By Kuria Kimani
“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” – Golda Meir
Indeed, we set limitations for our own capabilities. In this article WoK looks into Erick Okeyo’s life, and how he challenged his own limits through determination and willpower to rise to become a multi-millionaire, a boss, and a key government official from the humble ranks of a security guard.
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In the beginning: Erick Okeyo’s journey to success
They say behind every success lies hardwork, consistency and sacrifice. Additionally, there has to be an opportunity to be seized. Erick Okeyo started his career as a watchman at Nile Perch Victoria, Kisumu. He would later become a bouncer at Octopus Nightclub and thereafter join G4S as a security officer. Okeyo who has also previously worked with Modern Security based in Nakuru as an assistant manager attributes his success to daring the impossible and making big decisions.
He worked at the station for eighteen months and took up the role of Patriotic Guards Nakuru Branch manager. This was an intensive role that nurtured his skills as a manager. He would later be promoted to deputy chief executive officer in charge of operations. After a twelve-year career between 1997 and 2009, he sent his resignation letter with intention to set up his own firm. With a diploma in Marketing and his years of experience in the field, he felt ready to take the next challenging step in his career.
His resignation was the start of a new chapter, not just for him, but also for several of his colleagues at Patriotic Guards who left the firm with him.
Founding of his Company – Bedrock Security Services
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This huge decision saw him set up a company that would offer security services to upmarket residential clients and later on expand to other operations. Setting up a business required capital and upon approaching local banks, he found that their costs of borrowing were extremely high for a company just starting out.
As luck or opportunity would have it, Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote was in Kenya and when the two managed to hold a conversation, Erick Okeyo found his ticket to launching his company. He recounts of the conversation saying, “Interest rates are just too high. When Aliko Dangote was in Kenya , he told me that he was going to set up a chain of banks in Kenya. Banks that would charge minimal interest rates on loans.” Aliko Dangote helped him secure an affordable loan and Bedrock Security Services was up and running.
Initial Bedrock Security Services Staffing
When Okeyo left Patriotic Guards, his secretary followed suit penning her resignation letter. Okeyo says, “She joined me and is now the human resources manager at Bedrock. I encouraged her to get bachelor’s and master’s degrees and she is a very competent HR manager.” Seeming to be quite the influential individual and interested in creating opportunities for other people, the tea girl at the firm along with three guards left at the same time he did. He encouraged them to advance their education and offered all of them positions in his new-found firm. The former tea girl was promoted to assistant manager and the three guards were given branch manager roles at Bedrock Security Services.
As a firm believer in people’s potential, Erick Okeyo brought up these people in their careers and adds that, “Among the locally owned security firms, I can confidently say we are the largest, or second largest. Three of the largest security companies right now have chief executive officers who worked under me at one time or another.”
This revelation meant that the former guard had successfully set up Kenya’s fourth largest private security firm. Today, Bedrock Security Services has its specialty areas expanded and set in electronic security solutions, investigations, cash in transit, and security guards. In 2022, the company will be marking its thirteenth year of existence and operation. Notable clients that he has worked with include Mumias Sugar, Telkom, Orange, Nzoia Sugar, Jaramogi University, and Lake Victoria Water Services Board.
National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority Appointment
The National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority (NWHSA) is a government-created agency under Kenya’s Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation. The agency has several duties cast upon it including developing national public waterworks for storage, flood control strategies and infrastructure, enforces water harvesting strategies, collects and provides information for policy formulation and effecting by the Cabinet Secretary.
On Friday 20th March 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Erick Okeyo as the NHWSA board chairperson stating, “In exercise of the powers conferred to me, I appoint Eric Okeyo to be the chairperson of the board for a period of three (3) years. with effect from Friday, March 20. The appointment of David ole Nkedienye’ is revoked with effect from the aforementioned date.” The direction was made public through the Kenya Gazette Vol. CXXII No. 50.
National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority Power Tussles
The board has been involved in power tussles, some of which have been settled in court. The board’s CEO appointment has been particularly an uphill task that has seen the involvement of the High Court.
Ms. Sharon Obonyo was elected the board’s Chief Executive Officer on contract after the board’s creation under the Water Act No. 43 of 2016 and came into effect on April 21, 2017. She took office on 28th April 2017 and after her tenure came to an end, the board went into a rough patch in search of the new CEO. She was appointed CEO in acting capacity in a move termed by the board as irregular and illegal. Ms. Obonyo, an Advocate of the High court of Kenya, Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and a Certified Secretary of Kenya, had her appointment signed by Walubengo Waningilo – a board member – and not the chairman (Erick Okeyo) as norm.
The source said, “This is in itself illegality for a member of the board to purport to sign an appointment letter to the CEO while the chairman is there. We will not accept this as it will open a pandora’s box for legal redress by whoever wants to challenge the process of appointment.”
On 28th October 2020, Ms. Obonyo’s contract was extended for another six months. The extension was against the government Mwongozo regulations in a meeting that a source said a section of directors were allegedly intimidated and coerced by top ministry officials to hand the acting CEO another term.
The source went on to add that the chairman did not sign the resolutions as this would have given credence to the illegal extension of her tenure. David Ngure made an application seeking to challenge the contract-extension.This extension was suspended by a high court in Nakuru directed by Judge Hellen Wasilwa of the Employment and Labour division who stated, “It is hereby ordered that in the absence of the respondent even though served, the leave sought do operate as a stay in implementation of the resolution of the 3rd Special full board of directors of NWHSA held on 28th April, 2021, together with extension letter of acting CEO pending hearing of the application.”
Judge Wasilwa ruled that the board appoint Andrew Wanyonyi or Ali Boru as the CEO after three names (the top candidate passed away) had been shortlisted for the position appointment and interviews held in June 2019. After the top candidate’s death, there were plans to re-advertise the post which were however cut short by a blocking application by Gedi Mohamed of Gedi and Associates. This left Ms. Obonyo as acting CEO.
In July 2021, the government suspended the NHSWA board following the leadership wrangles witnessed especially between Ms. Obonyo and Mr. Okeyo. Mr. Okeyo had further given a vote of no-confidence for the acting CEO saying, “I wish to confirm that there are other competent and suitable officers at the institution who can internally be picked by the board to fill the now vacant position of acting CEO in order to forestall the leadership vacuum we are now exposed to.” On dissolution, the government went on to cite Mr. Erick Okeyo’s conduct as the trigger to suspend the board and halt all planned activities until further notice.
Erick Obonyo is a family man, and is the proud father of three children. With a successful career set up over the years, he now cruises around his businesses in an expensive E270 Avant-garde CDI Mercedes.