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Apr 08

Areba

​Why Dead Owino Refused to Go Home.

You've probably heard of this in the whispers that's usually associated with the 'dead' talk. How could you not have heard of it when it was the first time Owino appeared on TV, only this time while he was fast asleep in a brown eucalyptus-made coffin, not a chance to celebrate this victory. It was that time that everyone dreads, especially city lovers. That time of the send-off. Quick burial arrangements by his next of kin saw Nyathiwa make a first visit to Nairobi to be part of the entourage that would see her departed son journey through to his rightful sunset.

Owino's death didn't come as a surprise. At least not for Baba Jonny, who would occasionally buy him a drink or two at their local in the sprawling Kibera after Owino's persistent Nishikie pleas. He'd rant off lots when the drinks got too many with Baba Jonny on the other side pitying his compatriot between sips of Chang'aa. The best he could do now for the departed comrade was to call his younger brother requesting for one of his matatus to be used to ferry the corpse home. The biggest hurdle down, the burial arrangement committee was tasked with fuelling the matatu which they did.

It was minutes past mid-night when the long journey to Kondele kicked off. This was as per Luo traditions that would see Owino spend a night at his Kibera home or rather former home after days in the cold at City mortuary. Everything went down well until the convoy was well past Kericho, half the journey to the destination, Central Nyanza. That's according to Owino's wife Auma. She says her husband got into his moods and started protesting his send-off with kicks on the coffin. Auma was on the matatu ferrying her departed husband with other 17 people, 18 to be precise, that's with Owino counted. The crew chose to ignore the rogue departed soul. Minutes later, the coffin was wide open, corpse laying few steps away. The matatu had veered off the road, and the coffin broke loose. Luckily, everyone was alive.

Hurriedly, Owino was put back on the coffin to the horror of the passers-by and lifted back on top of the matatu. To the amazement of many, the matatu could hardly move despite ignition being on. It was as if it had been stuck in thick mud. His mother was the first one to try to sweet talk him to accept his unfortunate fate. The son remained unmoved. The coffin was lifted down, taken to a nearby bush and Owino seated down. Rumour has it he was already crying. The elderly were called out to save the situation. It failed. They ended up canning Owino but the tears were still visible. It is only then that Ouma's little brother came with an ingenious idea. They put him back in the coffin with his head facing Nairobi.

The trick on the dead worked. They cheated on Owino, every single one of them. Owino finally arrived at his rural home and was buried the following day. It is only then that it hit me his protest was for a purpose. How could you just leave your home never to return? Leave your pregnant wife and four young children without bidding them bye? How could you return to Kondele, a place that rejected you, branded you an outcast after you failed to educate your younger siblings? How could you leave sweet Kibera and Nairobi’s madness? How could travel in the same car with your brother who's already eyeing your wife in the name of wife inheritance? How could you endure the wind and sun up the matatu as the rest enjoy the shield inside? How could you leave your degree untouched, unused? How could you leave your family indebted to your chama? How could you?

A man never cries in broad daylight. If he does, something is seriously wrong. The case of Owino is no different. “Why the sudden respect when I'm gone? Why the sudden concern in my absence? Why all kinds of praise while I'm asleep? Why didn’t any of you visit me while I was at the hospital? Stop! I need to get back to work and settle my bills before I go”. Perhaps this is what Owino was trying to say, if only he could be able to speak.

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