Written by Obed Simiyu and John Kabaka
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The 'People's Watchman' the late Martin Shikuku appearing o the cover page of this July 27, 1987 magazine as he agitated for accountability of lost money. [Photo|Obed Simiyu|West Fm]
Martin Olukhanya Shikuku, known as the ‘the people’s watchman’, was not just your ordinary man, he was a man with nine lives and maybe more.
Known for his aggressive politicking that was fierce than an agitated lioness whose cub has been killed in her presence.
Many know him as a politician who rubbed shoulders with the tyrants of pre and post independence Kenya but least do they know he was a man with another life out of the murky politics of the 42 tribes of Kenya.
He was a family man, an educationist, a disciplinarian, farmer, servant of God, stylist and a traditionalist among many other attributes.
According to his brother, Dr. Lwali Oyondi, Martin Shikuku, never entertained laziness and poor work in class. He hated poor performance from any student. His children were no exception.
He believed in education as a tool to make one wise and see the coin in three dimensions and not only as a currency but a tool to emancipate the less privileged from the bondage and dungeons of poverty.
Through education, Shikuku believed there will be equity in the distribution of resources from the family level. He believed, education would make family members reason in a wise manner and understand that a family needs to have equitable distribution of resources however little are enormous it was.
His wish was to have the first thing the first post independence government should invest in was education. He wanted the first independent government to construct as many schools as possible, train and employ as many teachers as possible, nurture as many writers and authors as possible for there to be as many learned and educated Kenyans as possible to fight poverty and ignorance amongst the people of Kenya.
Because of this strong belief in education, he ensured every of his kin went to school to get an education.
Shikuku, attended Mumias Primary School and St. Peters Seminary in Mukumu, in the then Western Province until his attainment of his Ordinary level certificate.
Ten percent of his salary was invested in a fund for educating the less privileged in his Butere region.
With only three pupils, he started a school on his own farm that were taught under a tree and was managed by his wife the late Beverly Ongecha and her friend Victoria Chikati. The school, Shikuku School, currently has over 720 pupils.
A section of the late Martin Shikuku's children and family members during a public body viewing at the Masinde Muliro Gardens in Kakamega town, Kakamega County on Friday 31, 2012. [PHOTO|Obed Simiyu|West Fm]
“Not at once did the people’s watchman leave bad character, undisciplined character go unpunished. Discipline is not forced, but instilled. But if it is not instilled, then it should be forced,” was his favourite reference as far as discipline is concerned, said Dr. Oyodi.
According to Dr. Oyondi, Shikuku never allowed his children to show indiscipline character anywhere. He never wanted them to be the talk of the village albeit in the negative.
His children, feared to be punished by him as his was not just any other ordinary punishment and according to Mr. Jimmy Owandati, should the children fail in exams or be found in vices, they would rather run to any teacher and beg to be caned by them instead of their father and would as well beg not to be reported.
Teachers, neighbours, and his brothers were equally under instructions not to spare any of his children who exhibited wayward behaviour.
The people’s watchman never liked alcohol and would not withstand drunkards. In all his life, he never got drunk nor used any drug leave for curative drugs administered by doctors.
None of his children, according to Dr. Oyondi uses any drug or alcohol, which was from their father, the late Martin Shikuku.
Servant of God
At one time, due to his staunch religious believes, he was taken to the seminary by his parents to study theology. He readily accepted and joined St. Peters Seminary Mukumu though he did not finish his studies as he said he could not lie to God.
He was not ready to go into fulltime ministering as he had another calling, to be the ‘people’s watchman’, and he believed he could not mix these two.
Dr. Oyondi says that he decided, he will serve God through propagating good governance, democracy, peaceful-coexistence and nationalism.
He dropped out of the seminary to join active politics but he kept his belief that no man was great than him but he was not anywhere near the lowest of God. God is great, he used to say, Oyondi insisted.
Dr. Oyondi further reveals that Shikuku’s belief in the work of God, His commandments and teachings were superior to any other and wanted to follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ whose life no one can match.
Based on the creation stories where every human being will die, he chose to prepare for his death. That is why he dug and constructed his own grave; his coffin and what should be done in his funeral.
Dr. Lwali Oyondi (R) brother of the late Martin Shikuku with daughter and son of the late hero. [PHOTO|Obed Simiyu|West Fm]
Born on December 25, 1932 in Magadi, he was the second born to the late Yohana Oyondi and the late Lucia Andeche. He was baptized on January 15, 1933 and confirmed in 1944.
Children: Shikuku has eight sons and eight daughters. Sons – Michael Majimbo, Sylvano Madanji, Emmanuel, Timothy Oyondi, Abraham Andayi, Jacob Andeche, Stephen Ashiembi and Joseph Martin Shikuku Junior (deceased). Girls – Omusirikwa (married), Serila (deceased), Lucia, Maende (married),Martha Olenyo (married), Julia, Ayuka and Amunga (married).
