If there is one person feeling Ezekiel Kemboi right about now, it is yours truly. I was once stripped of a gold medal with the win well and properly sealed, and celebrations underway. Rule no. 6, they called it.
Let me explain.
When I landed at Box 1, I found that my name had long arrived and settled at the school. I had former classmates who had transferred to the mushrooming fountain of knowledge and my former school gave me a reputation of its own. I also had a brush with the then principal at some point, and he was more than obliging to tell my tale.
As you can guess, I milked the limelight for all it was worth. Within no time, I was on the football team, the drama team, the clubs, and equally importantly, the first aid team. This was handy when there were funkies for societies you did not belong to.
So it was only understandable that when elections came around at the end of the year, many people expected me on the ballot. I had no political ambitions or plans, so it came as a surprise when I learnt that I was vying for the position of Games Captain. [I hear nowadays they are called President-DP- Senators and CSs]
Silas Odhiambo and Justin Fundi just popped up at my desk one evening at around 7: 15 pm and stated matter of factly, “We are going around classes after preps. We have already notified them. Prepare your speech.”
“Speech for what?” I makad. That is when Fundi unrolled the bundle of papers he was holding and extended a leaf towards me. On it were the words ‘Vote Nelson Mugambi for Games Captain’ with a red marker pen along with a funny caricature I was sure was done by Macharia Murathi. Below it was the slogan ‘Michezo sio Mchezo’ italicized by hand.
“Who told you I’m vying?” I protested. “Tutatoka hapa 9:45,” Odhi said, and they walked away. I pondered over it for a few minutes then decided I was having none of it, I’d just pull a no-show on them.
But then I received several delegations that evening, the likes of Collins Muriithi and Kingstone Njiru coming to inform me of the situation on the ground; how we were taking this by a landslide. Such, and the thought of special food for captains, had me finally giving in and saying, why not, there’s nothing to lose.
Come 9:45, we hit the ground proper, and by 10:30 the electorate were singing my name. But then I realised I was not as popular as I was coming across; there just wasn’t any other candidate going for the position. Odhi and Fundi had somehow prevailed over two other candidates to shelve their ambitions or go for other seats.
And just like that, I won even before the ballot. Outgoing Captain Willis even began introducing me to the duties of the office. Opening the office to give out equipment and running after people to return it was no easy task, especially in the campaign days when you had to impress everyone. But the perks that came with it- a private office to begin with- were well worth it.
Come election day, there was no Games Captain slot on the ballot, but it was understandable seeing as it was an already sealed deal; no need to waste stationery, right? Odhi and Fundi however insisted that the electorate add the slot manually by writing ‘Games Captain- Nelson Mugambi’ at the back of every paper. This, they said, because ‘admin cannot be trusted.’
With business effectively done, we settled for supper with satisfaction. On that day there was a pig slaughtered for the students, and we had the obligation to deliver extra pieces of meat to all who had co-operated to deliver victory, including shelving their interests for our sake. This was a tricky duty, but we were keen to keep our word.
So you can imagine my surprise when the TOD summoned me from the dining hall and took case with me, opting to even forsake manning the rowdy queue to talk to me. Miss Mwangi was my favorite teacher- and I suspect that was two way- so I could talk to her quite freely.
“So I hear you have been elected to the government?” she quipped. “Yes,” I replied with subtle pride. “It was quite easy actually. The people actually coerced me to take the seat.”
“But do you think it is necessary for you to be captain.” I looked at her like she had just sprouted a rhino horn on her forehead, failing to make head or tail of what she just said. “I mean, don’t you think it will take a toll on your studies and, more dangerously, places you on a sensitive platform to collide with the administration?”
“No worries, I can handle all that,” I reassured the good lady.
“No, Nelson, no. I don’t want you to take that office.” We talked for over an hour, but I would not budge. No way was I letting the team down. I ended up missing the pig meat altogether, and teacher had to offer me some from the teachers’ pot.
Team was eager to know what had kept me out so long, but I did not want to raise alarm, so I just told them it was wise of them to advise the electorate to add my name to the ballot.
Later that evening, I was summoned to the principal’s office and expressly told there was no way I was getting sworn in. They insisted that the responsibility would take a bad toll on my performance, and they could not let that happen. I kept repeating, “But I was elected!” to which they replied “No one is arguing with that.”
“You should have told me I was banned from running before elections,” I blurted out when I noticed this was not going anywhere. It was not a negotiation, it was a briefing. “We are past that now, and it is upon you to inform everyone that you have decided to not take the seat of your own accord. No unrests.”
Then I was ushered out.
And just like that, my gold medal was gone. Which is why I say I know what Kemboi must be going through right now.
I had to tell the team that it was an express command from The Man Beater that I don’t take any elective seats, although I revealed the truth months later.