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Like father, like son: Obel writes his own eulogy, plans to dig his own grave

By John Oywa | Published Sat, December 30th 2017 at 11:35, Updated December 30th 2017 at 11:46 GMT +3
Joseph Omondi Obel, with a copy of eulogy. (PHOTO: Collins Oduor, Standard)

KISUMU, KENYA: A retired primary school head teacher, has shocked the sleepy Yath Olal village in Ugenya, after writing his 48 page eulogy.

Joseph Aggrey Omondi Obel, 70, is also planning to buy a coffin.

Mr Obel, is the son of the late Martin Obel Oloo, who broke decades-old taboo when he dug his grave 14 years before his death. This attracted the fury of elders who threatened to curse him.

“I am following in the footsteps of my father because he was my role model. I am also planning to buy my own coffin. I have identified a spot where I will dig my grave,” Obel told Saturday Standard yesterday.

He added: “I don’t want my relatives to distort my history. That is why I have taken a long time to write my own eulogy.”

No feasting at the funeral

When he died in 2004, Oloo, a renowned herbalist was buried according to his wish. His family laid him to rest in the grave that took him two weeks to dig. There was no feasting at the funeral in Ugenya as he had wished.

Obel, a father of eight is not the only controversial figure in the family. His elder brother, Prof Arthur Obel is a renowned researcher who ruffled feathers in the medical circles in the late 1990s when he discovered the Pearl Omega drug, which he claimed could treat HIV/Aids.

The don also grabbed headlines after he shot a driver Kyalo Kioko, in Nairobi in July 2004 for allegedly blocking his way as he drove to his clinic to attend to a patient. He escaped jail after the courts acquitted him a year later.

The retired teacher said there was nothing unusual about his decision to write the eulogy and dismissed warning from his friends and relatives that this was tantamount to “killing himself”. 

“I am not having premonition of my death. I am not about to. My father bought his coffin and dug his grave but he never died the following day as people predicted. He lived for another 14 years before he died of natural causes,” he said.

Obel who inherited the herbal medicine expertise from his late father, has urged Kenyans to prepare early for their burial ceremony to save relatives from shouldering the burden.

“Just as we are making investment plans, Kenyans should also plan for their deaths. Let us spare our relatives and friends the agony of raising funds for burial. Let us plan for these when we are still alive,” he said.

He added: “We should shun beliefs that if someone plans for his burial while still alive, he will die. This is why many Kenyans die without writing Wills. They think if they write a Will and tell their children how to divide his estate, they will die.”

Obel, was a teacher for 34 years and served in eight primary schools before retiring in 2008.

One of his daughters is a high school teacher in Bankok, Thailand while another is a General Service Unit officer. 

Asked how his daughter got a job in Thailand, Obel let out a hearty laugh. 

“You know I am well connected in this government. I know many senior people who matter because some are my patients. I am not a small man.”

Like his late father whose clients included Cabinet Ministers and other influential personalities, Obel also boasts saving lives of the rich and the poor with herbal medicine.

“Herbal medicine is one of the best things I inherited from my late father. He was a great man and I am proud to be following in his footsteps,” he said.

Unlike his father who had seven wives, Obel has one wife, also a primary school teacher in the locality.

“My wife is my biggest supporter. I rewarded her with a motorcycle which she uses to go to school every day. It gives me pleasure to see her riding on the motor bike across the village,” he says.

The retired teacher wants to partner with research organisations in his herbal medicine clinic, especially in the treatment of throat cancer.

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