By Gilbert O Kenya
As a young charismatic and flamboyant politician, he first shot into the political limelight during the infamous 1988 Mlolongo elections, whereby he went ahead to trounce the then West Mugirango MP David Onyancha Anasi.
Some of us were too young to comprehend what happened. But we are told that the 1988 Mlolongo Election was the mother of all Sham elections in Kenya, since independence.
KANU being what it was, the system preferred the then incumbent – an avowed KANU hawk – over the young, ambitious and ideological politician. So, the party honchos shamelessly rigged Obwocha out.
There was growing discontent against the KANU single party dictatorship amongst the Kenyan populace; something that made the paranoid Moi regime totally allergic and averse to any young politicians who seemed to have a mind of their own.
Henry Onyancha Obwocha aka “Egesora Nyabirore,” (the fiery bespectacled dragon fly) would pounce back, in the first multiparty elections in the Moi regime, in 1992. Running on a FORD KENYA ticket, he swept KANU’s David Onyancha Anasi out of office with a landslide.
The man would go ahead to become my MP for three straight terms since 1992. This means that he was the only MP those in my age group knew, in West Mugirango, from childhood until we grew into adulthood.
Those who only saw Hon. Obwocha during his last days, when he was a bit feeble and subdued due to illness, may not know this: during his heydays, the man oozed pure charisma and style, on the campaign trail, only comparable to that of the late George Moseti Anyona and Zachary Onyonka, in the larger Gusii political landscape.
He had a smart campaign strategy whereby he had all grassroots opinion shapers such as school heads in his core campaign team. My dad being one of them, he was always in the thick of his campaigns.
During the campaign periods, I could always overhear him and his colleagues having animated discussions in our house, as they planned Obwocha’s campaign schedules.
After his triumphant entry into Parliament in 1992, Hon.Obwocha teamed up with other young and smart opposition politicians, in Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s Ford Kenya, such as Raila Odinga, the late Kijana Wamalwa, Jim Orengo, Mukhisa Kituyi and Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o, just to name but a few, to give dictator Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi sleepless nights.
An eloquent debater and fiery critic of the Moi regime by then, Obwocha had a way with words and crowds and knew how to work them up. I remember when he was running for his second term, he faced stiff competition and there was growing disaffection against him amongst the electorate.
On his campaign trail, he came to our village of Nyangena. Just like in many other villages in West Mugirango, there were disgruntled murmurs that the man only showed up during campaigns and disappeared till the next campaign period.
The road leading to Nyangena village was a mess. We were not old enough to vote yet but we enjoyed attending the vibrant campaign rallies because of the hype and drama that characterized them.
As people waited for mheshimiwa’s arrival, I could hear villagers complaining angrily that the man hadn’t even repaired their roads or brought any development to the village, yet he wanted their votes! Whoever told villagers that the work of an MP is to make roads and fund development projects in the village is a story that needs revisiting.
Some villagers were loudly swearing that the man would never see their votes again. To cut the long story short, Henry Obwocha suddenly made an electric entry in a convoy of cars, with a charged crowd in tow.
Dressed in a Nigerian agbada complete with a cap, the man was as flamboyant as a peacock. That was the first time I came face to face with the magic of a real politician’s charm and charisma.
He immediately swung into action and threw very serious verbal jabs at the Moi government and told the crowd how they were just about to bring the dictatorial regime down.
The crowd that was earlier made of a disgruntled lot was soon awed and ecstatic. The man finished his hypnotising speech by doing his signature jig while singing a popular traditional song.
By the time he left, all the villagers were chanting “Egesora, Egesora, Egesora, …” And that was Henry Obwocha for you. That is the Obwocha I knew; a man of the people.
Fare thee well “Egesora Nyabirore”