"I lost. Again!"
I had just lost an election and like everytime i faced a set back i had made a rash and perphaps hasty decision. Politics was no longer for me. I still had a slim but difficult chance to leave school with a first class and that was what i was going to only focus on going forward. I had met with my close lietenanuant and shared my decision with him. The problem was that i had introduced him to this politics thing and he was only just getting started. He looked at me and only nodded. I should have seen the sign then.
I didnt and was surprised to arrive school a few weeks later to be hurriedlu ushered into a secluded area. I have Just been offered the opportunity to be a member of the electoral committee he uttered. We only need congress to approve my name to be sent as the faculty’s representative. Until then i have forgotten that i was still acting speaker of congress. My retirement had lasted weeks. I couldn’t say no to him after all the sacrifices he had made for me. So i was at it again though this time i had promised myself it was only a brief comeback.
The Speaker of Congress had at the time gotten a brainwave and decided he was going to contest the Presidency of the National Association of Nigerian Students even though we had a more qualified candidate from our school. It was considered a selfish and reckless decision but he had pushed on anyway. I was therefore acting while he went across the country campaigning.
I summoned a meeting of congress (The thing is i dont recollect this meeting which meant it may have either been very innocous or that it never held. I probably just got them to type a resolution of Congress and signed it off myself without even giving them the benefit of acting the rubber stamp they obviously were. You see there was a sitting allowance for congress and members who were always broke didnt mind signing anything if it guaranteed payment. You could even offer to approve for double allowances to be paid on the basis that a sitting that never held lasted too long to be one meeting and they would sign off anything. It was my first taste of the power of money in politics) and got him his approval.
But it was only shortlived. The electoral committee at UNIBEN was extremely powerful. They could determine who became President or Speaker of Parliament solely by deternining who was eligible to contest. You could not win an election you were never a contestant at and security issue was a blanket reason which meant everything and nothing when screening out a candidate. So my friend had overnight become one of the 6 most powerful students on campus without even a contest. I literally signed him into power. The contest though was ahead of us.
The powerful faculty President at the time wanted to position himself as a kingmaker going into the school elections and decided he could only achieve this by controlling the electoral committee. He wanted to achieve this by planting his stooge as the faculty’s representative and was stunned to find out he had been beaten to that draw.
He immediately summoned the general assembly (the entire faculty student body) which was the only organ that could set aside an act of Congress. We were blind sided and only found out few minutes before the meeting commenced. As acting speaker of Congress i was supposed to be pre-informed. The constitution just didnt say for which length of time. I got 5 minutes. Too short to mobilise loyal students to attend.
I immediately asked my friend to proceed to the venue while i went to get call credits. I spent the next 20mins on the phone calling key supporters to mobilise as much as they could to get to the venue before the vote was taken.
I have always been a fearsome debater. I do not debate to win. I debate to humilate. I do not debate to push my points. I do so to annihalate yours.
I was at my best that day. When the votes were tallied, we had won by 5. We were in fully! It was time to enjoy the ride.
Political groupings were the closest we had to political parties on campus and a particular group had for years determined who became Speaker of Parliament. They had annointed the next speaker and also controlled the electoral committee through the Executive Secretary who was the representative of the faculty of education. He was also Benin like my friend and had immediately recruited him to join.
There were about 70 seats in parliament spread across the various faculties with Engineering, Education, Science and Social Science accounting for two thirds of those seats. Anyone who could control the elected members from those faculties determined who would be speaker.
So this political group modus operandi was to control that by determining those who had access to the nomination forms. Candidates were handpicked and sold forms and opponents told to come the next day until the deadline for buying elapsed.
My friend now a solid member of the Group was assigned the responsibility of handpicking candidates for Engineering and Sciences and all of a sudden we controlled 22 seats out of 70. I was back in retirement though. Chasing a first class was my focus at this point.
Then he suggested i contest for Speaker of Parliament. Without coming out of retirement though. I could attend a few meetings during my reading breaks but not more. How do i campaign for Speakership whilst not being in active politics? And how does attending a few meetings during my reading breaks equate to campaigning for the 2nd most powerful student office on campus?
The thing was i was neither campaigning or interested in the Speakership. It was all leverage. We were only going to use forms purchased by the Group to obtain leverage against the Group. Dubious but brilliant!
I immediately declared interest in being Speaker with 25 (I was swiftly able to convince 3 others) elected members signing my declaration. Everyone was shook. The other side had about 18 confirmed members and we were both in play for the remaining 27. It was a masterstroke.
They all began to scamper to meet with me but i kept them waiting. By this time i had gotten engulfed again in the thrill of politicking and was relieving the reason i loved it in the first place.
A day before the election, i arrived at a meeting with the other side with 32 declared voters. As a show of strength i got them all to attend with me even though they would take no part in the negotiations that was to follow. I only wanted them to see we were seriously in play.
After the general discussions were done we retired into the inner chambers for the main discussion. Our target was pre-defined. We pick the deputy speaker and 3 Chairmen of committees of our choice. We had them by their balls and they knew it. But they still pushed though. We expected that but not the nature of the push. We could determine the deputy speaker if i was the one taking the position. A man like me would be difficult to control sitting in the house alone but as deputy speaker i would be part of the Group fully.
This was against my plan. I did not want active political involvement anymore and was even 3 months away from a 6 months industrial attachment which i planned to observe. But they wouldn’t budge and i reluctantly agreed to take it. Actually contest it. While we were two going for the speakership there was always a single candidate for deputy and he was well loved. He was also hot headed and not a member of the Group. They wanted me to contest against him.
The next day came and it was election time. My followers oblivious they were only pawns in a game found out that morning i had stepped down and was now contesting for deputy speaker. 22 of them had no choice and were never going to betray me. The others? Not so sure. But my co-conspirators had 18 which should be enough to sway it my way so i was confident.
I recollect the deputy speakership being the only contested position that day. Maybe there were more but who cared about that?
Votes were casted and the counting began. When they were done, there were 6 votes which were not clear. This was going to be tricky as the electoral committee were at a loss how to treat them and whether to render them void. After a lengthy deliberation we the candidates were called to have a say. At this point we had no idea who was leading and what impact the 6 would have but i looked at the ballots once and said add them to his votes. Everyone was stunned. They had expected a long drawn argument after which the conclusion would be for them to void the votes but i just said count them as his.
They shrugged their shoulders and said okay. The vote tally was announced a few minutes later.
I was officially back in retirement. I lost. Again!