Who is the most awesome person you have met? For me, it is Dr Margaret Ogola (1958-2011). The medic-cum-author has entered that rare group of writers published in life and in death! Her 4th fictional title Mandate of the People was launched on 28 January 2013.
Dr Tom Odhiambo a literature lecturer at the University of Nairobi based his Master of Arts degree on Margaret best known book The River and the Source said the concept of friendship (conviviality) was at the heart of Dr Ogola’s books. He said that Dr Ogola challenges us to discover the value of community.
I first met Dr Ogola in 1995. It must have been in September. It was just after the 4th International Women Conference in Beijing (China). I was smack n the middle of my university studies – I had just graduated from second year.
So I was eager to find out what this rather successful professional, mother, wife, and author (she had just won the Commonwealth Prize for literature for new writers in Africa for her first published novel The River and the Source. In the same year, the book won The Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature) had to say about empowerment of women.
Although most of what Margaret said on that day has evaporated with the mists of time, it still left a deep impression on me. She generally spoke about the feminine genius of women as mothers and wives – their caring touch, and attention to detail etc. How a mother’s love multiplies chicken drumsticks.
A master communicator, she asked us whether we bought our girlfriends Chanel 5. She said that it would work wonders. Wooing tips are a sure winner to get the attention of young male adults!
I met Dr Ogola several times after that. She came over to Moi University in Eldoret to speak to a pro-life group while she and her co-author Margaret Roche were researching their short biography on Maurice Cardinal Otunga in 1996.
Our paths crossed intermittently after that. My last meeting with her was in 2009. She had joined Strathmore Business School as Director Director of Institute of Healthcare Management. At about the same time, Strathmore University was hosting CITIZEN TV’s talk show ‘Louis Otieno Live’.
Margaret was battling cancer but she was magnanimous enough to grace the show as a panelist. Her contribution was one of the best I have seen on TV. She broke down abstract policy concepts with ease and humour. Talking about life expectancy, she said: we are told life expectancy in Kenya is 46 years. In that case, some of us should have died long ago.
She spoke about death with such ease. In 2007, she published her third novel Place of Destiny. It is about a woman dying of cancer and the rise to recognition of a former street child as well as issues of poverty.
It is autobiographical because Dr Ogola battled with cancer for many years and she also dealt with the dirt poor in society in most of her working life. It won Dr Ogola her second Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature.