Unsung hero Okiya Omtatah deserves top honours

Okiya Omtatah

Activist Okiya Omtatah.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The recipients of this year’s Madaraka Day state awards deserve commendation. The National Honours and Awards Committee has improved its performance in selecting and awarding the national orders, medals and decorations. It is becoming increasingly clear that the body treats the task with the seriousness it deserves.

Gone are the days when the list of recipients of the prestigious state awards was drawn arbitrarily. Some previous recipients, like numerous broadcast journalists, were honoured for doing the job that they were employed to do.

Somebody somewhere was clearly pulling the strings behind the operation, which was an outright contravention of this noble national task. Acknowledging and awarding the efforts, accomplishments and contributions of an employee is best left to the employer, most of whom are in business for a profit.

Thanks to the committee, Kenyans who have brought national honours—such as Teacher Tabichi and marathoner Eliud Kipchoge—have been awarded. However, the efforts of one man have, over the years, been left out.

So it is true that prophets are not without honour, even in their own home and among their relatives? It seems Okiya Omtatah is a man many Kenyans love to hate. His efforts have stood out yet not even the people of his Busia County could trust him in 2017 and give him a ticket to the Senate to safeguard their money.

Mr Omtatah has, over the years, ensured that Kenya is a constitutional democracy where the Executive and Parliament have limited powers. He has shown the ‘Who is Who’ in this country and the two arms of government that the public good is contained in the law and that if you want to do anything, you must do it within the confines of the law.

Surprisingly, the man is not a lawyer and may never have stepped in the Kenya School of Law but his ability to convince highly learned judges does not disappoint.

It was William Shakespeare, in his romantic comedy play Twelfth Night, or What you Will, written in 1601, who said: “Some people are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” To this I add my humble contribution: Some people are born with the ability to achieve greatness due to their overwhelming courage and genius, and Okiya Omtatah is one such man.

Omtatah has risked his life and ribs for the sake of Kenyans. But to him, it seems he lives forthe maxim “With great risk often comes great reward”.

The National Honours and Awards Committee should now take notice of this man’s achievements before their Norwegian Nobel laureates counterparts do—like in 2004, when they recognised and awarded the late Prof Wangari Maathai for her environmental conservation achievements before we had even noticed what she was doing.

Ngure Kamau, Nyandarua


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