The Suited Penguin: When even your own family members can’t vote for you


One look at Fred Barafinda and I swore he wouldn’t get even his own vote. I mean the Rwandan would never have voted for himself. Luckily the Rwandan electoral commission saved him from himself by binning his bid papers. Barafinda’s stunt at running for Rwanda presidency left me pondering many things political when juxtaposed with what Bobi Wine just did.

Word is that since Bobi Wine’s thumping victory in Kyaddongo East by-election and since the musician-turned-politician left parts of Kampala in a gridlock with his mammoth entourage en route to swearing-in at Parliament, every other Tom, Dick and Navio has been clamouring to try their lack in politics.

Well, not to be left out, I posted that I would also seek the people’s mandate to represent my interests in Parliament come 2021. I indicated Butembe constituency in Jinja. It did not take time for me to realise how fast a politician would follow you on social media if they found out you were nursing some ambition to unseat them.

Nelson Lufafa, the Butembe MP, was so fast I thought he had used some hybrid Ferrari engine to type. By now he must be knowing where in Wairaka we live, how I was born in Kilembe and grew up in Kakira and whatnot.

The whole thing left me bemused by the gimcrack that is politics. And my experiences are not rosy.

It was around 1988 or so when local council elections were organised. Back in the day, a notice of meeting would see residents abandoning all their duties to attend the village meeting. As kids, we loitered around and on this particular day, the gathering was mammoth.

There were leaders in front and the people. After they spoke, some people started mentioning names. My father’s name hit the waves and he stood up and declared: “I’m standing down.” I thought my old man had sprayed dust on the Queen’s language. It was my first time hearing the expression. Apparently, he was ignored and things moved on. Several other hands that had shot in the air after his declining the nomination suggested people were seconding him.

Next, the manifesto. Those nominated addressed the village briefly with Tom, the village magician and wag, serenading the people during ‘commercial breaks.’ Us kids were there for Tom’s sleight of the hand. The guy was as gifted as a calligraphy. He pranced on the dais carrying three 20-litre jerry cans of water, one with his teeth. I am not sure a camel can carry a 20-litre jerry can like that, but Tom did it with ease.

Tom was that kid who would give you a finger of sweet banana the size of a toddler’s circumcised penis (you know how shrunk they look) and you fail to eat it up because you would be too satisfied to finish it. He walked on wires and inserted pins in your skull, extracting it from your palm.

After Tom and the candidates were done with promising hot air, it was election time. Lining up behind a candidate of choice. There were four people behind my mzee, including my elder sister who was frantically trying to pull others to stand behind Mzee. A kid me wasn’t allowed to add the numbers.

By the time counting started, even the few my sister had snatched had fled. Mzee got one vote from her filial daughter and an extra of his own. I am not sure he voted himself by just standing there. Perhaps he had wanted to vote for the others… what I am sure of is that I threatened to break some kid’s legs in football if he dared mock me again over what had just happened.

Elections are that bad. Cruel. You want to know how cold a fish those who hang around you can be? Stand for a vote. Could this explain why Olara Otunnu couldn’t even go vote for himself back in 2011?

At Makerere University, Aaron was a darling of the class. He was friends with everyone. But when the poor thing stood for guild election, only his UH roommate Joshua voted for him of all the 45 or so students in our day programme. I don’t know how many in the evening programme voted for Aaron, but what I know is that this snub did not dampen his spirit–the chap is adamant he can unseat Museveni if Muhoozi’s father stands again in 2021.

In Bugembe, Jinja, there is this Hajj with four wives who saw the cruelty of elective offices when he nursed the unfeasible dream. This guy was very popular among the locals. His glib tongue was welcomed everywhere and his voice resonated with his giant frame. With four wives and more than a dozen children, he stood for local council elections and found out how unpopular he was even in his own four bedrooms.

On Election Day, this man ran around dragging one wife after the other, children, relatives and whatnot. He wanted their votes to count. He would drag one Hajjati to the polling station and run looking after another. He would bring Sumaya and make for Salaamu, but as he turned the corner, Sumaya would be gone. Whether they were not eligible voters or just avoiding ‘their candidate’, we shall never know.

Vote counting started. It ended. The Hajji had one vote. His own. At first he claimed rigging, that his wives had surely voted for him because he had endeavored to bring them to the polls. He later sobered up and realised that glib tongue and popularity at omweso points is meaningless in a voting booth.

The reality is that all those many friends will desert you if you don’t have the things that appeal to them. In elections, you need ten Barbies and a thousands of other filial Natasha’s behind you. Popularity alone is just popcorn.

So do I really want to joke around with elective office? Not when I am still suited like a penguin.



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