With only a few weeks to the University of Nairobi’s student leaders’ elections, the atmosphere in campus has definitely changed; the campaigning slowly kicking start. Once you set foot in campus, you get word that campus elections are a big deal, and indeed they are. Most student leaders in the past have pursued politics at the national level. James Orengo, Kabando wa Kabando, Anyang Nyong’o and more recently Johnson Sakaja.
Student politics is a microcosm of national politics complete with propaganda, campaign teams and in some universities, opinion polls. There are a few other aspects that mirror national politics though with variations:
This is definitely how most declare their political ambition. Clear, colored, glossy posters on our notice boards (good thing they are not plastered annoyingly on walls or trees). What is captivating about the posters is that they do not declare expressly what the candidate desires; they are clever posters, more of greeting cards- ‘Mr. student leader wishes you a happy Easter holiday!’.
Now this is a topic bound to cause a bone of contention; is it pandering for votes or not? Whatever your take, it is a phenomenon that can’t be ignored. The boys are quite grateful for the occasional ‘Blue moon’ liquor and the girls settle for free breakfast or lunch at the student centre. The aspirants are not so much to blame for this trend though; the student electorate expects such ‘gifts’ from them and they are not shy to ask for the goodies.
A politician is nothing without a speech, right? Believe it or not, the speeches are prepared, rehearsed and delivered. However the speeches are not your traditional Mr. Politician on a dais with a crowd below cheering and clapping after each sentence. At around 10 pm, the candidate walks into your room accompanied with his close ‘advisors’ of four or five. They humbly apologize for any inconvenience and then the candidate gives his two minute declaration of political interest, how he would like your support BUT that most important to him is friendship.
At least some are selling us their ideas, though this is mostly with the first year students. I was quite impressed when a candidate walked into my room with a book in hand; the SONU guidebook. A book outlining what each student leader’s functions are. Though most aspirants are seeking to win due to popularity, a bunch of them actually have a list of things they wish to implement if elected.
Numbers is everything. It helps to portray that you are popular especially if you walk around with a group of ‘friends’ from different classes. Most candidates get the friends as the election nears, probably helps them feel important and influential.
Now we know where our leaders get the political trait from. Universities teach a lot more than we think.