By John Kariuki
Elias Obwocha is a middle level manager in one city firm. He has been a believer in the creed of old students’ associations.
Obwocha has been contributing money to many noble causes at the behest of the leaders of his primary and secondary schools’ old students associations. But some recent developments have made him pause, take a hard look at these outfits and resolve to use his hard-earned cash wisely in any proposed project.
Obwocha laments that a wily chap sneaked in a political agenda in his secondary school old students’ association early this year when they had met to launch an endowment fund for needy students. In his pursuit of a gubernatorial post, the guy extolled the virtues of the new constitution and the many new elective posts it has created.
“This man preached that it was our time to lead and especially our cohort,” says Obwocha. But there was a rider, adds Obwocha, “Each of us was requested to donate Sh5,000 instantly to his campaign war chest and that we were automatic members to his think tank.”
Wake up call
“Speaker after speaker talked a lot of politics and the candidate was unanimously endorsed for governorship,” says Obwocha. He adds that he went home triumphant for being part of this seemingly extraordinary decision! “I did not have any qualms sending more money by mobile phone transfer to a number that we were given, ostensibly, for funding the campaign think tank for one of our own,” he says.
But the most expensive phase of this old boys’ union was to come. Obwocha would go to posh hotels and other resorts to brainstorm about his old schoolmate’s candidature on several occasions. “A typical bill for a meal and drinks, which we would pay individually, often run to about Sh4, 000,” says Obwocha. After a dozen such meetings, Obwocha added the figures and realised that he had spent at least Sh75,000 on the prohibitive bills and fuel cost of getting to and from these posh resorts.
This realisation was a wake-up call for Obwocha and he became cautious of all further meetings. “From that day, I ignored all meetings unless they were done in church halls,” he says. And for contributions, Obwocha thinks that he has given enough and is now firmly back on his personal financial goals; the political project is the candidate’s private affair and he had only come in as a friend and not a partner.
Rule of thumb
Personal financial experts advise people to scrutinise their strategic interests in all ventures undertaken under the patronage of old students’ associations lest they lose their hard earned cash.
The rule of thumb is to critically question the motive and urgency of those pushing for the projects hardest and to look at what is in it for you. For example, why would anybody frantically lead other former students of a nondescript primary school in making a comeback, each with a desk after years of living abroad?