Fidel, the son, husband and brother
“He was a man who knew no boundaries,” is a sentiment that many politicians who condoled with the Odinga family echoed during his requiem mass in Nairobi and Kisumu about the late Fidel Castro Odhiambo Odinga.
Since his sudden death last Sunday, friends of Fidel, who will be laid to rest today in Bondo, Siaya County, have acknowledged that they have lost a big shot while to his fans, a generous giver has gone too soon.
In the political arena he will be remembered as a man of the people. His planned meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta before he met his untimely death was not to be.
And in his panegyric, Mr Kenyatta said that Fidel was a man who bore no grudge.
“Fidel would on one hand congratulate you and on the other he would be your competitor. He held no grudge,” said Mr Kenyatta.
Fidel’s father, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s, while eulogising his son acknowledged that indeed there is a time for everything.
“He has lived once and therefore it is enough and now it is time to celebrate him,” said Raila during a requiem mass held in Nairobi.
In his trademark charismatic fashion, Odinga did not fail to acknowledge the presence of Fidel’s first wife, Veronicah Wanjiru at the occasion.
“Fidel’s first wife was called Shiru from Kiambu. When they disagreed, they parted in a very civilized manner. I told Fidel, once burnt, twice clever. This time, you have to choose very carefully,” remembered Raila with nostalgia.
“He came back and told me, dad, this time, I’m crossing the borders. I am going to Eritrea. And that is how he brought us Lwam,” continued Raila.
His mother Ida Odinga described the day she bore her first born son as the best and the day she received the news of his death as the worst of her life.
Fidel’s wife, Lwam Getachew Bekele also delivered a heart-moving poem in memory of her husband.
Part of her emotional tribute letter read, “My love where do I even begin. Six years ago I met my six foot prince charming. Your generous spirit will go a long way… you melted my heart with your kindness. The swiftness of your departure remains shocking to me. But I cannot question God. Till we meet again my love, my husband.”
Rosemary Odinga remembered her brother as a loving man who cared and remained protective of each family member.
“Fidel loved children. He loved his wife Lwam. He loved home and built a beautiful house in Bondo. When his baby was born, he would regularly send me photos of how the baby was doing,” said Rosemary.
Rosemary also described Fidel as a reserved man who was relatively quiet but very observant. “He would see things we couldn’t. And had the memory of an elephant,” Rosemary recalled.
However, Fidel’s younger brother Raila Junior Odinga, may probably be the most hit by the death of his elder brother.
Hours after receiving the news of his brother’s passing, Junior took to his Facebook page to pay tribute to his brother with a Bible verse in Swahili.
Quoting Psalm 121:1, Junior wrote: “Nainua macho yangu, nitazame milimani, msaada wangu watoka wapi naamini watoka kwako Yesu (I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?)” He then added: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes.”
The 35-year-old businessman said he was yet to come to terms with the reality of losing his only brother whom in his words, had utmost admiration for.
During an interview with Saturday Nation, Junior described, the 41-year-old as a friend, a father and a confidant.
“Fidel was my guardian in this life. He played a major role in my life by being their every time I needed him. He was even the father figure we looked up to when dad was in detention,” said Raila Junior.
“He was always protective of me since childhood. Because of his big body, other students feared bullying me because he would punch them,” Junior recalled in gloom.
Having grown up and schooled together, Junior said his brother, whom he fondly referred to as Gagolo was the best thing he had.
“I emulated him a lot since we had the same moral upbringing. He was very inquisitive and always on my business to ensure I was doing the right thing.”
Although he was the best brother, husband, friend and son, his family also acknowledged that he had his flaws.
Junior says that at times, his only brother would be too much when he “treated him like a baby” and at times spent so much money in his quest to help those without and some would not pay him back. He did not like that.
But beyond his err, Junior says that Fidel, an avid football fan was dedicated to family and had a special place in his hearts of his relatives.
Fidel and his brother first attended Kilimani Junior Academy until 1982 when his mother was compelled to change schools for them because of the coup attempt in which Raila was implicated in.
Fidel then moved to Consolata PrimarySschool where his brother, Junior says was the only school that was ready to take them in.
Fidel then joined Mbeji High School for his O level before proceeding to India and the USA for his undergraduate and Masters’ degree in Business Management.
“I keep thinking that he is still going to walk through the door and barge into my business like he used to,” said Junior. “It is difficult to accept that he’s no more.”
Fidel left behind a widow and a one-and-a half-year-old son.