We huddled together on the creaky forms of a small hotel room at the shopping center like birds on a perch. A charcoal jiko burned from one corners of hotel to warm tea in a large aluminum kettle and us as well. On the decrepit tables were metallic cups of tea that were worn out at the brim, some were empty while others were half full, none was completely full. The tea warmed our bodies from the inside out while the charcoal jiko warmed our skins. The CRT television set placed high up the counter was to broadcast news- the Jubilee manifesto to warm our intellect. See, Kinangop is outrageously cold and the degrees fall below ten at dusk thanks to the Nyandarua Ranges thus keeping warm is a necessity and as it is an art the local folk have crafted. They have tried warming up by making babies-the by-product, drinking tea, wearing woolen socks and Boshori but none seems to help. This year however the news will warm us up; it’s either NASA or Jubilee. Jubilee has been hoky-poky but we are pledged.
It is approaching seven o’clock in the evening. Old men in boshoris, cotton corduroy trousers with a pocket dedicated for Kaluma balm, heavy fleece jackets, smoking pipes and Nokia 1100 flock the hotel. Their breath as they talk, laugh and flinch from arthritic pain comes out as white clouds from their mouth and nostrils, a reminiscent of White Walkers in the North. The ones who arrive late miss the seats and stand in the porch and by the window, joining the ones with no money to buy a snack. The air is very pregnant with stale tobacco smell, gumboots odor, deep fried oil and expectation. Someone coughs loudly, clears his throat and spits into the jiko. The hot charcoal protests against the horrendous act by hissing and releasing ash which rise and settle on the caps and boshoris. Nobody complains aloud, he is the headman and owns a tractor. I am the only man below sixty in the vicinity, not from will but from parental summoning.
“Son come sit with me tonight,” Father had begged,” when Uhuru speaks, write down all the key points from his manifesto.”
I had to obey; old men have been commissioned to bless and curse.
The congregation adores Uhuru. Something about the vibrant President reminds them of Jomo, their Jomo and hero. They talk fondly of Jomo, and his no-nonsense approach of leadership. Jomo not only gave their fathers land but also the baton of leadership. But the son of the Lake had come up so strongly this time round, bewitching the Meeru and their pride was hanging precariously on a thin thread. They had to know what perspired in Gatharaini, if it was a killer manifesto or just another joke like the Mexican maize.
The 1859 hours minute took more time than usual allowing for a heated discussion.
“Change the channel to Jaata TV,” a man who was silent all through said. Everybody could feel the authority in his tone.
“No. Let us continue with Mwananchi TV,” my father who is ever the antagonist said and coughed; his bad chest was back. It comes with June every year, hope it will never go away with him one night.
“Jaata is good for all of us, we can understand and share the views,” the formerly silent man got a voice and his counterparts sharing a table backed him up. I later learnt he bought them tea and Kaimati, quite a gamble but it worked. Jaata it was. My father swallowed the lump in his throat, coughed and rubbed Kaluma on his chest, adding another smell to the atmosphere. I gestured at the waiter to fill up his tepid Soya with a hot one.
Manifestos work miracles. They can either build or break. They come in all sizes, shapes and degrees of mediocrity but funny enough the more mediocre it is, the more souls it wins. Who needs fine facts and eloquence in the language of the Queen when several tibims, tialalas or a firm elevated handshake can move the masses?
I have sat and in some at the head in committees that draft, edit or implement manifestos for political, social and individual movements. It is a skill whose discovery and sharpening dates back to the days of Kibaki. I wrote hundreds of letters to girlfriends of friends in high school and saw the fruits when girlfriends evolved to lovers. Kuuza sera. The writers of good manifestos are intelligent and inspired but are underpaid; they see the fruits but never eat of them. They are reincarnations of Moses .They are forgotten on the occasion of if the party wins or loses. If they are on the winning side, they are the only ones who lose as they are offered the bigger picture and how does it fit in the small houses they dwell in. If they are on the losing side, they are reprimanded and called moles. They are lowly individuals for walking by faith when everybody is wearing glasses to enhance sight. At the end of time, they write very good books which are published postmortem because they invest most of their time believing in others, leaving no time to believe in themselves. Poor chaps.
Please do not hire me. I write manifestos with no contingency of losing, on my part at least. I cut my size before the coat is bought, so as you buy the cloth, my part is guaranteed (Good Gracious, I pulled a Wavinya there, dancing emoji). I am like food in a mess; you pay for what you want. The more mediocre services, the more you pay, like the good old pizza. If I detect a loss, you release the second and third payment batch at a go. If I smell a win, I attribute that to a powerful quote in the manifesto, say‘6. Kaboom.’ And you double up and make a promise that once you are in government I will win tenders.
