Revealed: The threat that lured Magoha brothers back to Kenya
Mr John Obare Magoha, the elder brother of former Education Cabinet Secretary George Omore Magoha, cracks jokes when he ushers the Nation team into his home in Ahono-Ratudi village in Gem, Siaya County.
One discerns a resemblance with his late brother by the way he issues firm instructions to his sons to bring chairs outside the house and place them under an umbrella tree for the visitors. His children comply with utmost speed.
However, behind the broad smile and laughter is a sad man who is about to bury his two brothers, whom he loved like his own children.
When the 82-year-old sits to tell us about Magoha, whom he fondly refers to as George, he looks down, takes a deep breath and one can easily tell he is pained by the double tragedy that has hit him like a wrecking ball.
Mr Obare took us through the life of Magoha, which was a cocktail of laughter, sadness, inspiration and a challenge to many Kenyans to do good and leave a mark.
He remembered when he took in Magoha as his son in Jericho Lumumba, when he was studying at Dr David Livingstone Primary School in Nairobi between 1964 and 1966 until he joined Starehe Boys Centre from 1967 to 1970.
Magoha would then join Strathmore College from 1971 to 1973.
His 91-page CV details how he has been a professor of urological and transplant surgery since 2000 at the University of Nairobi, trained in Nigeria, Ghana, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Mr Obare attended Magoha’s wedding to his lovely wife, Dr Barbara Magoha, in Nigeria.
“Magoha did much of his work in Nigeria, became a doctor and later fell in love with a Nigerian lady. I went to represent the family at the wedding and, to a large extent, the country, because I was working with a parastatal dealing with tourism,” said Mr Obare.
He was an employee of African Tours and Hotels, a subsidiary of the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation. But Mr Obare was not happy that nearly all his siblings were living abroad and did not want to come home. Prof Richard Alex Nyabera Magoha lived in the US until his death on December 6 last year.
In six weeks
Magoha was in the process of building a two-bedroomed house to accommodate Nyabera’s family and friends during the burial.
The house was built in six weeks and, when Nation visited the home on Wednesday, final touches were being done on the grave behind the house.
A few hours before he breathed his last, Magoha was making calls back home to prepare for the burial of his brother, whose body arrived in the country the same day, and will be airlifted to Kisumu today before it is moved to Umiru Village, Gem Sub-County tomorrow for the requiem mass at Yala Township Primary, before the burial. Since Tuesday, the bodies of the two brothers have been at the Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi.
Magoha’s other brother Charles Agunga Magoha died on August 31, 2021, after a short illness at his home in Stockholm, Sweden. Mr Obare said he threatened his brothers in a bid to lure them back home.
“I told them if you don’t come back and something happens to my parents, I will not send you a telex, I will send you a letter, which will take two weeks to arrive and by the time you get it and reply, I shall have buried them,” said Mr Obare. At the time, Magoha was a doctor and a student leader in Nigeria, Agunga was a pilot in Stockholm, Sweden while Nyabera was in the United States.
He stated that all of his brothers got the message and were home for the holidays, but they went back overseas.
Mr Obare said the person who took him seriously was Magoha, who enquired about how he could bring back money with him to Kenya. Prof Magoha returned to Kenya in 1986.
“George took my message seriously and asked me how he could bring Sh1 million to Kenya. This was a lot of money, and the Kenyan government didn’t want people who came in with large amounts of cash. I tried talking to [former Cabinet minister] Simeon Nyachae over it but I cannot tell whether or not he was allowed to bring the cash with him,” said Mr Obare.
When Magoha came back, he embarked on serious farming, as evidenced by the more than two million trees he has planted on his farm and over 1,000 pigs he has reared, according to his foreman.
Mr Obare praised his brother as a person who was willing to help anybody who had problems, especially in education.
A major blow
“It is George, after I had done the preliminary work of taking my siblings past secondary education, who took over and educated them, fixed them and through his connections and savings enabled them to study abroad. Even here at home, many people have gone through his hands,” said Mr Obare.
In Yala town, locals, who are still in shock, showered the former CS with praises, terming his death a major blow to the entire community. Mr Walter Bwanga, a youth leader in Yala, described Magoha as development-oriented and a person who had changed the face of the sleepy Yala town.
“Prof Magoha was hard-working and straightforward and played a major part in the construction of the church, St Mary’s School Yala, as well as the establishment of Maseno University’s Odera Akang’o Campus here,” said Mr Bwanga.
The Magohas were born to Bernard Boniface Magoha and Mama Joan Sara Aloo Magoha of Ahono Ratudi Village, Gem Sub- County, in Siaya County.
Magoha’s loss is being felt heavily at Maseno University, which he was to join this week as a professor of surgery in the School of Medicine.