Joel Ogolla: If you can retrieve my dad’s bible, I’ll keep it as a memento

Joel Ogolla, General Francis Ogolla's son, speaks at the memorial service at the Ulinzi Sports Complex in Nairobi.

Photo credit: PCS

What you need to know:

  • He said the general respected everyone, was a God-fearing man and loved playing golf.
  • On Tuesdays and Fridays, he said, his father was always on the track training.

General Francis Ogolla understood that he, like other creatures of the earth, was only a sojourner, and until his death, he almost knew that his death was coming, said his son, Joel Ogolla.

Though he had many plans for the military and his family, Joel said, his father spoke in a certain tone that suggested he would be needed at some point to fill his father's void.

“He understood that his position was temporary and it would always end… But he spoke in a certain tone that will suggest that ‘my son, I won’t always be here, and you will need to take care of my wife and my other children’ which I am more than ready to do, and it will not be a problem,” he affirmed.

Joel’s voice never at any moment betrayed his conviction and ability to take up the mantle. In fact, On Friday, he was telling the mourners at their home to smile a little.

To many, his father was the Chief of the Defence Forces (CDF) and always referred to him by the titles of the office he held. But, his dad, he said, despite being a general, was alive to the fact that all that was vanity.

“As he lies here with his uniform, I see they put his medals, his sword and boots. He loved it as a tool for the job but nothing more. Don’t be under any illusion that he thinks he’s important once he breathed his last,” he said.

While quoting the biblical book of Matthew 5:3 which is summarised as the beatitudes of Jesus and says that blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, he referred to the departed general as “the poorest man in spirit”.

“Chase cars and titles such as CDF, to him it was all vanity. It was a necessary thing for him to be able to fulfil his job, nothing more,” he said.

To explain how simple his dad was, he said that the casket that bore his remains was “very simple” and made from rough wood.

“Mzee lying over here, the casket he’s lying in is a very simple mbao ambayo hata haijapigwa randa; it’s very rough. I’ve just been told it actually cost Sh6,800. Hii mambo mingi ya casket, ati mtu mkubwa Sh500,000, Sh1 million, his essence and spirit is no longer with us. This is a body which he served the country with, and now it is finished.”

On why his dad was being buried three days after his death, he said, it was his father’s wish to be buried in a very simple way.

Joel Ogolla: My father's casket hardly cost Sh6,800

“As you know, Jesus himself how he was buried: he was wrapped in a sheet and put in a tomb. Right now, mzee is wearing the uniform he donned for number one functions, but tomorrow we’ll be wrapping him in the sheets. We’ll extract him from the casket and lay him in the ground so that he can return to dust as quickly as possible, just the way he wanted it, and just follow the man he admired the most, Jesus Christ.”

He said the general respected everyone, was a God-fearing man and loved playing golf. But the day he was appointed to be the CDF was the last day he played the game he liked most.

“Somewhere in that helicopter wreck is his Bible, which was his most precious possession,” said Joel Ogolla, as he eulogised his dad on Saturday during the memorial service held at the Ulinzi Sports Complex Langata on Saturday.

Anyone who worked with his father, Joel said, would attest that he always had a Bible with him. And, if the military would be able to retrieve it, he would keep it as memorabilia.

 “I am hoping they are able to retrieve it from the accident. I’d want to keep it as a memento and for the rest of the family as well,” Joel said.

His father’s Bible meant a lot to him, he explained that they would sometimes as a family engage in a Bible competition “and discuss mortality and all these things of life.”

On Tuesdays and Fridays, he said, his father was always on the track training. The general, he said, told him “If I’m the general, I have to show that this test is possible’. And, ironically, he did I think the most push-ups of everyone here. We did push-ups; he did 80 of them at his age, over 60. He did press-ups, I think about 50, and he ran 3.2 kilometres in about 19 minutes, which is absolutely phenomenal for his age.”