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This is how Student Leaders are turned corrupt and cannot be saved

By William Dekker | January 21st 2016

In my 3rd year in campus, I got into the Student Governing Council, serving as a Communications and PR Chief for the student organisation. Not a good title as such, especially in a country where the tag “PR” is misconstrued as “Public Propaganda and twisted spin-doctoring”. Anyway, that is trivial to the matter at hand.

As much as Student leadership is something I once dreaded and cynically criticised, this one was a good opportunity to learn a lot, some of which are secrets you go with to the grave.  Once you get here, there’s a certain conception, misconception and perception that is developed about you, by your ‘subjects’, comrades themselves, friends, relatives and the society at large. Agreeably, your responsibilities increase considerably, but then people’s expectations become enormous. Some of these expectations are way above impossible. When others elevate you to small student god and start seeing you as a moneyed personage who should folk out cash everywhere then the wrong turn begins.

i) Recovering campaign money

From a research carried out by Moi University Press Club - The 3rd Eye, on average, students spend about 27,000/- to 180,000/- while campaigning to get elected into the student government. And the tradition is, those who spend more are the ones who win often. In some not so rare cases, one would be compelled to spend well over a million shillings, depending on the involved interests. You know how they did it in SONU last time? Make Google your friend.

So it means, once you win you have to strive to recover what you spent on campaigns. It may have been a loan from a lender who wants it back badly. Will a salary of 5000/- pay it back? Even if you do it in religious installments?

ii) Paycheck to the supporters

Once you get in, you have to return favours before anything else; fulfilling the promises you made to those whose support had been bought. You have to pay your loyalists too and make them feel the goodness of you in being in power.  “You promised goodies when you get up there, now give them to us”. Will 5000/- be enough to pay up the entire crowd that braved the cold at night chanting your name and blowing vuvuzelas from dusk to dawn and dawn to dusk?

iii) “Eat with Comrades”

Just like every politician you have to give handouts to your people in order to remain “a good leader”. This can be done once in a while so it keeps you at peace. They know you’re milking their coffers and by “eating with the people” very few scandals of you can be heard. You also face limited or no opposition at all. But with comrades you don’t have to give money often neither do you have to give it once in a while, why? Because they need it every second of every minute of every hour of everyday you breathe in campus. And remember that a comrade is always right! There is a certain level of njaa in campus (3rd rate hunger). HELB should do something on the amount disbursed, it can only get worse as the dollar rises. Just to ask, how many days can one survive with 5000/- in their pockets when every day you have to buy crates of sodas to every student kamukunji you come across on the academic highway?

iv) Fulfill the needs of your dependents

Now that your momma knows that you are a student leader, she can’t believe anything else apart from the fact that you are on the “University payroll”. Now is the time to let you know of her debts with the chama, and a loan from Maendeleo ya Wanawake; all which you have to pay since you have been idolised as a good son. The good son has to subsidise his younger brother’s school fees in primary school and send pocket money to the sister in high school.

Sometime last year, while in a retreat in Rwanda with fellow colleagues in the Student Council, we opted to stay awake on one night, telling our most intimate stories. One of us plunged into tears after revealing the huge responsibility she bore at home ever since her village folks discovered that she was serving in the student government. Sadly, she couldn’t meet the needs at home and sustain herself at the same time.

v) Fulfill your needs

Food, shelter and clothing are not the only thing. Now that momma knows you’re earning, she and daddy don’t have to pay your school fees, deal with it like a man. And now that you miss a lot of classes in the pretext of attending to “comrades’ issues”, you have to give something to motivate your wingman in class to pick the lecture notes and do you the assignments.

You have to eat too but remember you never eat alone, in every food joint you have to pay people’s bills as well. Now that you’re a “public figure”, you have more friends than you can handle, and about 57 girlfriends whose attention is maintained by free flowing money. Brother? Na Elfu tano?

vi) Harambee contributions

Since everyone including the half-brother to your step uncle’s sister-in-law, know of your position in campus, you are the man ever invited to fundraisers, to sponsor events and chip in whenever the small student association in your faculty needs something. Even if they can afford it, kiongozi must folk out something too. Remember we are still talking the one 5000/- doing all these.

It brings me to this discussion: How can one fulfill all these monetary demands when whatever he earns legitimately cannot fully satisfy even a single responsibility. If you cannot perform a miracle, only one alternative is left, become CORRUPT as to find means of getting money from the same public kitty that you are to guard. If you don’t steal, you’ll die naturally and before you steal, you go mad.

So you become aggressive with the system and the channels through which you’ll get the money. At times you have to “eat” with some of the higher-ups in the system. That is the only way they can facilitate the process or protect you when balancing the books. With time you learn to inflate budgets, concoct fake development proposals, and undertake “ghost projects” while withdrawing huge sums and concealing professionally.  It becomes a corruption academe where you learn and understand all units of corruption. Individuals who at one time rose with the interest of championing the needs of their colleagues to make a positive difference; are now brewed into 1st corruption lords who cannot be reformed by any anticorruption body in the world and beyond. Like Donald trump puts it, “you eat from your government then eat from the people, till there’s nothing more to be eaten.”

Unfortunately, this is the same breed of people who are positioned to be leaders of tomorrow. A good number in this bracket shelve political ambitions; to vie for MCAs, MPs, Senators, Governors and even Presidents of this country. What will become of their regimes? Some have already plunged into the 2017 race; some of whom “ate” more than what everyone else could “eat”…hawa wakiingia si watakula tushangae!

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