Jakoyo Midiwo: One of Siaya County's gems

Former Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo

Former Gem Member of Parliament Jakoyo Midiwo. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Gem constituency in Siaya County is renowned for its famous sons and daughters.

From its famous Chief Odera Akang’o to Clement Michael George Argwings Kodhek aka Chiedo Mor Gem (CMG), the first black lawyer in East Africa and the first one to open a law firm, to Prof Peter Wasawa in the academia to musician Collela Mazee and Okatch Biggy as well as boxer Conjestina Achieng, this place in Siaya County has produced famous people.

That’s not all; there is Jakoyo Midiwo, a former Gem MP who died on Monday. Sharp and witty but also ill-tempered, he was known to defend his position despite strong opposition.

He was a good debater, many say, and defended his ODM party with zeal when he served as the deputy minority leader in the eleventh Parliament and a coalition chief whip during the coalition government.

Midiwo died aged 54, having served as Gem MP for three terms between 2002 and 2017 on the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) parties respectively.

Midiwo was an accountant by profession, and a computer system engineer but thrived in politics. However, his bid for a fourth term in Parliament was unsuccessful as he lost to Elisha Odhiambo.

In his message of condolence, President Uhuru Kenyatta termed Midiwo as a forthright, brave and straightforward leader who spoke his mind at all times.

Such instances of boldness were witnessed in July 2008, when Midiwo accused then-Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka of lying in the House. The Speaker demanded that he withdraws the word ‘lying’ and apologise, saying that was not a parliamentary language. The Speaker advised that the MP should have used the word ‘misleading’.

“Mr Deputy Speaker, when the leader of Government Business said that tomorrow, if given time, they will prove what has been said by the two gentlemen to be untruth, I think the opposite should be what I said, but I withdraw it, nonetheless,” he said.

Midiwo would not shy away from TV interviews and would tackle many topics with sobriety.

In his constituency, the former MP initiated many development projects like roads, a mark that he will be remembered for.

But the MP was also known to take one too many and on many of these occasions, misbehaved in public. This was at play during a bar brawl in 2013 where the MP engaged some rowdy youths at Mamba Hotel, who were eventually thrown out of the hotel.

The MP sued NTV and was awarded Sh5 million but the decision was reversed in 2018 by the Court of Appeal saying being a national leader and a public figure, Midiwo was subject to public scrutiny “on higher plane or limits than ordinary persons”.

When he failed to defend his seat during the 2017 general election, the MP was seen chasing around some of his agents for letting him down. He also accused some top politicians in the party of being behind his downfall and it was not until recently when ODM leader Raila Odinga, who is also a relative, prevailed upon him to let the matter rest.

Apart from politics, Midiwo also invested in the hotel industry, running one in Kisumu but was demolished by the county government when Kenya Railways reclaimed its land. He relocated the business to Kondele. He also ran a radio station, Radio Umoja, but later quit the business to concentrate on politics.

In the August house, Midiwo chaired several committees including on Finance and the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Broadcasting and House Business Committee.

After losing his parliamentary seat in 2017, which he tried defending on an independent ticket, Midiwo retreated to a quiet life and the last time when he was seen in public was when President Kenyatta launched a road in his constituency.