After weighing this issue in my heart for a very long time now, I have seen it appropriate to speak out. I have to admit that being Luo is a trying responsibility. Being son/daughter of Ramogi is a trying if not a difficult task.
I don’t claim any expertise in this field, neither can I claim to be the spokesman of my community. As an authentic son of the soil, a man who hails from Kano plains – the land of serikali saidia, I believe that my experience as Luo so far is complete and enough for me to write about being one.
To start with, being born Luo is an honour; a great responsibility that you must wear on your head like a scarf proudly. You are also expected to live like one, breath like one, think like one but the only problem is that no manual is handed to you at birth on how to be Luo. Therefore you falter and fail, you bruise yourself a long the way but you are still expected to find yourself in the safe ark of Luo Kitki gi timbegi.
Going to school, your father expects you to be number one.No excuses whatsoever especially when the bar has already been set so high because a Luo child is compared with many professors, lawyers, doctors, etc who are in their village. It’s only in Kisumu where you can’t just throw a stone anyhow lest you hit a molecular scientist.
One day I came home full of pride because I had managed to grab number 3 in school. You see, I’m one of the few Luos who struggled with Mathematics and sciences badly throughout my school life. That day, my pride was ruthlessly extinguished when my dad sat me down and guilt tripped me into believing that I didn’t give my all.
“Who was ahead of you Odongo?” he asked. “Do you know that right now, Dr Robert Ouko is rolling in his grave out of embarrassment because of the grade you have brought home?” he asked me with a face that had been folded from disappointment.
“Do you know that Tom Mboya is ashamed in his grave on Rusinga Island? Odongo, please tell me, is number 3 the best part of your great grand father’s brain you could take? Do you know that he was a paramount chief?” the rant continued.
The story must be familiar in most Luo homes. Unless you come home with number one and a good grade in Mathematics, it doesn’t matter what else you bring home.
Being Luo means that if you decide to do humanities or arts, you are seen as a man who has let down his community. The seat of power rests with those who can crack algebra and excel in engineering. Graduating with first class honours in marketing is just that; graduation. You can as well take your literature degree and donate it away after all who cares anyway.
But to graduate as an engineer even if you get a pass, to come home and be called wakili is the kind of satisfaction that a Luo thoroughly enjoys. Being a doctor is a milestone greatly coveted in our land. You don’t have to be rich to be respected, just excel and do a good course in campus and you will be installed as a village elder at the tender age of 25.
Being Luo is tougher than a wall of concrete. If you are born Luo, then you are an automatic supporter of the great green army. You are listed in the infantry of the green army. Tales will be repeated to you about the club like when they won the league unbeaten in 1976.
You are also expected to appear in Gor Mahia regalia every time they play. You need to know their songs, dance like they do, and you must pay allegiance at the Tom Mboya statue every time the team wins. In fact, a Luo who doesn’t love football, Gor Mahia to be specific is shunned like a man who had leprosy during the Roman empire times (Ask me).
Being Luo is no joke, you have to have fine taste in music. You can’t dance to normal or regular music that everyone listens to. Benga should rank highly in the list of your musical taste. Anything else is seen as defilement to the ear. Go and see how people party in Kisumu and you will understand that Luos were born with the software to enjoy life. It comes to us naturally. We just love fine things in life.
When they say Luo is a lifestyle, they mean it. If you drive a Vitz, and you travel home with it, the eyes you will get can resurrect Luanda Magere to fight yet again for the people of Kano. In Luo land, you would rather walk than own a Vitz. Our pride is too important to be bruised by a car that looks like an April fool’s day joke that has gone too far. By all means, if you can, purchase a German machine or else just drive your normal car in the city but when you go home, please walk.
Being Luo is tough especially during the political season. I have traversed this country but never have I seen a region that loves politics just like religion. You are expected to be a defender of Baba and the Orange party. Anything else is a tragedy that you shouldn’t utter even one bit. You might love Jubilee but you have to keep it closeted. Our people are passionate and I don’t blame them for that. Maybe years of marginalization by two regimes built a militancy kind of mentality in demanding for rights.
That not withstanding, as Luo, you are expected to love politics naturally. It doesn’t matter whether your passion is in rearing goats and poultry. It doesn’t matter whether you love snake farming as a full-time job. In addition to who you are; a mother, a father, a son, a daughter etc you must add on the crown a deep passion for politics.
During a political season, you are forbidden from wearing anything remotely orange. If you don’t love ODM much and you also happen to love orange, just wear an orange boxer instead. Drink Fanta orange if you must interact with the colour.
Being Luo means that you should speak the language whether you were born in the heartland of Karungu, Kochia or in the US. You need to be fluent in the language. In addition, you must take up a Luo name. you are never complete unless you adopt an O in your name. In addition to speaking Luo fluently, please, by all means, try and add a bit of English. You see for Luos, English is like a branch of our language. If the Luo nation were to remain as a county, I don’t think we would speak the Bantu/Arab influenced language known as Swahili.
We would also make a declaration that no Luo person should break English. Our courts would pass stiffer penalties on those who break English than those who steal.
And when you die, it doesn’t matter what you wrote in your will. Whether you wanted to be cremated or buried in a cemetery is none of the business of a dead person. You will be buried next to your grand fathers and those who have gone ahead of you. Whatever notion you have or modernized ideals you carry in your heart, you will carry them safely to your expensive coffin.
Because however much you want to run away from being Luo, it will follow you like a shadow. Being Luo is like a sneeze, you can’t hide it however much you try. Being Luo is a calling, a responsibility, a way of life that we are all privileged to have been born into. The good news is this, the latest Luo App only found in the Apple Store is available for download or an upgrade, please be Luo.