senior government officials and family members had been informed that Kenya’s first Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was dead.

It was not until the body was transferred to the Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi that the country learnt of the death through State-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation and went into mourning.

Recounted the last minute

Today, family and friends of the late Jaramogi, the father of Opposition politics in Kenya, would have marked the 25th anniversary since he died on January 20, 1994, but the event has been postponed to next month to give room for proper preparations for the ceremony.

EALA MP Oburu Oginga said the family had planned ceremonies in Kisumu and Bondo, but postponed due to unforeseen circumstances.

One of the reasons for the postponement was because Kisumu Governor Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, who was one of Jaramogi’s trusted lieutenants, was recovering after being taken ill last week.

Dr Oburu said Prof Nyong’o was a key player in the organisation of the event.

“Given that the Governor is sick and the month also seemed squeezed for us, we decided to postpone the event to next month,” he said.

The EALA MP disclosed that plans to hold the ceremony in Kisumu for the first time are in top gear and urged the public to turn up in large numbers, although he did not give the date. “This is the first event of its kind that we are hosting outside Bondo,” said Oburu.

Speaking on phone, the EALA MP said they are expecting visitors from abroad to attend the two-day event.

The memorial will start with prayers at St Peter’s Cathedral and later a public lecture at Tom Mboya College.

“The public lecture has attracted scholars, leaders, students and the public who are all welcome to the event,” said Oburu.

One of Jaramogi’s celebrated aides, who was with him when he passed away, Dimba Jakobuya, recounted the last minute struggle by doctors to save his life.

He told Sunday Standard that Jaramogi was scheduled to visit Uganda at the invitation of President Yoweri Museveni, the week he died. “He had met Museveni at a State function in Nairobi and the Ugandan Head of State extended an invitation to visit him in Kampala”.

He added: “On the day Jaramogi died, his son Raila Odinga had called his Milimani home in Kisumu. He wanted to tell Mzee that Museveni had called asking if the trip was still on, but it was me who received the call.”

Dimba said Jaramogi’s health started failing the week he died and he had been put on medication by his personal physician, Dr Odhiambo Olel.

A day before he died, Jaramogi was evidently tired as he had travelled from Nairobi to Kisumu by air, with Dimba by his side. “He was tired and I had to help him board the plane. Those who saw him when we landed at the Kisumu airport noticed he had difficulty walking,” said Dimba.

When they reached Jaramogi’s Milimani home in Kisumu, Dimba pleaded with him to take his medication but he refused.

“The following day, on January 20, I called Dr Olel when Jaramogi started developing breathing difficulties. He arrived within minutes and recommended that we rush Mzee to Aga Khan Hospital,” he said. By the time Jaramogi reached the hospital, his condition had worsened. Doctors tried to resuscitate him in vain.

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EALA MP Oburu OgingaKisumu International AirportKenya Air ForceTom MboyaRaila OdingaLee Funeral HomePresident MoiVice President Jaramogi Oginga OdingaKisumu Governor Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o