He served in various capacities as one of the dreaded youths and party operative for many years. Some of the roles he undertook included gathering intelligence information as an advance team before feeding proponents with the same information before they could finally strike at enemy positions.
But Tom Obengo who is today a director in one of the leading transport companies in Western Kenya regrets working as a party youth and loyalist for many years.
Obengo started working as a youth and diehard in 1997 and worked tirelessly for the then National Development Party (NDP) leader Raila Odinga who was at the time the Langata Member of Parliament.
The agile youth who is today a director at Molo Lines Transport Services with over 30 employees says that he and other colleagues went on very dangerous missions in many parts of the country as they pursued and protected the interests of Odinga.
He vividly remembers an incident in 1997 when Odinga had declared his interest in that year’s general elections. Obengo says that aggressive youths who were loyal to then Kisumu Town Mayor Lawrence Akinyi Oile stormed an NDP rally at the Jomo Kenyatta Sports Grounds in a spirited bid to disrupt it. He says that their members quickly moved in and in the process vanquished the enemy.
Obengo who is today a staunch church member says that two youths who were allied to Oile died in the process while scores sustained serious injuries.
He said Oile was closely monitoring the events at a Balcony of a famous hotel nearby. Obengo also remembers when they went on a mission at Chwele in Bungoma district at the time. He narrates that campaigns to change the constitution had reached fever pitch and the ODM high command was keen on carrying the day.
Obengo said that many youths in Bungoma were either killed or maimed during the bloody skirmishes. “One youth regretted that his new brand knife had got stuck in the stomach of his dying victim.
Obengo explained that he went as an advance team on several occasions after which his colleagues later struck at the enemy. The former youth leader says he used to command a group of over 20 youths on several missions before retreating back to base.
The matatu sacco director went on to say that he went on the same mission during the NARC presidential campaigns in 2002 where Odinga was a front runner before endorsing Mwai Kibaki who eventually won the elections.
He says that he was one of the people who were tasked with protecting Kibaki throughout the campaign period until he was sworn in.
Obengo was earlier assigned to former Karachuonyo Member of Parliament Dr Adhu Awiti at the National Assembly for about two years.
This said the director things started taking a different turn for the worst after Kibaki had been sworn in.
Obengo who is today a very bitter man with party big wigs says that they were never even given a chance to go to State House nor were they considered for employment in the NARC government.
“Some General Service Unit officers told us that things have changed since Kibaki had been sworn in where even Odinga could not be allowed at State House. They advised us to understand the situation until things settle”, said Obengo during the interview.
He is however great full to former Kisumu Mayor Sam Okello who he said recruited a number of ODM youths into Town Hall.
He revealed that almost 20 youths are engaged at the Kisumu County Government.
Obengo added that the same predicament befall many youths who have either died or resorted to other forms of earning a living.
“One of my former retired comrades is now mentally deranged while one is employed at a local butchery”, he laments.
Obengo is however proud that he has managed to employ six of them at Molo Line Transport Services where he remits statutory deductions for them as well as medical scheme for them.
Obengo says he controls some 320 fleets of vehicles in many parts of Western Kenya with the headquarters in Kisumu.
He intends to open other branches across the country.
He hails from Karachuonyo in Homa Bay County and was borne in Mombasa in 1969 and went to local schools before pursuing a course in refrigeration repair and installation.
He has worked in several companies such as Equator Bottlers in Kisumu and the area Kenya Breweries plant. But how did he finally land in the transport sector.
Obengo narrates that a former nominated councilor at the defunct Kisumu Municipal Council Grace Wafula approached him and informed him that Molo Line Company has a vacancy for one person as a clerk.
“I did not hesitate and immediately took over the offer. At first most people thought he had gone insane since he was leaving a lucrative job at Kenya Breweries in favour of being a “Tout’ at the notorious Kisumu bust terminus.
He ignored his critics and continued working at Mololine and was soon elevated to a supervisor and inspector at the company due to his diligence at work.
The director did not forget his party saying he would provide transport whenever need arose. He says that he managed to use his reputation as a dreaded party youth to make inroads at the Kisumu bus terminus which he notes is full of hardcore individuals.
He enumerated that the most crucial moment was during the 2007/ 2008 post-election violence where he used his background as a party youth and closeness to Odinga to ensure that all their vehicles traveled safely to and from many parts of the country.
Obengo noted that when the time for a split came he opted to remain back in Mololine and negotiated to be a director in the company.
“I told my colleague that both of us cannot leave to go and start a new company ‘He says. Obengo says that he inherited a debt of close to 4 million shillings which he later settled. Obengo says that he has managed to recruit many reputable people into his SACCO, some of whom are lawyers, members of the Kenya defense forces and prominent businessmen. Obengo says that he sponsors at least three widows every year by building for them houses with corrugated roofs.
The political gun for hire turned businessman takes care of a number of orphans as a way of giving back to the community.
“The community has all along been branded and this has made us lose a lot in terms of employment in the civil service and access to credit”, he decried.
Obengo has a lot of respect for the late Fidel Odinga and Nyakach Member of Parliament Aduma Owuor who on numerous occasions came to the aid of party youths.
He said the same was the case with former Kisumu East MP Eric Gor Sungu and dismisses the rest of Luo politicians as selfish and egocentric characters who only use people for political convenience.