Video: Michael Joseph’s moving tribute to Bob Collymore

Emotions ran high at the Memorial Service of the late Safaricom boss Robert William (Bob) Collymore at the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi.

The service was graced by President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, several leaders and a constellation of personalities.

Bob’s interim replacement at Safaricom Michael Joseph, eulogised him as a close friend, before fulfilling a pact the buddies made.  

He calmly began his tribute: “About one year ago Bob showed me this poem that he had found in a book and we agreed that whoever survived, the other would read this poem at his funeral. I am genuinely sad and heartbroken to be the one reading this poem today. It is called ‘My Funeral’.”

He went on:

I hope I can trust you, friends, not to use our relationship

As an excuse for an unsolicited ego-trip.

I have seen enough of them at funerals and they make me cross.

At this one, though deceased, I aim to be the boss.

If you are asked to talk about me for five minutes, please do not go on for eight

There is a strict timetable at the crematorium and nobody wants to be late

If invited to read a poem, just read the bloody poem. If requested

To sing a song, just sing it, as suggested,

And don’t say anything. Though I will not be there,

Glancing pointedly at my watch and fixing the speaker with a malevolent stare,

Remember that this was how I always reacted

When I felt that anybody’s speech, sermon or poetry reading was becoming too protracted.

Yes, I was intolerant, and not always polite

And if there aren’t many people at my funeral, it will serve me right.”

He then paused, as if letting the world absorb his pain of losing a friend and went on:

“As always, between Bob and I, I will ignore the instructions of ‘just read the bloody poem’ and say a few more words. He will probably be upset but he would do the same to me,” he said.

Joseph added that Bob encouraged him to write a book about his life and Safaricom.

Moved to tears

“Bob was the bravest man I have ever met. He faced the indignities of bounce of injections, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, constant tests and examinations, pain and in the end death, with an enormous sense of humour and resilience,” Michael said as he fought back tears.

“Over the last 15 years I went from being amused by this white man in a black body pretending to be a very serious corporate person to really becoming a serious corporate leader,” he stuttered through.

But he was overcome with emotions and he let out the tears.

“To the only man I loved and desperately want to live forever, but somehow God had other plans, farewell my friend and God rest your soul.”