I received the news of Ayeiya’s passing from my aunt, Evelyne. She called me that Friday morning to find out if I had heard that Ayeiya had died in an accident along Langata Road (as the press held it at the time). Now, neither of us knew Ayeiya personally, but we enjoyed his comedy and style so much that he often came up in our conversations. I loved his jokes; always so fresh, well-thought out, clean and unique. Not only was he a good story teller but also was he great at theatrical performance. His jokes either left you laughing hard long after he had left the stage, or pondering over issues.
I could tell he was a humble man, down-to-earth, friendly and spiritual. From his choice of content, it was clear that he loved his country and saw himself as a potential agent of positive change. He used the platform to discuss contemporary issues. With Ayeiya, it was never comedy for laughter’s sake. There was always a deep message based on truth or social reality. He selected issues core to the Kenyan society, analyzed them in great depth and packaged the message in a simple, relatable way. For instance, when he used the analogy of mosquitoes to discuss idleness/laziness, I vividly recall the message at the end: if we let our bodies remain stagnant, the mosquitoes of life will breed and begin to bite us, setting the place for problems like financial malaria. And when he talked about the need for national healing and forgiveness in his come-back episode, he used the analogy of “Githeri”; in life there are hard things, soft things and constant things.
In this way, Ayeiya combined his intellect, natural wit and theatrical and philosophical talents to deliver thought-provoking messages. His greatest gift was insight. That’s what made him so fresh each time. Beyond the rib-cracking performances, there was always something sober to take home. What I appreciate the most about Ayeiya is that amid the rising popularity, he remained consistent and true to his beliefs and values. His jokes and stories always were clean and respectful. Even when he made fun of people (like he did of the “Mama Fua Association” in his last recording), it was delivered in a satirical way, not in sarcasm. I also appreciate that whenever he could, he provided solutions to the issues he discussed.
And so today I join many in paying tribute to this great Kenyan soul. From the time the news came, I have read every single headline I could find on Ayeiya. I still have many unanswered questions, particularly about the whereabouts of the colleagues he was travelling with. But I was relieved that the love of his life, Alice, was in condition good enough to participate in the funeral service. Even after seeing the pictures at NPC Karen, it’s still hard to believe that he is gone. It is one thing to know that your favourite comedian perished in an accident, it is another all together accepting that this lively man (who once stood tall and upright on my screen) now lies horizontal and lifeless. Nevertheless, it is an opportunity to celebrate this great soul whose courage, integrity and commitment to a better society left a deep impression on me time and again. While I was disappointed that the Easter Show ran near-normal (it should have been all about Ayeiya that day). However, the Churchill tribute show- held later that week- sufficed. In the short time we got to know him, he taught diligently, enlightened gracefully and blessed generously. May his soul rest in eternal peace.