Just a few days shy of the month of May 2021, the world was shaken by the death of veteran journalist Phillip Ochieng on Tuesday 27th April 2021, 9:00pm at Ombo Hospital in Migori County. Phillip Ochieng succumbed to pneumonia that had seen him admitted at the Ombo Hospital in Migori and was released sometime last week but his condition deteriorated and he died.
As eulogies continue to stream in on all platforms, it seems like everyone is in agreement that Phillip was one good writer. From columns such as ‘Tongue in Cheek’, ‘Fifth Columnist’ to books such as “I Accuse The Press”, an insider’s perspective of the politics and media in Africa, and “The Kenyatta Succession” co-authored Joseph Karimi, it is clear he is a legend.
In a country with many writers let us have a look at some of the attributes that made him a legend in the industry
- He was fearless
Phillip Ochieng has practiced journalism for donkey years and indeed no one could accuse him of being a coward in any way,. Whether it was calling out politicians on their excesses or calling out the public he always did it fearlessly in his Sunday Column which was on the corner of the paper. Some of his best work bore headings such as Why Kenya’s hyenas went multi-party, Why the MPs will gag their own mouths, True, hatred of Jews is also racism and Moral midgets who tyrannize the rest of humankind, etc.
It should be noted that while he fearlessly presents his ideas and discussions, he was always cautious about libel and defamation which he cautioned would bring an organization to its knees. Bloggers, especially those who write on categories such as politics, media freedoms, and human rights often find themselves in difficult situations that may require bravery and you will need it to stand out among the rest.
- Voracious Reader
According to people who met Phillip, studied under him or worked with him, he was an avid reader. We all know that it is very difficult to be a good writer if you are not a good reader. While eulogizing him, US-based photojournalist George Mulala said he once asked Phillip how his head could contain all that he read and the journalist told him that to always note important things on the margin of the books. With those pearls of wisdom, he then shared a book with George, converting the latter into a reader, now boasting a home library.
- A stickler for grammatical accuracy
Nothing will send readers away from your page faster than copy that is full of grammatical errors. Now if Kenya has ever had a grammar nazi then it came in the person of one Mr. Ochieng. Alluding to this fact, deputy president William Ruto said: “He was a stickler for grammatical accuracy and used his platforms to break down the English language and teach us new things — even those we figured we knew. Ochieng’, a widely read hero, was simply in his own class; a man of varied intellectual pursuits.”
In one of his many articles, Phillip went all out to explain the difference between an artist or an artiste and how the ‘e’ makes a big difference. He did this in such a no-nonsense tone I doubt his readers would dare make the mistake again.
Sometimes bloggers make simple mistakes that affect their credibility especially when it comes to using the wrong pronouns, mistaking their and there, not having to differentiate between lose and loose, and so on.
In his eulogy, journalist Oliver Mathenge said,”The 5th columnist was a man full of knowledge & always eager to share. A man who told me I cannot say or write ‘cant be able’ some 13 years ago at Nation Centre.” Phillip was very knowledgeable and this was seen in the various topics he covered with such ease, depth, and flair. In this regard, Deputy President William Ruto, on his part, mourned Mr. Ochieng as a “consummate, no-nonsense and committed journalist” with a deep knowledge of issues.
So I saved the best for last and I know he’s loyal followers were wondering how come his love for ‘big words’ had been left out. As a young girl, I would sit beside my dad as we read the Sunday paper page to page. Despite my love for the paper, I always made a point to give Phillip’s column a wide berth because of his use of very difficult vocabulary.
I finally thought to challenge myself and learn some new vocabulary and that is when I would bring a dictionary along to our reading sessions. He taught me, the country and I bet his followers some big words. Indeed as Raila said before his prowess of the English language was unmatched.
Do you have a personal style? Does your blog stand out from others in the blogosphere?
Phillip Ochieng was among the first beneficiaries of the student airlift to the US in 1959 brainchild of politician and union leader late Tom Mboya and other parliamentary colleagues. May His soul Rest In Eternal Peace