Babu Owino: I was arrested for selling chang’aa in Nyalenda


eDaily unveils this Part One of the Chronicles of Student Organisation of Nairobi University (SONU) Chairman Babu Owino. Just who is this man?

He tells it all in this exclusive interview.

EDAILY: Share with us details about your childhood, family and education

OWINO: I grew up in Nyalenda slums in Kisumu. I attended Central Primary School where I scored 401 marks out of the possible 500 in KCPE. I went to Kisumu Boys’ High School where I got A- mean grade of 79 points out of the possible 84.

I then won a scholarship to join A-levels at Millennium Academy and got a distinction. Thereafter I joined University of Nairobi to pursue a course in Actuarial Science. I got First Class honors. Now I am pursuing my second degree in law at UoN. I am in third year.

EDAILY: How did you find life in Nyalenda slums?

OWINO:  It was not a walk in the park. My mum was selling chang’aa to raise us up and to pay our school fees.

I have two other siblings – my elder sister and brother. I am the last born. Growing up in Nyalenda, times were hard as policemen would come and beat people in their houses. I could see my mum being whipped.

I slept in Kisumu’s Central Police Station severally as I was – time and again – arrested for selling chang’aa. That was the only means that I could use to raise school fees. But through God’s work I managed and at least I am where I am now.

EDAILY: How was life growing up as the last born?

OWINO: In the slums growing up as a last born made no difference – there wasn’t preferential treatment. In other well-to-do families, last born children were pampered with a lot of love by their parents. But on our side, it is the law of the jungle that applied. There was no favour given to anybody.

EDAILY: Tell us about your journey in leadership

OWINO: I was a prefect in Standard Three all the way to Standard Six at Central Primary School, Kisumu. I then became assistant head prefect in Standard Seven and head prefect in Standard Eight.

While at Kisumu Boys’ High School I was a prefect from Form One to Form Four. While at A-levels in Millennium Academy, I became the head student leader.

When I joined University of Nairobi I became SONU Chairman in 2011, 2014, 2015 and now 2016. I have been a leader throughout.

EDAILY: It appears you were a rebel in high school – given your outspoken personality. True or false?

OWINO: No, I wasn’t. I was just doing my things because there was so much in my plate. I had to study, I had to go back home and sell chang’aa so that I could pay my school fees.

My mum fell sick quite often so I had to take care of her. I did not have a happy life at that time.

EDAILY: Given the hardship of slum life, did you at one point contemplate engaging in crime to make ends meet?

OWINO: The only crime I engaged in was selling chang’aa; and it was illegal. But that was the only means of survival that we could get as at that time. You know when you sell chang’aa in a slum where people have no money, you are perceived as the poorest in the society. My family suffered stigma.

EDAILY: What inspired you to join university politics?

OWINO: I have been a leader throughout and my family background also inspired me. I told myself I will forever want to serve people and help them lead a comfortable life by all humanly standards.

EDAILY: You got First Class Honors in Actuarial Science from the UoN. Some claim it was given to you and that you did not earn it. Some even say you probably bought the honors. How true or false are these claims?

OWINO: One cannot say I acquired my degree fraudulently. University of Nairobi is an ISO Certified institution. Right now, it is ranked number four in Africa among the continent’s top universities.

In my Actuarial Science course, I did 44 units which means I had 44 different lecturers. So how can I bribe such a huge number of professors? It’s not easy.

And if you look at my educational background, there is no time top three escaped me. In A-levels I was always in top two. At UoN I scored A’s throughout. I worked hard for my degree.

EDAILY: Some sections of students claim you are clinging on to SONU Chair because of financial advantages that come with it. Is this true?

OWINO: SONU has a budget with it because students subscribe to the organization every semester. And the budget is basically used to fund students’ activities, give students bursaries and conduct Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR). That is what the money is meant for. That money comes from the administration. Personally, I don’t control it. It’s very wrong for people to claim that my leadership is money-driven.

EDAILY: How much are you paid monthly as SONU Chair?

OWINO: You cannot say I am being paid as SONU Chair. But it is some sort of appreciation of about KSh6, 500 per month for executive members. And for congresses it is KSh2, 500 and members of secretariat are paid KSh3, 000. Averagely every month I take home the KSh 6, 500 – of which I send it to fellow students who are not able to foot their school fee balances.

There is allowance that comes from executive meetings. For one meeting, each executive member receives KSh1, 000 depending on the number of sessions. So, every month I can take home nearly KSh20, 000 or more.

Keep it eDaily for Part Two of Babu Owino’s chronicles as he reveals the real source of his wealth – despite earning very little from SONU kitty.

He will also make other exclusive revelations


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