Last Saturday, Nation published an interview they had with their own columnist Phillip Ochieng. The veteran revealed some previously unknown details about his life. Among the most shocking revelation is that he does not believe in God. When asked when he rejected God, Phillip could not bring himself to point to any particular time.
Q: You were brought up by a Seventh Day Adventist. At what point did you reject God?
A: I can’t point to any particular time because it must have been a very long process. But I can say it could have something to do with that very strict SDA upbringing where you had to go to church twice a day seven days a week. My grounding with Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin also has something to do with my atheism.
Though, this is not the first time he revealed this, Ochieng recounted why he did not finish his degree, despite being one of the few beneficiaries of the Mboya/Kennedy airlifts. Q: You were a beneficiary of the Mboya/Kennedy airlift of 1959, yet you came back without a degree. What went wrong?
A: I did not complete my degree in Literature because I married at a dangerous time — only two years after I had landed in Chicago. The result of that union is a daughter who discovered me two years ago. She was brought up in similar circumstances with (President) Obama. Below are some other interesting parts of the interview.
Q: You lived with Tom Mboya, who was killed 44 years ago yesterday. What do you think Kenyans don’t know about him?
A: Mboya was a town sophisticate, a dancer, a boxer, a footballer and a woman killer. He loved women like sukari nguru.
Q: Tom Mboya was assassinated. Jaramogi withered away with unfulfilled ambition. Time does not appear to be on Raila’s side. Do you see the Luo nation producing a person who can be embraced by the whole country in the near future?
A: There is a man who is very intelligent, mature, and highly educated. He has served in government. His name is Dalmas Otieno. One of the first Kenyans to go to Makerere, I think he is best suited to take over from Raila. I have also thought of (Nairobi Governor Evans) Kidero, but the job he has now will kill him. If it were Mboya, he would have used the position to transform himself into a key presidential contender.
Q: Your reportage of the murder of Tom Mboya on July 5 1969 is considered the height of your journalistic career. Is it true you wrote the story under the influence of alcohol?
A: Well, it could have only enhanced it. But Brian Tetley, with whom I wrote the story, was never known to write a sentence without knocking down a few bottles. He was typical Fleet Street.
Q: Gitobu Imanyara has accused you of being the ugly face of journalism, the intellectual prop of the oppressive Nyayo regime when you edited ‘Kenya Times.’ What was the motivation behind the Kanu briefs which you published?
A: I don’t know why you have not accepted when I tell you that I didn’t write those things. I was sacked from Kenya Times in 1991 perhaps to pave way for the writing of those briefs in the election year of 1992. Well, I said many things those years which were not popular, like telling off then American ambassador Smith Hempstone for interfering with our politics and talking at our politicians as if they were children.
The same politicians who pilloried me then celebrated me for telling Edward Clay the same thing. My values have not changed. Things change. Maybe I was ahead of my time.
Q: You worked under Ben Mkapa at the Daily News of Tanzania in the 1970s yet you don’t seem to have kind words for the man who later became Tanzania’s third president.
A: Mkapa was a good civil servant, highly intelligent, but very right wing. As president, he didn’t encourage me to have kind words for him. He reintroduced what Nyerere had fought hard to annihilate — corruption.