Having served several stints in detention during the KANU era, most people associated the scar above Former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga’s left eye to torture during this period.
Far from it. The scar was as a result of a car accident that saw a Volkswagen vehicle he was travelling in roll several times along the Kericho – Kisumu road when he was a lecturer at the University of Nairobi.
Raila, the Orange Democratic Movement party leader, made this revelation that left mourners dumbfounded, over the weekend during the burial of the man they were together with on the fateful day, Professor John Joseph Okumu at Madungu in Ugunja sub county, Siaya.
While eulogising the late academic who, by the time of his demise was the chairman of the Maasai Mara University Council, the former premier narrated how, on the fateful day, they embarked on a safari to Siaya with Okumu.
“Okumu, by then the head of the Political Science Department, had resigned from the University protesting accusations that he had stolen some vehicle tyres and was moving his property home,” said Raila adding that on this day, they agreed to meet at a Nairobi hotel from where the professor was to pick him up after he was through with an errand.
He says that the professor was to arrive at around 8 pm on the material day and despite his plea that they spend the night in Nairobi and embark on the journey the following morning, he refused.
“He said let us just go and we started the journey, just the two of us,” said Raila adding that the Volkswagen’s tank could only carry a few litres and they had to refuel in Naivasha, Nakuru and Molo junction.
He says that just before Kericho town, they felt tired and he told professor Okumu that they needed to rest a little before going on with the journey. This they did as the vehicle was pulled by the roadside.
Raila said that after a nap of about 30 minutes, they woke up and stretched out of the vehicle before beginning the second part of their journey.
“After Kericho, as we started to descend down the hills, I heard John screaming. When I looked out, I saw the vehicle out of the road,” he narrated to the quiet mourners who included Siaya Senator James Orengo, and legislators Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Samwel Atandi (Alego / Usonga), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Kisumu central MP, Fred Ouda and Siaya County Assembly Speaker, George Okode.
He said that the vehicle rolled four times before landing in a ditch. Within no time, he added, people had jammed the scene of the accident and helped pull them out of the mangled wreckage.
“Someone from the crowd asked me whether I was injured and John looked at him and shouted back ‘are you mad? How can you expect somebody under these circumstances to be alright’?
He says that they were later picked by a Good Samaritan who took them to Russia Hospital (New Nyanza General Hospital) in Kisumu where they received treatment.
Raila said that when they sent somebody to look at the vehicle, he found just a shell as the vandals had made away with the engine, tyres and all valuables.
“We survived. I carry a scar up here and on one of my legs from that adventure with John,” he told the mourners, most of whom appeared satisfied that at last they had got the answer on the cause of the conspicuous scar on the forehead of their leader.
He eulogised the late Prof. Okumu, who died of Prostate Cancer aged 84 years as a bright, courageous and patriotic Kenyan.
By Philip Onyango