Wives: Shikuku married four wives. Joska Indeche (deceased), Dolly Achieng from Alego (former Kenya Broadcasting Corporation announcer - deceased), Beverley Ongecha from Ebusakami, Bunyore (sister to William Ngah, the former Fifa referee – deceased) and Frida Nafuna from Mwibale, Bungoma.
Siblings: Silvanos Madanji (deceased), Domtilla Aloyo Oyondi, Wilfrida Alwang’a Oyondi, Ambrose Oluchiri Oyondi, Dr Lwali Oyondi (former MP for Nakuru), Peter Leo Murunga (former head of Hansard) and Victoria Obanda.
Mother: Lucia Andeche daughter of Olukhanya from Abashirotsa clan in Kisa (deceased).
Father: Johanna Oyondi son of Madanji. Madanji married Maende from Ebusiekwe Ebukolo, Bunyore (daughter of Nganyi, the famous rainmaker). Oyondi had one sister, Otenyo and three brothers: Atita, Titus Olendo and Alfred Ombunga.
Clan ancestry: He is from the Aberecheya clan whose earliest known ancestor is Abuti. From Abuti is descendent Ashibambo who was one of the elders seating on Nabongo’s council. A famous trait of Aberecheya is that they will never attack you from the back.
The late Martin Shikuku was a man of style. He loved being smart and presentable without looking too poor and very rich. According to Owandati, Shikuku never wanted to be associated with only one class of people in the community.
His love for the bow tie, Owandati says, was due to his industrious nature where he wanted to move with ease. The bow tie, which Shikuku made as a brand image for himself, to him was easy to wear, complimented his style, resonated well with every class, was convenient with his activism work, among other attributes he believed in.
Owandati says that Shikuku was a man who did not want complicated things thus found the bow tie appropriate.
“You see, when you go out in big hotels meeting big people, you sit around a table for a meal and you have to make sure soup does not drop on your shirt lest you will be labelled ‘mshamba’. Sometimes, the neck tie can accidentally drop in your soup bowl and that is what made Shikuku hate neck ties. He would rather have his bow tie that would not worry him,” revealed Owandati.
Further, Owandati revealed that Shikuku’s love for bow ties was also because he wanted to be secure from the hands of police officers during the Moi regime who were ready to pounce on anybody thought to be opposed to the then president.
He revealed that Shikuku believed it could be easy to be caught by any of Moi’s men if you had a neck tie.
He also believed that you could be easily strangled with the neck tie hence his love for the bow ties.
Shikuku, apart from having dug his own grave and prepared for his funeral, he was a staunch believer of culture and traditions.
Shikuku never revered any person who looked down upon their traditions and cultural believes.
However, he was an enemy of retrogressive culture and traditions.
He did not like people who practice witchcraft, sorcery, and other ungodly practices.
He also loved traditional food as he believed they were rich in nutrients and made him strong in his endeavours.
Shikuku would enter a hotel and say ‘leta ugali’ (bring Ugali) to mean food even if he wanted juice, Owandati recalled.
The late politician also loved traditional games and sports as he believed they united all the Luhya sub-tribes. He also valued other practices such as circumcision, traditional marriage ceremonies and practices performed during burial ceremonies reason why he said the Eshiremba culture be conducted at his burial.
People performing Eshiremba during the burial of Martin Shikuku as he had wished before his death. They engaged in mock fights as they sang war songs. [PHOTO|Eric Lumbasi|West Fm]
Eshiremba is a Luhya traditional rite performed for elderly men at their burial. It entail bulls being moved round the casket or grave with men dressed in traditional regalia singing and dancing to war songs while doing a mock fight with bows and arrows.
This, is done because people generally fear death but then they all will die and a man has to fight to die and it was especially for the brave men who went on the war front to protect their communities.
To instil courage and bravery, warriors normally broke into war dances while singing war songs to psyche up before going out to the battle field. The Eshiremba therefore, was meant to mock death. To prepare the soul and mind of a man that he will die and face death without fear. With courage, it was believed that one could conquer death.
The animals mourn too. It is said even the plants mourn the fallen man who used to take care of them.
To Shikuku, he had conquered death many times in the hands of his enemies.
Mr. Jimmy Owandati during the interview. [PHOTO|Obed Simiyu|West Fm]
Due to his controversial lifestyle both in politics and social life, Martin Shikuku never left chance for anybody to get close to him, not when behind the wheel.
His unwritten but known policy was that nobody overtakes him while he is on the road. This made him drive fast and dangerously albeit deliberately to scare away anybody who would have had an intention to catch him.
However, Owandati said that he was a steady driver with only his bad side being the love for flying low on the road, despite how bad the road was.
“If you do not belt up in his car, blame yourself when you find yourself on the roof of the car,” said Owandati as he remembered how himself, Shikuku and another man, a pastor then, travelling from Nairobi with Shikuku as the designated driver, drove in minutes from Nairobi to Nakuru with no car overtaking them, but overtaking all of them even on sharp bends.
On reaching Nakuru, Owandati says that the friend pastor excused himself to go relieve his bladder but on climbing down, he threw his hands in the air and said “safe journey” as he went to look for another car to take him home.
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