By C A via Facebook
Five years ago, I ran for Gor Mahia FC Chairman. I wasn’t even supposed to run as such, I considered myself a rank outsider in football politics, and was content to be among the millions on the planet whose football experience ends with sitting on the stands and calling players “Malaya Mbwa” when they make wayward passes. But I woke up in my hotel room in Cairo, Egypt, one morning to check online news and saw Kenyan newspapers had among their sports news, Gor Mahia elections had been called and one Luanda Magere was seeking to unseat the incumbent.
Turns out my sycophants, associates and supporters had gone to FB and “declared” me a candidate, and the media had picked up from there. My first instinct was to return to Nairobi and rubbish the news reports and move on with my quiet life, but I realised when I landed at JKIA that the wave had taken off and I now had new names ~Jakom, Prezzda, Gor001, Dawa Ya Ambrose ~ and many other platitudes delivered with sycophant precision. Media interview dates were countless.
Now, the thing about the Gor Mahia election is that an outsider seeking to unseat the incumbent is set up to fail from the word go. You don’t know your voters, you don’t know their numbers, you don’t know the election day mechanisms in place that will assist your voters make it to the polling booth…heck, you don’t even know the election date until two to three weeks before election.
You are basically a blind mouse driving a huge bus, putting your fate at the hands of providence. The conditions are so unfair that defeated aspirants leave for good ~ a combination of bitterness, losses and the post-election ridicule that makes you trim your friends and revert to quiet existence.
I have always been amazed though that subsequent aspirants make the exact same mistakes I did. 1. Taking on the aspirant on his own terms. 2. Assuming that securing numbers beats strategy. 3. Using friends to run campaigns. Friends are good and loyal, but they know you as an individual. They therefore represent and defend you the person, not the leader. Before long, they get involved in your personal wars and create more conflict than voter networks.
Even more disturbing is just how many “experts” suddenly spring up around you. The smart alec reputed to be the biggest mobiliser since King Herod, and who wants “million achiel kende” to mobilise busloads from the branches spread up across the country. The media people who want a few hundred thousand to “say good words” about you. You want artwork, the guy next to you knows where to get it. You want tshirts, voila, someone next to you knows. They all want money though. The only expert you don’t find is one who knows where to get cash. Even those closest to you don’t realise how much money you are haemorrhaging. Because you give 10k here, 200k there, 350k there.
And because the club has branches across the country, you have to visit most, if not all. Air tickets, fuel, lunches, beer (people rarely consume soft drinks in these campaigns) and branch “motivational kitty” per branch. When I ran, I neither did a fundraiser nor got a cent from anywhere. So I would go to Barclays Bank Rahimtullah Plaza and withdraw cash from my account every morning.
The campaign period is the most enjoyable. You drown in platitudes. The names they call you can make saints blush. Oh, and some of the beautiful ladies supporting you so wholeheartedly make you weak on the knees, but you take solace in your Anglican upbringing and focus in the campaign.
All the fun ends on election day. When I drove into City Stadium on election day under tight security (well, my security team had advised me that people had been hired to kill me because I was winning by too much of a landslide), I encountered thousands of elderly women seated quietly waiting for something. At first I thought we had come to the wrong venue. It turned out the women were from Gatanga and Mbooni (God knows why!) and they couldn’t tell the difference between Gor Mahia and a mango! They had simply been given the name of someone to go queue behind. Some thought it was a Sacco election, others that it was a landbuying cooperative election. Some had never seen a football, leave alone the team Gor Mahia! My busloads didn’t come. Neither did my landslide.
The hardest part usually is the morning after. The platitudes are gone. The sycophants. The nicknames. The beauties. All gone. Reality hits. You have thrown away millions in an ill fated venture. The wife and family want answers. Even you are shocked at how much you have spent. And where did you think you were going to recover this money by the way? The debts pile.
You discover many campaign items were never paid for by the people you gave money. You are alone. The bottomline is a mess. It’s been five years and I haven’t recovered yet! In my case, it was even more comical to discover that someone in my campaign team had been “signing” young people, in the branches I visited for campaigns, as Gor Mahia players! So there I was meditating after the election when phone calls started coming of “players” calling “Prezzda” to show them where the team was as they were reporting for training!
The most interesting thing about these campaigns is that the people who don’t ask you for money are the ones who work day and night for your success. Like my friend Onyinkwa who helped write a manifesto overnight without sleep, my friends Chris and Fred, who coordinated branches tirelessly, my friend Eugene who did every artwork thrown at him, my friend Dan Akech, with whom we sat long nights in strategy meetings that never ended and who was the last man standing to the end, my friend OJ, who took me to every big shot to look for campaigns funds that never came….the people who ask for no cent somehow are the ones who usually deliver! When it was all over, I never wanted any of it again. I wanted to go away and never return.
With a background like this, I have absolute respect for my friends Chris and Dan (and Eric before them) for the courage to stand up and go up against an entrenched system. The morning after is often very tough. The ridicule can drive your self esteem dangerously low.
But there is no greater man than the one who sees a need for change and offers himself (money, reputation and all) to challenge the system. It is this courage that saw Fidel Castro at only 26 and with just a handful of men, attack a dictatorship and beat it. It is this courage that has seen a small number of men and women liberate others across the world, even where those liberated didn’t even know it at first.
The journey is long and treacherous. But those who learn from our mistakes will stand a better chance next time.
I am proud of you guys.