When we joined KBC as interns in the late 80’s that’s 1989 to be specific, I together with fellow trainees like Elynah Shiveka and Martin Kingasia were welcomed to the sports desk by a short, slender man who was introduced to us as Fred Nyongesa Ongalo. He was a friendly man who took us through most of the basics of sports reporting.
His speciality then was Volleyball and Handball. Apart from reporting on this two sport disciplines he also served as a PRO for their federations.
Later in 1991 when we joined the Corporation as employees after graduation, Fred was happy to share duties with us as his colleagues.
The joke in the sports desk and newsroom then was that on a day when you were rostered to work with Fred woe unto you if you delayed with the days scripts and the inserts because he religiously wrapped up his work by 3.30 pm to catch the 4 pm route 23 bus to Kangemi. Since we all respected the sports legend that he was, we made sure we adhered to his strict timelines.
Another important milestone that I recall in the years that we worked with Fred was in the early 90’s particularly after the 1992 General Elections, KBC acquired computers (old model machines) which we were told were donated by Central Bank of Kenya. We were all trained to use them since the instruction was that we were all to immediately discard the typewriters that had been our trusted tool of trade for many years. This did not go down well with Fred.
All attempts to have him use the new gimmicks simply did not work. But truth be told we all had challenges using the machines. You can be excused if you think those were standard computers that we use today. For example when you wanted to print your work you were supposed to press ‘f9’ since there was no print option on the screen!.
To make life easier for Fred we opted to retain one typewriter at one corner of the room that was set aside for him. The happy ending to this is that Fred finally caught up with the use of the computers and even trained some people how to use them. When Fred left KBC on retirement years later the sports desk was left poorer due to his vast knowledge and charisma which was sadly missed.
To state that Fred Nyongesa Ongalo made his contribution to the development of sports journalism in Kenya during his time is an understatement since the man was an household name for any Kenyan who followed KBC Radio or Television. His status in Kenya sports journalism can be placed alongside fallen giants like James Ogoma King, Harry Amol, Mohamed Juma Njuguna, Ochieng Angela, Billy Omalla and Victor Odak Omalla.
I have personally remained in touch with Fred in the course of his retirement life in Kamukuywa, in Bungoma. We have been occasionally having telephone conversations just to update one another on how we are doing. We have lost a real friend and professional scribe. May his soul Rest in Peace.
Omole Asiko is a veteran broadcaster currently in charge of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Kisumu Bureau