Glad that it was over, famished, broke and tensed no longer, I took a bus home and collapsed on my bed.
When I jolted awake the next morning, it occurred to me that life had gone back to its usual uneventful state and yet I felt far from normal. I felt transformed. While slipping out of dream state and into reality, I couldn’t help but recall the experiences of the past one month of the second semester of my penultimate year.
During the first semester, I looked at the state of the institution and decided that the student leadership needed a revamp. The school’s clubs, powerful tools for connecting students to the world, were in peril. I wanted corporations to access young professionals at the institution with more ease. Also, knowing that an environment and sanitation docket was present, I couldn’t help but cringe at the unsightly garbage that littered the school.
I always felt cheated by the cohorts that had earned leadership positions only for them to leave things as they had found them. They were completely disconnected form the electorate and mirrored the actions of their seniors in government. That was both unsurprising and disappointing. Weren’t the youth supposed to be the bearers of change?
On making my observations, complaining and realizing that my words fell on deaf ears, I decided to make the changes myself. This would be by vying for a political seat.
At first, the Presidency was my bull’s eye but upon deliberation, I decided against it. Other contenders were more influential and popular. Chances of winning, with my name on the same ballot, would be slim. The next best option was ‘Academics Secretary’ position. And so I waited for the next semester to start the vying process.
Armed with enthusiasm, morale boost from friends and a utopian idea of the student’s leadership, I marched to the Dean’s office, declared my intentions and started the process towards vying for ‘Academics Secretary’. The first phase was fairly easy. It entailed collecting signatures from fellow students to have the bid qualified. That I did, and got verification from the administration.
Being a fairly tall, dark-skinned, skinny lad with an average sense of fashion and ginger hair, I was easy to miss or dismiss at first sight. It was no wonder then, that I became a point of ridicule when friends, classmates and strangers heard that I was vying. “How could he win? How could he dare to dream?” They wondered.
Campaigning was difficult, especially the first few days. Approaching strangers was new for a man who preferred to stick to the familiar. You could also tell that most people were tired of politicians and their empty words.
Most would try to avoid us whenever we approached. I often hoped that they could sense or better yet see the sincerity of my candidacy. Maybe then, they wouldn’t dread my presence. Like every other candidate, I sometimes walked with a friend or two. Having a support system was a bonus. It made me look credible.
In order to win as per democracy dictated, I quickly realized that I would spend most time away from class, friends and with strangers. Due to the nature of democratic process, I had to utilize the limited time to reach out to as many people as possible. That meant being in school early, leaving at midnight and shaking as many hands as I could.
That was the routine most days. The eventful bits were many but a few stood out. In one instance while campaigning door to door in the hostels, a door was slammed on my face, a few millimeters away from my nose. The act caught me unawares. When the door was opened, I assumed that we had been invited in and began to move towards it. However, before proper entry, just when I was falling into character, was the door shut by a short lady whose face had been caked with make-up. Even then, you could tell that she was a natural beauty. She was in the company of a tall muscular male, who we assumed was her boyfriend.
Upon the blatant rejection, my friends decided to call out the rude behavior. I, on the other hand, had already moved on. On knocking the second time, it was the muscular guy that opened the door, a clear threat that we would be knocked out if we continued to disturb their peace. Despite the warning, we spoke our minds and moved on. I have never forgotten the girl’s face to date.
In another room, I found some of my friends who upon listening to my agenda had a good laugh when my loss became apparent. It wasn’t my plan they were laughing at but the person behind it. Not knowing how to react, I stood there and watched them entertain themselves and make a mockery of me. At the time, that’s what friendship was so no matter how demoralizing, I took it.
The worst part of the campaign was how much money it used up. If I knew better, I would never have campaigned near food joints or the canteen. Students took the opportunity to solicit for money to buy food or satisfy their cravings. The consequences were clear if you didn’t do as they asked. To them, the campaign period was the only time they felt truly powerful. Aspirants were at their mercy and would do anything for a win.
On Election Day, I continued to campaign knowing too well that I wasn’t the most popular candidate. The thing is, when it comes to your ambitions, the last thing on your mind, no matter how tempting, is quitting on yourself. So despite all the ridicule and naysaying, I fought to the end.
When the results were announced, I had lost by a large margin. It was devastating. No one wants to lose at the end of the day.
The announcement was made just before 9PM. I left amidst celebrations by the opponent’s supporters. While walking to the bus stop, I realized that my stomach was empty, feet had gone numb and my back was in dire need of a massage. The real remedy for the physical discomfort, I decided, was some sleep.
Story by: Ian ‘Ochibo’ Kuria