Today, Benson Wanjau better known as Mzee Ojwang’ Hatari will be laid to rest at Lang’ata Cemetery. Undoubtedly, the curtain has fallen on the life of a man who will go down the books of history as the father of Kenyan comedy. Every time Ojwang’s name is mentioned, I feel sad that my children will never have a chance to enjoy fresh works of a man whose satire immensely influenced a big part of my childhood social life.
I still remember with nolstagia the black and white Greatwall TV set my father owned and zealously guarded way back then – note that there were only six or so such sets in the entire village. Every evening, our home would be host to several neighbours who were always on time to catch up with their favourite programmes on KBC – the only channel the TV set seemed to capture. One of these was Vitimbi; the programme in which Mzee Ojwang’ starred. So big was Ojwang’ that there always emerged war between me and my cousins over who was to take up Mzee’s role whenever we tried to imitate our favorite characters; everyone wanted to be him!
However, there is another side of Ojwang’ that i came to learn years later that totally changed my perspective of the comedy king; the untold story of Mzee’s personal life which was in shambles. A close relative who had a first account of Mzee’s daily life – having lived in his neighbourhood in Nairobi – revealed to me a part of Ojwang’ many kenyans don’t know about. Mzee Ojwang’ had an insatiable love for chang’aa dens and women; vices that eventually sent him crumbling.
That narrative never captured much of my attention back then until when Ojwang’ was declared terribly ill and poor sometimes back. It is then that I was able to connect. The guy had spent his entire fortune on booze and women thus his sorry state.
When Ojwang’s misery was first aired on TV, Kenyans were up in arms against KBC for allegedly ignoring Mzee Ojwang’ and the Vitimbi crew. A misconception that Ojwang’ had been wrongly dismissed from the government owned media house carried the day.
But new details how the opposite. In fact, they confirm my speculation. It is only Mzee Ojwang who seems to have ended up miserable in the entire squad thus , he is the man to entirely to blame for his woes.
Therefore, I hope that even as we mourn the father of Kenyan comedy, other Kenyan artists learn from this sad story. It is time that they learnt to make hay while the sun shines.
Otherwise, RIP Mzee Ojwang’ Hatari. Your works will immortalize you.