Elmards Akech, an elderly man picks up a wet towel and uses it to slowly and passionately wipe the huge signage erected in front of his gate at his home in Kandiege Kamgoma village in Homa Bay County.
From a first glance, it is easy to tell that the signage was just recently repainted given the striking look of its colours.
It is even easier to see the love its owner has for it as he carefully cleans it.
Akech continues with the cleaning as a group of women carrying sacks of vegetables passes by and shouts “commander!” before passing their greetings to the elderly man.
For one visiting the place for the first time, it takes only a few moments to know the stature of the man who has now become a village sensation in the quiet farming village in Homa Bay.
And he is not shy to show it off.
The writing is clear on the signage “THE HOME OF ELMARDS O. AKECH (COMMANDER) HOLDER OF THE PRESIDENTIAL AWARD OF ORDER OF THE GRAND WORRIOR OF KENYA”.
And although the word “warrior” has been spelt wrongly, the message is clear for anyone passing in front of his home or visiting his homestead - You are in the environment of a diligent celebrated citizen.
“This is not impersonation. I was given this award fair and square. It is very genuine and I must display it publicly,” he explains.
Since he was given the award in 2011 by retired president Mwai Kibaki, Akech, the former National Youth Service Commander has held it close to his heart.
He erected signage of the Presidential award of Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya at the entrance of his home, including the writing of it on his official car and also wears a small badge of the same every day.
Pictures of the signage as well as his contribution to improving the lives of his neighbours have turned him into a village sensation and a person most people are looking up to.
In social media, however, the picture of the signage has been doing rounds with some users claiming that he is a brag and a proud man.
When The Standard caught up with him at his home, the evidence of his contribution to the country’s civil service was evident.
He explains that he earned the price and cannot hide it.
Inside his sitting room, pictures of him donning NYS uniforms as well as pictures of prominent Kenyan leaders and various medals are splashed in his walls.
“I smell and breathe the government. Nothing fulfils me more than knowing that I made huge contributions to the civil service,” he said.
He explains that the signage and the medals remind him of his hard work and determination to transform NYS and his contribution to ensuring the effective performance of its officers.
“I am very pleased. They all remind me of how hard I worked as an officer serving in NYS,” said Akech.
His path to becoming a celebrated civil servant was rough and rugged.
Before he joined NYS as a volunteer in 1976, his life had been on the verge of collapse having dropped out of school in Form Two.
Akech claims he had taken up the job of escorting the children of a friend in Nairobi to school every day before he opted to join NYS as a volunteer.
As a volunteer, he did not receive any payment from the service.
“After I completed my training, I worked very hard and pursued other training opportunities that helped me rise in ranks,” he said. His first salary was Sh540.
According to the father of five, he made a huge difference in people’s lives while serving in Samburu where he engaged the community in several activities and inspired them.
He claimed that he introduced several morans to embrace sports and also urged them to drop any forms of criminal activities.
Then the call came in 2011. He had been summoned to State House.
“I was scared. I did not know why I had been called and I even thought I was going to be dismissed. Immediately I reached State House, everything changed. I was told where to sit before I was given the award,” he said.
“I was awarded for the distinguished service I rendered to my country. I love the government and it is an honour that I must display to the world because it is genuine,” he adds.
During his time in service, he served in several capacities and even became the NYS officer in charge of the Nyanza region before he retired in 2016.
At Kandiege Kamgoma village where he hails from, however, he is loved unconditionally and has even been appointed the village elder.
They believe his decision to erect signage in front of his home is not misplaced.
William Olande, a neighbour claimed that the retired officer has inspired a lot of people and helps a lot whenever there is a problem.
“He is our leader. We really love him. He urges people to obey the laws set by the government and also to contribute positively to national growth,” said Olande.
His comments are also echoed by Kevin Akech, a brother of the retiree who insisted that his brother dedicated his life to serving the government diligently.
“He is not a brag. Everything he has displayed he has earned them,” he explains. He has also been helping most of us to pay school fees for our children.
This year, the retired officer expressed interest in vying as a local MCA in the area but his children advised him against the move.
In his post-retirement, the passionate former civil servant has now ventured into farming and believes he is contributing to the building of the nation by producing food and being the fatherly figure of his community.