When I was joining campus, my grandmother gave me the following advice which is still engraved in my mind up to today. “My grandson, I have seen many university students being killed by the government because of politics. So when you join campus, concentrate on your studies. Please don’t join politics.” Since I didn’t have any ambitions in politics, I knew that her worries were unfounded and I quickly reassured her that I’ll never join politics. Little did I know that several years down the line, I’ll be forced to swallow my words.
While I was in first year and second year, I was able to give campus politics a wide berth. This is because elections in those respective years were held while our group was out of the campus, courtesy of the relay system that I once talked about. In third year, that’s when elections were held while we were in campus and most participants were students from our class. That’s the year I discovered that I was extricately linked to politics like Siamese twins. My grandmother’s advice never rang a bell in my mind.
Our class representative who hailed from the lakeside was the first to throw his hat in the ring by declaring his intention of vying for the post of SUEU chairman. Since we didn’t see any other strong opponent, we assured him of our support. After some days, my roommate who hailed from Western also declared his interest of vying for the same post. His declaration caught me off balance bearing in mind that I had pledged my allegiance to my class representative. But there is a Swahili saying that says “Blood is thicker than water.” So there is no way I would have abandoned my brother and supported my class representative. I immediately shifted my allegiance to my roommate.
Before we could hit the road running, an “elders council” meeting between the student leaders from the lakeside and western part of Kenya was called at night in one of the leader’s room in order to avert the looming battle between the two leaders. But before I tell you the outcome of the meeting, let me give you a brief history of these two communities in campus politics.
It has always been the norm for these communities to merge and support one candidate for a specific post. It was evident from the previous elections that once these two communities merged, they formed an indomitable force that always swept all the seats in SUEU. But if they voted separately, they would always lose to GEMA. They had a secret MOU that gave guidance on who should be supported for a specific post. For example, if this year they agree to support a student from the lakeside for the post of chairman and a student from western for the post of Secretary General, next year, they’ll alternate. They’ll support a student from western for chairman and a student from the lakeside for Secretary General. Other minor communities didn’t have an option other than following what the major communities dictated.
Two years earlier, a student from Nyanza was supported by the two communities and he easily clinched the chairman’s post. The previous year, the two communities didn’t agree to merge and decided to vote separately. They lost to GEMA. That’s why we didn’t want to take chances during our year. We went in for the meeting knowing very well it was time for the Nyanza students to support our Western guy for chairmanship and we support their guy for Secretary General in return. The other remaining posts which were not in contention would later be shared out evenly.
The meeting was heated since no community was willing to step down for the other. The Nyanza guys had a strong candidate who was my class representative and the Western guys also had a strong candidate who was my roommate. We eventually marched out of the meeting without any agreement. Was that the end of the merger? Look out for part II next week.