Death like change is inevitable, no one is immune to it. It leaves those close to the deceased with a never-ending feeling of emptiness that one can only learn to cope with but never move on from. This is the state that Kenya has been for the past week, mourning great men who touched more lives than they realized during their lifetime. Life has robbed us of three great men; corporate titan Bob Collymore, the football legend Joe Kadenge and prominent lawyer Karanja Kabage all in a period of one week. The latter might not have been as popular on a national scale as Bob and Joe, but he sure did command respect in his line of work.
The celebration of their lives was definitely marked with a difference, with a genuine outpouring of love that didn’t for a moment feel like an obligation to the departed. The late Safaricom CEO almost sounded like everyone’s best friend with hundreds of people sharing memorable touching personal encounters with him. Not only did he transform the telco into a corporate beast, but he also touched so many lives through selfless leadership. During his tenure, artists had a place in the corporate environment changing the narrative that the corporate world only had room for sharp suits.
He mingled with anyone and everyone, humanizing his position and making his staff proud to be led by him. His style of leadership was unconventional, innovative and accommodating to all. Going by the various accounts online, the man’s wit and brilliance were hard to miss at every encounter. It is no surprise that his memorial service would attract even the highest office on the land because what he left behind was a legacy. Much as he was not a native, he sure did feel like a son of the soil who lived to make improve Kenyans’ lives.
Sporting darling, Joe Kadenge lived with this same sense of purpose up until his struggles with health issues began. Remembered for putting Kenya on the international scale, making the fastest goal in the biggest football league in Kenya; every moment he stepped on the pitch counted for something.
There are only a few times that we as Kenyans are proudest to claim our nationality, one of them being when we shine on the sports front. While our prominence in athletics has always been in our DNA, Kadenge gave us a rare chance to brag about brilliance in Kenyan soccer. His magical touch was translated into rhymes that made childhood memorable. “Kadenge na mpira, shuti goal” was a popular line on most playgrounds immortalizing the man who bowed out at the age of 84.
In a cosmic way, this period of mourning coincided with the 50th anniversary of Tom Mboya’s assassination. The baby-faced political genius was already making waves internationally at the young age of 39 when his life was brutally cut short. A monument in Nairobi CBD lets one reflect on the possibilities that this man and Kenya would have attained, had he lived to his full potential. His death anniversary is a painful reminder of how historical injustices keep robbing this country. Left in a state of “what ifs” because such brilliant minds were what we yearned for to turn the country around decades ago.
While we celebrate and reflect on the lives of these men, we need to rethink our purpose on this earth, more-so in leadership. That every waking day presents an opportunity for leaders to make a difference in Kenyans lives. In the memory of Joe and Bob, anyone fortunate to be in a position of power and influence should use it to do good for those around them. We are a time when we need selfless leadership, that prioritizes the needs of those they serve before anything else. It’s not a question of whether our leaders can leave a legacy but a matter of what type of legacy they aim for.