During the last students’ election at school, I had planned to stay aloof to concentrate on my studies but was called out of retirement by an easily gullible candidate. The returns were inviting and I was broke, still I am. He was going for a congress seat within the Faculty of Applied Science and Technology. He said that he had political connections with a formerly Kasipul Kabondo MP; I saw a bursary, a blue suit, yellow tie, Lloyd boots and booty. I was in. Ndani Ndaani Ndaaani. I won his heart by promising an outcome of voters. Students from that faculty are the second most boring students in any university, after B. com students. B.com students are the liveliest but are banal. They are in all clubs-school and town, the words CPA section Two are always on their lips like a Herpes sore, they are also responsible for anything bad from slow school Wi-Fi, long queues at the cafeteria, water shortage, condom dispenser emptiness, and kuangusha stima Hall 5.They should have been long branded Enemies of Progress but won our hearts and saved their asses by their timely discovery of Safaricom Bundles Mwitu. Back to the Faculty of Applied Science and Technology, students here pursue stellar courses like Applied Statistics, Biochemistry and Medical Laboratory but have no life after school. The sole reason they are in University is to acquire the power to read. They can derive Michaelis Menten Equation and Bayer’s Theorem on a Christmas morning, think tanks, but ask them who won the last Mr. and Mrs. University at your college, they say Lupita Nyon’go, smile, tighten the grip on the Fundamentals of Biochemistry textbook and take off like you just informed them that the library is on fire.
“Bobby, let me do this. It is what I do best,” I said, referring to me getting money from candidates, not the votes.
“I want us to win this election by eight o’clock,” the use of second person plural confirmed that I was in, my mind went overdrive.
“We need to have an online presence, to dictate the tide and move the masses. Once you are on everybody’s lips, your win will be as easy as Kibaki’s over Uhuru in 2002. My laptop has a problem with the battery but once that is fixed, my friend I will make you famous. I will create memes and inspired quotes for you. Let us go for lunch as we strategise.” See how easy it is to evocate greed. I got my laptop battery fixed and sumptuous lunch on day one.
Later that night I had to draft a manifesto. I looked up for a Britain’s Student elections manifesto and made them Kenyan using the format below.
1. On Student representatives systems.
Democratize the Student Representative Systems: Re-organize, Re-form and Structure. Create a framework for reps to gather and deliver information from and to students.
The administration has gone to bed with our school and class reps: We shall not allow them to ejaculate on us anymore.
2. On facilities.
Campaign for recording of lectures and make them accessible via moodle.
During my first week in office I shall install Wi-Fi routers in all rooms and chill spots under my jurisdiction.
3. On academic feedback.
Standardize feedback for all graded assignments
We shall not allow the old professors to sleep with our ladies for grades.
4. On course awareness and personal advising
End of year presentations by professors for all upcoming courses.
Comrades riiiaaa! Comrades tialala! Comrades akchuu!
5. On transparency and communication.
Re-evaluate the role of the reps to make it more dependable and responsible.
With a penta-point power manifesto I slept and dreamed of the riches I would acquire after we won. Morning came and I called few goons from retirement to help me request our main competitor to step down feigning that he would not deliver as well as my Bobby. I met them at Landmawe, we ate Tuna with Ugali at a joint then passed by a sanctuary to fill up with some spirits and burn incense. The goons were raring to perform. A few hours later the opponent made an official declaration of surrender on Facebook and twitter, saying that he believed in Bobby.
I received six thousand for that day’s inconveniences from Bobby; I treated the goons to supper and spent three thousand on them in total before calling my landlord, I was paying for the following month’s rent in advance.
PS. That was not in the payment package but this was a winning manifesto.
The candidate going for Social welfare secretary status heard of my heroic deeds and met me at my digs. He needed me to work for him too. His campaigns required extra shrewdness and spice-just my type. He left me seven hundred shillings for commitment and a promise of more. He was power greedy and foolish enough to show me the money. After he left, I called Anniversary Towers 21st floor and told the receptionist at HELB to tell Ringera to send me an invoice for my loan and to use the un-disbursed amount of money for his data.
Three weeks later.
The social welfare candidate came second in the poll, collecting seventy three votes against the opponent’s two thousand six hundred votes. He was sweating and breathing hell when he arrived at my room that evening. His running mate- Jemimah-was cooking goat liver and Biriani for my supper, an opened bottle of Chardonnay was breathing on the table and I was watching John Snow take on Ramsey on a 32- inch screen I had bought a week earlier.
“Jemmi, how could you betray me and sleep with the man who orchestrated our downfall?” he reprimanded her.
“Hey. You there. Not so fast brother. I warned you but you never heeded to my advice and leave Jemmi out of this,” I stood,” You brought in all that smart crap and made us vulnerable. If you stuck with the original plan, my plan, we would be popping champagne somewhere else.”
I poured him a glass of wine and gave him a pat on the back.
“I know you are not going to pay me because we lost, but I have a plan. I have information that it was rigged, someone has the photos of the extra boxes but they are asking for money. Crazy Kenyans you know how they are. If you are willing to fight for your rights, I am your guy,” I offered.
“Look here, I don’t trust you but if you can do that I am doubling your cut,” he promised.
“I also don’t trust you, the first installment comes in first thing tomorrow morning then we will see about it.”
He left after throwing Jemimah a fierce glance.
“I don’t know why but I want your brain genes in my children,” Jemimah said. I wished I could say the same for her.
“We will see about …” a call from Bobby came through, interrupting us.
“Man we nailed it, sasa nataka tupange kazi,” he reiterated the statement in my head, showing me the bigger picture.
“Oh congrats, you are genius man. I wish I was there to celebrate with you. I traveled to the village with regards to the story I was telling you about. I need some money to pay for the hospital bill; if you help me out I will be so glad.” As a manifesto writer manipulating people and twisting their emotions becomes so easy that you do it with a smile.
“Let me see how I can help you out.”
If he sent the money or not I was contented with what I had. He had paid three folds what the original deal had, plus I had a new girl.