No one has ever become poor by giving — Anne Frank
I watched helplessly as my father Mzee Phillip Oyieri Okalo wasted away. The tall, muscular, 6-foot-2 giant of a man died on my lap on November 8, 1990. Cancer of the throat had eaten away all his muscles and flesh, leaving behind a miserable bag of bones.
I was devastated. I could barely eat, sleep or perform ordinary duties. I had struggled with him for years, visiting various health institutions and herbalists in search of a cure to what was then ailing him. It was in his last days that doctors told us he had cancer.
In 2005, 15 years after we had interred Papa, my mother succumbed to cancer of the colon. Once more I could do nothing.
In my state of shock and horror, however, one thing kept me going, the love, kindness and generosity of my colleagues in the media and public relations fraternity.
Today, with social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook, journalists have better and more efficient networks to help their colleagues in need. One such colleague is Dominic Odipo, the long-serving business writer and editor with the Standard Group.
Odipo, who worked with the defunct Weekly Review and Kenya Times, made a major contribution in the fight for democratic space in Kenya using his pen. Today, he lies on his sick bed after suffering a stroke in 2013. He urgently needs our help.
RAISE SH2 MILLION
With the power of numbers, despite our individual challenges precipitated by Covid-19, we can easily raise the Sh2 million Odipo needs for his medical assistance.
Good people, they say, are like candles, they burn themselves up to give others light. My colleague and friend Odipo, is such a person.
In our various social media groups, we jointly pray for his quick recovery, that the Almighty God will heal him and restore his physical, emotional and mental health. The young generation of journalists greatly need his intellectual guidance and mentorship.
As a lecturer, an editor and writer, Odipo has touched many lives. His disarming smile, his calmness, and quiet nature combined with deep intellect, attracted many who were eager to drink from his fountain of knowledge.
Journalism students are missing out on his deep columns. Articles that would look deeply into the ills of society and offer solutions to numerous communal problems.
When did the rain start “beating” us? wrote Odipo on March 17 2014,
“There was a time, not long ago, when a nurse who was reporting for duty at Kenyatta Hospital at 2pm would leave her house in Jericho at exactly 1.30pm sure she would catch the 1.45pm No.7 bus at the nearest stage. There was a time, not too long ago, when the blue Sh20 note bought you four beers at any bar in Nairobi City Centre, including the Nairobi Hilton’s Ivory Bar.”
There was a time indeed when Kenya ran like an organised, civilised society devoid of crime, disorder and corruption.
Earlier, on January 13, 2014, he wrote: Why a “Nguema” can attain power in Kenya: “Kenyans need to understand very clearly that politics is not just a matter for the politicians. It covers everything, including the air you breath and the water you drink.”
Odipo was referring to the illiterate and mentally deranged leader of the tiny African Nation of Equatorial Guinea, Francisco Macias Nguema, who terrorised his people for 11 years.
Under his watch, thousands were killed, while thousands of others were imprisoned or forced into exile. Kenya, argued Odipo, is not immune to being taken over and overrun by a Nguema, unless Kenyans stay alert and participate in electing worthy leaders.
Odipo is a rare breed. Most of his colleagues say he remains the most calm editor they ever worked with. A man of a few words, he rarely has time to engage in tittle tattle that's common with most journalists.
From his desk in Likoni Rd, he churned out a column as well as ensured all business stories were thoroughly edited before appearing in the next day’s paper.
A consummate reader, Odipo transformed the weekly column he ran in the business section of the paper.
He made the commentary a joy to read for the ease with which he dissected economic issues and presented them to his readers. DO, as many still call him, was focused on his work, it was not strange for him to walk into the newsroom, edit his stories and leave as soon as he was done.
As such, it was no surprise that when he was offloaded by the management, he continued to work for about a week before one messenger told him to read the letter on his in-tray.
“On realising that his services had been terminated, he simply packed his belongings and left,” recalls his former colleague David Okwemba.
The words of Jane Stanfield ring clearly in my mind: “I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.” My colleagues did it for me when I was in dire need. We can all do it for Dominic Odipo.
Mr Atemi is a veteran journalist. Send any contributions to PayBill No: 7202707 Account No: 127-208-0730