It was a picture that spoke volumes about former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s devastation, following the sudden death of his son, Fidel Castro Odinga, last Sunday.
Minutes after the news broke, it was already doing the rounds on social media.
Mr Odinga stood at the gate to his son’s Miotoni Road house in Karen, Nairobi, shell-shocked and his eyes red from weeping. It was the image of a man who, as fate would have it, must bury his son.
But Fidel, 41, was more than just a son to Mr Odinga. He was his confidant and apparent heir to the Odinga political dynasty. He died just two days to his father’s 70th birthday.
All indications were that Fidel was on the way to taking over — a case of the old giving way to the new.
In elective politics, it was no longer a question of if but when he would launch his career. Indeed, it was widely expected he would go for Kibra constituency in Nairobi in 2017. Kibra was hived off the larger Lang’ata Constituency that his father represented for many years.
Going by his associations, Fidel did not subscribe to ethnic boundaries and embraced a less divisive political stand.
Could he have been the bridge across the Luo-Kikuyu gulf created in his grandfather Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s time and which his father, Raila, tried to overcome without success? That is the question that will remain unanswered
But Fidel was already the leader in the family. His siblings described him as protective and the glue that bound them together.
He was the man who knew all their relatives and who made a point of helping all in distress.
This is the man that the Odinga family and country buries today next to his famous grandfather at Kang’o Ka Jaramogi in Sakwa, Bondo, Siaya County.
Since his death at his Karen residence last Sunday morning, family members, close friends and political associates have been in agreement that Fidel was destined for great things in national politics.
Speaking a day after Fidel’s death, Mr Odinga described his first born as his “bridge” to people he could not reach and his ear on the ground.
“He had an easy-going character, held no grudges, and knew no ethnic or racial boundaries. He loved everyone,” he said.
His uncle, Nominated MP Oburu Oginga described Fidel’s death as a big blow to the Odinga family, which, he said, regarded him as Raila’s natural successor.
He noted that whereas Fidel had not attained the revered status of his grandfather, Jaramogi, at the time of his death, he had cut his own niche, away from the influence and patronage of his father.
President Kenyatta’s and Deputy President William Ruto’s statements that they were in contact with Fidel lent credence to Raila’s disclosure that his first born son was his “bridge” to people he could not reach.
Speaking at Mr Odinga’s Karen home on Monday, Mr Kenyatta said: “I am here to mourn someone who was also my friend and who knew no political and religious divides.”
And addressing the congregation during Fidel’s requiem service at the All Saints Cathedral on Thursday, the President noted: “He (Fidel) was my friend. When I shared a building, Treasury, with Raila, Fidel would pass by my office on his way to see his father.
WANTED US TO MEET
“Fidel called me in early December and told me that he wanted us to meet. I told him no problem, we could meet. Unfortunately, that never came to pass,” he added.
Fidel’s aunt, Ruth Odinga, the Kisumu County Deputy Governor shed light on his ability to rise above Odingaism and make independent political decisions.
Speaking during a harambee in aid of the Fidel Odinga Trust Fund on Tuesday night, Ms Odinga stated: “The last phone conversation I had with Fidel last week was very interesting. Fidel said he wanted me and him to travel to Homa Bay this week to campaign for Hillary Alila.”
Mr Alila, one of Fidel’s closest friends, is running for the Homa Bay senatorial seat as an independent candidate after the ODM ticket was handed to the late Otieno Kajwang’s younger brother, Moses, through Mr Odinga’s influence.
Fidel’s role in his father’s politics was aptly captured by his sister Rosemary, in an interview.
Fidel was a smooth political operator and strategist who played a key role in Raila’s politics both in Langata constituency, which he held uninterrupted for over 20 years and on the national stage.
“He kept the Kibera network alive and knew all instrumental persons in the campaign machinery. The family relied on him much to secure Kibera politically as dad engaged in national campaigns or those for the party and coalitions,” she added.
She remembers her brother as a loving man who cared and remained protective of each family member.
ODM’s director of political strategy, Mr Wafula Buke, also hailed Fidel’s contribution to the party.
“Fidel was very resourceful in the running of party affairs. He was always stepping in to help with his own resources and ideas especially during campaigns” he said.
His younger brother, Mr Raila Odinga Junior, says it was through Fidel that he and his siblings got to know the larger Odinga clan.“He made a point of knowing all our cousins and relatives in Sakwa, Gem, and beyond,” said Junior.
Fidel’s widow, Lwam, delivered a heart-moving poem in memory of her husband, and their sweet but short-lived marriage.
“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,” went her narrative.
Raila Amollo Odinga and Ida, we are with you is this tragedy.
Easy-going Fidel said little, had a big heart
Fidel Castro Odinga, who was named after the Cuban revolutionary leader, is no more.
I knew Fidel years back when I was a young journalist at KBC. I had been assigned to cover a Kanu-NDP merger conference at Kasarani. He was young, sharp and flamboyant. He had accompanied his father, Mr Raila Odinga, then the Lang’ata MP and NDP leader, to the conference.
He was a man of few words — always laughing off any criticism levelled against him. He was a fast learner of the game that is politics. He had a big heart.
The Fidel I knew was one man who loved and respected his parents. He could not speak when his father was speaking.
The friendship between Fidel and his father was unique. The two walked together and even drove together to political meetings.
He was passionate about Gor Mahia and news of a K’ogalo’s loss in a match always devastated him.
He loved jokes and always made fun of his friends. Last year, when he was elected chairman of the Kisumu Rugby Union, I met him at the Carnivore Restaurant and congratulated him for the successful Dala Sevens tournament. He smiled boldly and told me: “My brother, hii ilikuwa kionjo tu, next year (2015) itakuwa moto sana.” His parting shot was that Kakamega should also host a sevens tournament.
Fidel’s death came as a shocker to me and all his friends. He was a strong man who had a dream. He never interfered with matters ODM but always encouraged those in the party to remain steadfast and focused. He wished to see a strong, united and victorious ODM.