NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 4 – Interim Safaricom Chief Executive Officer, Michael Joseph, on Thursday described the late Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore, as the bravest man he ever met during a memorial service in honour of the corporate leader who succumbed to Acute Myeloid Leukaemia on Monday aged 61.
Joseph made the remarks after reading a poem Collymore gave to him a year ago, the two agreeing to read the poem at the funeral of whoever dies first.
“About a year ago, Bob showed me a poem he’d found in a book and we agreed that whoever survives the other will read this poem at his funeral. I am very heartbroken to be the one reading this poem today,” he said during the memorial service at the All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi.
Joseph who was named Interim CEO on Tuesday said he had started writing a book on his tenure as the tecos CEO between 2000 and 2010 in which he had named a chapter after Collymore who succeeded him in November 2010.
“I’ll ignore his instructions of just reading the poem and say a few more words. He’d probably be upset but he’d do the same to me. With his encouragement, I started writing a book about my life at Safaricom and so far I’ve written a chapter I called Chapter 33 and I called it Bob. One day you may read it,” he said.
– My Funeral by Wendy Cope –
I hope I can trust you, friends, not to use our relationship
As an excuse for an unsolicited ego-trip.
I have seen enough of them at funerals and they make me cross.
At this one, though deceased, I aim to be the boss.
If you are asked to talk about me for five minutes, please do not go on for eight
There is a strict timetable at the crematorium and nobody wants to be late
If invited to read a poem, just read the bloody poem. If requested
To sing a song, just sing it, as suggested,
And don’t say anything. Though I will not be there,
Glancing pointedly at my watch and fixing the speaker with a malevolent stare,
Remember that this was how I always reacted
When I felt that anybody’s speech, sermon or poetry reading was becoming too protracted.
Yes, I was intolerant, and not always polite
And if there aren’t many people at my funeral, it will serve me right.
Joseph said Collymore’s fight against cancer revealed his exceptional character, adding that Collymore was still concerned about the welfare of others as he underwent intense chemotherapy sessions.
“Bob was the bravest man I ever met. He faced the indignities of bounds of injections, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, constant tests and examinations, pain and in the end death with an enormous sense of humor and resilience,” he said.
“He was so concerned about his family, his team and even his doctors. He didn’t want anyone to worry about him; he wanted to worry about everybody else.”
Vodafone Group Chief Executive Officer described Collymore’s 20-year career in the telecommunications sector as inspirational.
Nick Read eulogized Collymore as a corporate leader who inspired confidence.
“Bob was an inspiration throughout his global career with our groups which spans 20 years and covered the UK, Japan, South African and of course beautiful Kenya,” he said.
Read said Collymore affirmed Safaricom’s position as a leading telco in the region after his appointment as CEO in November 2010 resting the temptation of being weighed down by high expectations, having taken over from Michael Joseph whose 10-year tenure at the helm of the company was dotted major accomplishments.
“Taking on the CEO role at a Safaricom was a big step since he’d never been CEO before. The success achieved by Michael was never going to be an easy path to follow give he’d built a great company admired around the world for its contribution in changing lives for the better,” he said.
“The bar had been set so high. Success was not obvious and the fear of failure would have compromised many leaders,” Read added.
He said Collymore was bold enough to set his own vision of Safaricom, a blueprint which he successfully executed.
“What I saw under Bob’s leadership can only be described as remarkable, He gradually developed his own vision; a vision that moved from a highly successful telecoms company to a purpose-led digital platform powering the Kenyan economy and improving the lives of everyone in the society,” Read remarked.
Over a dozen speakers were set to address mourners at the memorial service including President Uhuru Kenyatta, Collymore’s widow Wambui and Ashley Chepkorir, a student at the Safaricom Foundation Academy, are among those scheduled to pay tributes to the celebrated corporate leader at the service being held at the All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi.
Deputy President William Ruto was among public officials attending the memorial service, other notable public figures being former Vice President Kalonzo and former Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is also in attendance.
Kenya Commercial Bank CEO Joshua Oigara read the eulogium highlighting Collymore’s life achievements.
British High Commissioner Nic Hailey will deliver a tribute message on behalf of diplomatic corps.
Safaricom Board Chairperson Nicholas Nganga and former Nairobi gubernatorial aspirant Peter Kenneth were also scheduled to speak at the memorial service, the latter speaking on behalf of Collymore’s friends.