The Extinction of the Luo Brand

The Extinction of the Luo Brand
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A community that once boasted a record number of intellectuals is now a perennial laughingstock.

From outrightly nauseating primetime television soundbytes featuring semi-literate folks screaming serikali saidia sisi,” (sic) to pseudo land surveyors talking about “the riparian people.” What happened to the Luo brand?

The Luo used to be the envy of many. A tribe that was known for its finesse in matters books, fashion and lifestyle is now known for churning out punchlines in comedy mocking our linguistic disabilities and economic challenges!

Growing up to fables of the Luo leaders of yore, who set out to explore higher learning opportunities beyond our shores and would later come back to grace the walls of our institutions of higher learning as distinguished professors, it is hard to imagine how things have rapidly changed.

In the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, virtually all heads of departments and Deans in all marquee universities were from the Luo community. It was the order of the day. The Luos were the envy of many and then some people somewhere decided to throw a monkey wrench in the system to ensure that what was hitherto a rite of passage – higher education was a considered such in the Luo community – became a privilege! 

University selection became a game. Students from Luo Nyanza started seeing their courses of choice morphing into mundane choices with no room for changing courses while other communities getting exactly what they elected from the outset. This writer went to a school in which the top student, who picked Medicine as the degree of choice, was given Animal husbandry by JAB and there was nothing that he could do to change that! At least back then.

As the Institutional onslaught manifested itself, another vice kicked in and this one sealed the fate of our community for eons! 

That the aforementioned group includes Luos is a sorry state of affairs because back in the day, it was damn near illegal for Luos to flunk the intellectual standard aptitude test much less butcher the queen’s language.

Politics became the go-to-career in Luo Nyanza.

Riding the wave of change in Kenya, running for office has surpassed every other endeavor in the community.  Folks have traded books for political rallies, academic seminars for rural fundraisers, lecture halls for party headquarters and lastly titles like “Prof” for “Hon!”

Politics is the number one career!

A casual glance at a picture of a recent graduate posted on social media attracts the inevitable. The words congratulations are often replaced with “our next MP” or “next Senator” etc. Our obsession with elective politics has overtaken our thirst for what constituted the key yarn that weaved our fabric as a community. 

The upshot has been devastating. We still sport the same professors that held court in the 1980s!  Heck, those professors have also joined the gravy train and are now firmly in politics!

In all fairness, I must admit that elective politics is an integral part of our democracy, but it must not be the only thing that we think about as a people. We still need lettered folks in academia and research. We must go back to the drawing board.

A keen observer of our legislative discourse will be hard pressed to find coherent Luo player making some legislative noise. It gets worse when an average social media user combs through the rugged terrains of social media, save for a few well known and proven verbal pugilists, social media is awash with half-baked, linguistically challenged folk with a knack for slaughtering the Queen’s language. 

That the aforementioned group includes Luos is a sorry state of affairs because back in the day, it was damn near illegal for Luos to flunk the intellectual standard aptitude test much less butcher the queen’s language.

We must address the elephant in the room and it starts with recognizing that not all of us can be politicians. We must reevaluate our choices in life. In as much as the title “honourable” sounds nice and sweet, we must realize that there are other avenues of eking out a living and legislative chamber are nowhere near them. 

Our prosperity lies in our own hands. There is a world out there and politics is just a fraction of what it is and in reality, we know how it looks like because we used to run it. 

Let’s go back to the books and conquer the world!


Mike Dande is a political commentator based in Washington DC. 

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