By Alagie Saidy-Barrow
I remember the day the idea of running for president was initially broached to me. I laughed incredulously because as much as I like to dream, I had never entertained dreams of being president of anything much more a country. I thought it was a joke of sorts even though I know the people broaching the idea were as serious as a heart attack. The people need you, they told me. The country needs you. You are their last hope. I asked for time to chat with my pillow. I consulted a marabout friend who encouraged me to go for it. I confided in my best friend and he too encouraged me to go for it. He told me his problems will soon be over when I become president. I decided to speak to my family about my decision a week later on a starry night and the mixture of euphoria and apprehension was palpable. The idea of helping my people started forming in my head. An idea that was planted by a desperate need for a savior but the success of which will be watered with the blood, sweat and tears of many. There was a lot of apprehension mixed with a tinge of excitement. The excitement of a pregnant future which I prayed will deliver the collective hopes of my people.
I have been in politics for a long while now and I came face to face with the destitution of my people on so many occasions that changing our lot should be the sole occupation of each and everyone of us. But what are my chances of winning, I wondered aloud. I decided to consult a famous marabout who told me to make some sacrifices and that if I did everything as she asked me, I would become president. My friends encouraged me. People I have not heard from in a while, called me and entreated me to go for it. I accepted. The announcement was made that I will be contesting for the presidency. Thus began my odyssey into the unknown buoyed by the promise of better and undergirded by the resilience of a long suffering people.
Some people called and asked if I felt safe. Some asked if I needed anything they can help with. The people were generous with me. Soon after, my home became a sanctuary for the hopeful. People visited to tell me their problems. Others came to offer their support. Some asked me not to forget about them when I become president. Alagie, they will say, hurry up and form your campaign team so that we can get on the road to fight for you. Everyone told me of the influence they have in their home region and how they can help deliver votes for me. I bought colanuts and sent them across the nation to every community head. It was to inform them that I was going to run for president and I need their blessing as well as their support and prayers. When the colanuts got to the village or community head, my representative will call me and I will speak with the head. I will crack jokes and find a commonality between us. I will assure them I will in fact be coming their way soon and that I want to see how best I can solve their problems. I made promises. And I actually had all intents to keep my promises. That is how I was brought up. To be a man of my word. To be a man of integrity. To treat people right. To be honest. To not be greedy. Those were the values my father and mother instilled in me. And so when I make promises to my people, I want to make sure that my father and mother can look down on me proudly knowing that I still uphold the values they instilled in me.
Day in and day out, people were lining up to see me. To celebrate me. To assure me. To comfort me. To assuage any fears. To beg for this or that. A sick parent here. A school fee there. A job here. Lack of food there. I spent and spent what little I had. My family became protective of me. You must rest Alagie. You cannot solve everyone’s problems Alagie. Some of these people are not here as friends Alagie. They are here to spy on you. They want to destroy your presidency at its embryonic stage. You cannot allow everyone to just access you Alagie. You are not an ordinary person anymore. We cannot afford to have anyone harm you Alagie. You are our hope. And so I got some men to secure me. I watched whose food I ate. I began to form an inner circle. A circle of the trusted ones. I relied on those I have trusted since my childhood days.
I began to have people make appointments with members of my circle to see me. It was a bit overwhelming to be frank. Everyone wanted a piece of me. I was not able to go out and visit friends anymore. Traveling from one place to another required a convoy of sorts. No matter where I went, somehow, the word always got out that I was in the area. And people would line up to see me. To ask for this or that. My privacy was nonexistent. But my people adored me. They toasted me. I got the best chairs in meetings. People started referring to me as His Excellency. Someone will hurriedly straighten my shoes so I can put them on when I get up off my chair. Someone would always hold my chair for me as I sat down. My chair was the highest. I sat the highest. Everyone else sat on the floor. I was assigned an aide to follow me and hold things for me. Car doors were opened for me. I didn’t have to do anything for myself except that which nature forces me to. And I wasn’t even president yet.
My family needs were met. Businessmen anonymously paid for the school fees of my children. They wanted to remain anonymous and kept their receipts. Others gave me a compound to relax in but didn’t want it known that the compound was theirs. Some donated huge amounts of cash that they delivered in envelopes to my inner circle. No receipt required they assured me. Just remember us they smiled. Money kept coming in. Those making the donations wanted me to know their names but they preferred that the public not know. They did it because they believe in me they assured me. They did it because they want a better country.
I kept getting worshipped. It felt great. It was alluring. There was something captivating about how I was treated. I want to say beguiling but I prefer to say captivating. Sometimes even I could see through the falsities veiled in altruism.
My schedule was hectic. I went around the country to meet with all the major religious leaders to seek their blessing. People promised me meetings with some other presidents when I become president. But a lot of the support was to be kept secret. Until I win that is. And then it was campaign time… (to be cont. if Njundu leaves me alone)