Samuel Onyango Ayodo was one of the youngest members of Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta’s first Cabinet. Ayodo was 33 years old when he was appointed to be part of a new crop of leaders to shape the destiny of the young nation at independence in 1963.
He was the son of a former assistant chief who had served in the 1930s under Chief Gideon Magak at a time when the current Kasipul Kabondo constituency, South Nyanza, was one location. Ayodo was from Kowidi in Kabondo.
His political slogan adich (Luo for ‘I am busy’) was used by his opponents to discredit his tenure as an MP and Cabinet Minister, saying he had no time for his voters in the village and that he spent most of his time in his Nairobi home and office.
But his supporters nicknamed him rawo (hippopotamus).
Ayodo started school at Wang’apala in his village and proceeded to Kamagambo Intermediate School in neighbouring Rongo. Both were mission schools run by the Adventist Church of Kenya.He was a bright student and passed the examinations with flying colours and got admission to the Maseno School. His teachers described him “as a man to watch”.
His star continued to rise and he passed the national examinations and got a place at Makerere College in Uganda, the only tertiary institution for East Africa’s academic cream.
After graduating from Makerere, Ayodo got a scholarship to study at Union College in Nebraska, the US. Indeed, in 1952, Ayodo made history as the first Luo not only to study in the US in1952, but also to graduate in education, history and religious studies (Bachelor of Science in Education) in 1956.
On his return, he got a job as a teacher at his old school, Kamagambo. He later moved to Agoro Sare Secondary and then neighbouring Kisii Secondary School. It was while at Kisii that Ayodo built his political foundation and career. His former students and colleagues described him as “an unusually impressive teacher,” who had rare qualities, was exceptionally well informed and whose every action was carefully thought out.
In 1959, Ayodo married Damaris, later chairperson of the National Council of Women of Kenya and official of Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation. They had seven children. The bug of politics bit him early in life and he participated actively in teachers’ industrial and welfare issues. Together with a former classmate at Makerere University, Samuel Ayany, Ayodo was one of the founders of the umbrella teachers’ body, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).
When elections were called for the South Nyanza Knut chairmanship, Ayodo triumphed. Not content with being a branch chairman, he lobbied his colleagues and supporters to form the South Nyanza District African Parents’ Association. His star was to rise even higher when he plunged into politics. He contested and won a seat in the African District Council to represent Kabondo location on the District Education Board.