If you asked the people of Migori County and Luo Nyanza region at large who Ben Oluoch Okello was today, many would describe him a renowned radio journalist first and senator second.
Born in 1963 in Kanyimach village in Rongo, BOO, as he was popularly known (from the initials of his name) among his listeners, shot to the limelight with his breakfast show on Royal Media’s Ramogi FM.
Okello endeared himself to the Luo community through his programme dubbed Kogwen gi Boo (Dawn time with BOO).
The show that began at 5am and ended at 10am attracted a huge following as it gave to a deeper understanding of the Luo culture.
He started the programme at 5am with a morning glory (early prayers followed by praise and worship songs).
BOO then indulged in debates on the new developments in the Luo nation and football, especially Gor Mahia issues, a Kenya Premier League club he served as the publicity secretary.
From 8am to 9am, Okello led debate on topical issues, ranging from politics and education to agriculture and health, especially how to help fight HIV Aids, among others.
With these, coupled with his guests (who imparted expert opinion to his show), he won the hearts and ears of many a listener.
Political pundits believe it is this radio show with a mass following that propelled him to the Senate.
And rightly so because in his campaigns, Okello sold his candidature as the person who understands the needs and desires of Wanjiku (ordinary Kenyan) better.
“As a journalist, I have interacted with the people and I know their problems,” he said on the campaign trail.
“I believe I have solutions. Migori needs a senator who will stand for the people.”
And this paid off.
His mentee and former colleague at Ramogi Samuel Owida describes him as “a politician who never spent his resources on the electorate as they loved him and took charge of his campaigns.”
“He was a likeable man. A man of the people whose understanding of the community’s strata was immense,” Owida says.
Okello started his education in Kanyimach Intermediate School before proceeding to Tharang’anya High School.
He went to Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC) in South B, Nairobi, to study journalism.
Mr Ben later got employed at KBC where he worked for many years in the broadcaster’s Luo vernacular service.
He later quit the state broadcaster and joined Royal Media Services Ramogi where he worked until last year when he joined politics.
“He was charming, firm, brave and was ready to advise, mentor, teach as well as listen to anyone,” Owida, the mentee, recalls.
After working for a while, Okello advanced his education and pursued a bachelor’s degree at Moi University before proceeding to study for a master’s in development communication at the University of Nairobi.
In August 2017, he was elected as the second senator of Migori on ODM ticket.
He replaced Dr Wilfred Machage, who ditched the senatorial race and went for Kuria West parliamentary seat, which he lost to Mr Mathias Nyambabe Robi.
His friends say BOO was a soft spoken politician who served with dedication.
He was taken ill few months after being sworn in as the senator.
Amid his absence from political limelight, residents had raised concerns, with rumours of his death making rounds on social media.
However, a section of Migori politicians, led by Uriri MP Mark Nyamita, came to his defence and explained his absence.
Mr Okello is survived by his wife Hellen Achieng’ and children. -NATION