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Babu Owino’s rags to prominence tale

It would have turned out differently if Embakasi East lawmaker Babu Owino was the type to easily give up.

As a child, at one time, the vocal lawmaker confesses he did not find value in education having come from a humbly background where he and his family struggled to make ends meet.

Paying his school fees was a consistent headache for his family.

Purchasing essential school items was also a major challenge he faced.

For ordinary children, these challenges can easily make them drop out of school.

For Mr Owino however, he possessed some rare qualities including determination, resilience, passion for education, and hard work.

Whenever he was on the verge of dropping out of school, Owino, born Paul Ongili, would listen to advice from his seniors and elect to soldier on.

His determination and love for education have since made him prosper and transform into one of the most influential people in Kenya today on the political scene.

He shared his life story with some 5000 male students from Homa Bay where he was called by Governor Gladys Wanga to be the main speaker at the Governors Mentorship Camp, Boys Edition held at Wang’apala Boys High School in Rachuonyo East on February 19, 2024.

Mr Owino is the last born in a family of three.

They grew up in Nyalenda, one of the informal settlements in Kisumu.

“My mother sold changaa (illegal brew) and used the money generated from the business to take care of us. Changaa was banned and it was difficult for her to conduct the businesses,” the legislator said.

His father died when he was in primary three leaving his mother with all the responsibilities of taking care of her family’s needs.

From time to time, police officers would raid his parents’ house to arrest people drinking alcohol.

At one time while in Secondary school, he was among the people arrested.

He was locked in the police cell and spent his night at the police station.

This made the legislator develop trauma, bitterness, and frustration during his childhood.

The politician recalls how his mother struggled to put food on the table and provide for other amenities.

Sometimes, the politician’s mother would be beaten by police and weep as her children joined her in her cry.

This made her develop hypertension.

Most of the time, especially at night, her blood pressure would increase to an alarming level and her children were her only hope.

“We would carry her and put her on a bicycle which was the only boda boda around and take her to the hospital,” Mr Owino said.

The legislator says he lived like a chicken where each member of the family would leave to fend for himself or herself in the morning only for them to regroup in the evening.

Nevertheless, Mr Owino kept his spirit of acquiring education.

While in school, he maintained being among the leading students.

“I was always in the top three. I ensured that I studied hard,” he said.

Mr Owino revealed that one of the people who motivated him was a man he identified as Jamkono who came to partake the illegal brew at his mother’s house.

When drunk, he would tell Mr Owino to work hard.

“I would stay awake until late when all the customers had left before I began to study. I kept my legs in water to avoid falling asleep,” Mr Owino said.

After he completed his primary education, the legislator contemplated not joining secondary school owing to financial constraints.

But his mother who was equally passionate about education decided to give him all the necessary support to join Form One.

She even reported the legislator to a national government administrator who intervened on the matter.

“My mother reported to the local chief that I wanted to suspend education. The administrator encouraged me to proceed to high school which I did,” Mr Owino said.

According to the legislator, his other siblings decided to temporarily suspend their education for his sake.

They wanted his mother to have an easy time paying fees after he joined secondary school.

Mr Owino enrolled in Form One at Kisumu Boys High School where he equally excelled.

He said part of his fee was paid by neighbours who conducted a funds drive and managed to raise Sh 900.

“I remember buying a blazer from a second-hand cloth dealer at the bus stop at Sh 150. It was unique in the entire school,” he recalled.

Throughout his school life, Mr Owino developed leadership skills.

He was a prefect from Class Three to Class Seven and a head boy in Class Eight.

He was equally chosen as a student leader in high school.

Later after Form Four, Mr Owino moved to Nairobi where he lived with a relative in a one-roomed house.

In the capital city, he won a scholarship to join A-levels at Millennium Academy and got a distinction.

Thereafter he joined the University of Nairobi to pursue a course in Actuarial Science where he got First Class honors.

“The only time I knew I could make it in life was when I joined the university. I have never looked back since,” Mr Owino said.

Babu Owino has since transformed into a man of means.

He is a two-term lawmaker in Nairobi who holds considerable interest among the youth having also served as student leader in the University.

He is known to own a posh house and car, among other amenities and recently suggested in a TV interview that he would contest for a gubernatorial seat in the 2027 polls.

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