The Kenya Forum | A Story of Rags to Riches to Demise - The Kenya Forum

January 15, 2023


As Odegi crossed the road to his house near Patel Flats roundabout, the police escort vehicle rammed over him.

More by Rieko Mwenyewe

A Story of Rags to Riches to Demise

A Story of Rags to Riches to Demise

This short story from Rieko Mwenyewe is true, only the names have been changed…


A telephone rang, the caller asking for Mrs. Odegi. The previous day Mr. Gordon Odegi left home at around 4.30 p.m. and told his family that he was going to demand the rent for his house, which had not been paid for some time, from the person who rented it in downtown Kisumu City. He did not come back.

Odegi’s wife Asande took the call. She was told to report to Kisumu Police Station immediately. On reaching the police station, she was asked to confirm that the dead person was her husband.

Early Life

Gordon Odegi was a resident of a Local Kisumo Location. His mother was married when he had already been born. For that reason, he grew up knowing that his father was Odongo Jaboma. Little did he know that Jaboma was not his real father. Two other boys were born after him. Ochieng Danger and Omolo Kamili were the real children of Odongo Jaboma.

During that time around 1930, there was a serious drought which brought with it hunger across the country. Since Odegi was not born of Jaboma, he was not be treated in the same way as the other two brothers. At the eating time Odegi was dragged and pushed to an ant hill to give way for the brothers and the little sister Adongo to feed. When the three siblings were satisfied, the mother of Odegi would crawl silently to remove Odegi from the hole and feed him with the remainder of food which the other siblings had left. This episode went on until Odegi was ten years old.

One day early in the morning Odegi had a dream to find ways and means of minding for himself. He started to walk away from home not knowing exactly where he was going. At the main road near his home, Odegi stopped the Buses which were heading to Kisumu Town. He was lucky enough to find a kind driver who gave him a lift to Kisumu Town. When he arrived at the Town, it was about 12.00noon. Odegi spotted some boys of his age who were strolling aimlessly within the streets of Kisumu. He calmly asked one of them what they were doing in Town. What he was told gave him some hope for survival.

Back at home in Kondiek Village his mother was worried where her son had disappeared. She waited until sundown but Odegi did not come back. Asande was dumbfounded but she could not do anything because the father, Odongo Jaboma did not care for Odegi.

On his part Odegi became friends with the boys he found and soon they started to beg in the streets. With time Odegi who had come from a poor family did not anyway care for him started to keep the little money he received from begging. One day he came upon an old man who wanted a boy who could look after his cattle. Odegi immediately accepted to work for this man at a meager fee of only Ksh.15/- per month. At that time around 1940 the money was too much. Odegi saved this money and soon after looking after the cattle, he would buy some groundnuts and sell them in the evenings and early mornings before he took care of the cattle.

This episode of selling ground nuts and looking after cattle gave Odegi a good beginning. One day he bumped onto an Englishman who wanted a shamba boy. Odegi did not know how to talk to this Muzungu but the boys he used to sell groundnuts came to his aid and translated to him what the Muzungu wanted. He agreed to work for the Mzungu for about six months.

Due to his diligence at work, the Mzungu one day got a job for Odegi at the Railways Office in Kisumuj as a messenger. Hs main duty was to collect Luggage from the Railway Station and bring them to the Office. One day when Odegi went to collect the parcels, he noticed that one of them was not sealed properly. When he opened it, he was surprised to see glittering pieces of items he did not know. Being curious of the items, he did not report to the office on that day but ran to his friends on the street who happened to know more about the item. They told him that those were valuable stones called diamond which used to come from Shinyanga in Tanganyika in those days and the Mzungu used to sell them at a profit.

The boys introduced him to an Asian who agreed to take the diamonds in exchange of a token money which Odegi did not refuse to take. Armed with the cash which was about Ksh,1,500/- Odegi upped his sale of groundnuts and left his work with the Muzungu. The Muzungu, Mr. Bean was not amused, he traced Odegi and just before he could get to Odegi, news reached Odegi who vanished into thin air.

Odegi relocated to Ahero Market and kept on with his trade of selling groundnuts mostly on the streets or during football matches at the weekends. This went on until Odegi was old enough to marry. At Ahero Odegi found a young lady called Achupa who agreed to marry him.

Now being a mature man with some cash in his pocket, Odegi went back to his original home at Kisumu. His siblings were surprised to see a well-fed fully-grown man but they were not happy with his coming back. Odegi introduced his wife but since he was not welcomed back, he pleaded with an uncle who gave him a small piece of land to put up a small house called Simba in the local language.

Odegi left his wife at home and went back to Kisumu to continue with his trade. This time he joined some cartels who were fond of stealing cash from Asians who they were working for. One day the group robbed a shop belonging to an Asian. Realizing that he could be caught and jailed, Odegi rain to his local village at Kisumu Location and hid the cash at the sitting room of his house. He dug a hole five feet down and sealed the floor. He told his wife Achupa, not to meddle with that cash, Meanwhile the other people who helped him to steal reported him to the police and informed the Asian. As soon as Odegi went back to Kisumu Town he was arrested. Since there were enough witnesses who reported Odegi, he was jailed for five years without a fine.

Start of Making Money

Gordon Odegi spent the whole of five years in jail. When he was released from jail, he went straight to his home where he had hidden the money and found that his wife did not touch the money. That is when Odegi started to make money. At first, he used the money to lend to people who needed cash. This trade was called Shylock and the interest received by the lender was great sometime up to 300% per year. For one to get this type of money one had to put down material as security. These included television sets, bicycles, log books and various electrical and electronics items. When one defaults to pay even for one day, the securities were sold.

Odegi had made friends with the banks where he deposited his cash and the banks would honour any cheque Odegi gave to the lenders because his bank balance was huge. From these transactions Odegi soon became a millionaire during those days. He started to buy plots where he build some houses which he rented out.

He kept on with his Shylock trade. Most of his clients were teachers. For a teacher to get the loan, they had to surrender their bank pass books or their cheque books for those who had bank accounts, their identity cards and debit cards for those who had same. In order to get paid the teachers were first to report to Odegi before proceeding to the get their pay from the banks. More often than not Odegi was the one who gave the teachers their salary after he had collected the loan from the teachers. These made the teachers more or less beggars to Odegi.

There was one incident where Odegi lent some cash to one of the officers working for a Departmental Head in the Health Ministry. Odegi did not know good English and this officer knew that he could not understand what he was talking about. The officer defaulted in paying Odegi some money. When Odegi went to collect his dues, the officer came and found a man on sandals and jamba with shorts in his office. He asked William what that man was doing in his office. William told the officer in English that he was his workman and he had gone to get his pay check. Odegi only heard the word workman, he was not amused and he told the officer in Kiswahili, “Bwana Officer what is this man telling you that I am his workman. He is the one with my money which he has failed to pay me”. The Muzungu called William to his office and asked him for the cash the person was asking. William was seriously embarrassed but Odegi went away with his cash.

Gordon Odegi soon became a very reach man. He bought many houses, he started to marry women (he had eight wives at one point) some of them younger than his children. His family began to grow and soon he had over 35 Children. He tried to educate them but most of them were not good in class and they became drop outs Some even started to steal in the town because they did not want to go to school regularly.

One of his daughters refused to go to school and Odegi was told that his second wife, Akelo, was the one spoiling his daughter. The girl used to go to attend night time dancing at the local home where people normally went for entertainment at night.

This wife one day took some money from Odegi without his permission and Odegi did not know who took that money. He decided to check from Waganga men who took his money. They told him that his second wife was the one. The wife did not use this money but gave it to her mother. Odegi was told that whoever used that money would die if she cannot return the money back. Sure, enough the mother of Akelo died mysteriously.

Since Odegi did not want his wife to know about the incident and the fact that Akelo used to spoil his daughter, Odegi fronted a reason to catch Akelo at the point of going to the night outs. He used to come at night and follow the two with lights of his pick up off. He did that on three occasions. One day he confronted the duo walking to the dance place and told the wife that because she was spoiling his daughter, he could not live with her any more. With that the wife Akelo was sent packing.

Aggressiveness of Odegi

What Odegi did not know is that Akelo had a grown-up daughter who was old enough to get married. She told her father that she had found a suiter who is ready to marry her but one condition is that her mother must be brought back. Odegi had no alternative but to bring back Akelo but he bought for her own piece of land away from the original home.

This daughter called Ayuma got married but the husband was not well off. So Ayuma asked her father to lend them some money to build a house. The father agreed but on condition that they return the money. After about five years Ayuma had not returned the cash. Odegi went and removed the items which included timber, nails and iron sheets from the roof of his daughter’s house for the lack of paying back the cash he loaned them.

This aggressiveness started to show negative trends of Odegi’s life. One of the bad things Odegi was fond of was to defraud people who went for help from him. He would ask people the amount of money they wanted, tell them to fill a piece of paper indicating the amount and when they would pay the loan. Odegi would them go to a lawyer who raised loan agreement letter with the increased amount and high percentage. What the lender would see is the auctioneers coming to collect the debt with interest. This made Odegi to be very unpopular.

The Demise of Odegi

After being very poor at the beginning and very rich in the middle of his life, Odegi began to go down because of his aggressiveness.

The day he went to collect his rent from the officer at Kisumu Town, he was not diplomatic enough. The person happened to be a police officer. After Odegi demanded his rent, the officer obliged and paid Odegi through a cheque which apparently was postdated. The officer did not have cash at the bank and Odegi wanted his money by all means.

After giving Odegi a false cheque, the Police Officer followed him with a police escort vehicle without Odegi realizing what was happening. As Odegi crossed the road to his house near Patel Flats roundabout, the police escort vehicle rammed over him. He died on the spot and the police officer retrieved his cheque book. That was the end of Odegi. The incident was reported to police station but nothing happened thereafter. Gordon Odegi died miserably and the case was not followed up. Nobody knew what exactly what happened except that the one-time millionaire Gordon Odegi was no more.


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