University elections are a sham

I think the right to vote in campus is overrated. Don’t get me wrong. I have participated in an impressive number of elections. The dishing out of money, the door to door campaigns, and posters plastered on every free bit of real estate, I have seen it all whenever Students’ Organization of Nairobi University (SONU) elections come around. Being one of the voters, and the beneficiary of a bottle of beer which I had to accept from a loyal friend, I think it is good to share my views about the most recent elections.

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If there’s anything that everybody is against now, it is the direction politics has taken. People make election decisions based on the favours they get, regardless of a candidate’s ideas or policies. How can a sane person say that elections are free and fair when your victory is dependent on the money you spend funding your goons and supporters? As they were dishing out money, some candidates openly harked to Bible quotes like “to those whom much is given, much is expected” to buoy their credibility.

Now, only a few days later, all students are on a forced holiday after the university was closed indefinitely. Some are residents of hospital beds, others are weeding a maize plantation, and others watching series, while others yet enjoy their trips abroad. But that does not matter. What is important is that learning had to be interfered with, mere weeks before exams. This means that some will take longer to earn their degrees, extending their relative’s wait to welcome home a well-rounded scholar, one ready to make a contribution to the world.

As I write this, I am nursing a contusion after a ceremonial beating for ‘security reasons’ following the student unrests. Luckily, I didn’t have to go to hospital. However, many students weren’t as lucky.

It doesn’t need a genius to acknowledge that law-enforcement officers had to come in because of the unrest. But the humiliating and painful paddling of ‘comrades’ was unwarranted. And it proved futile in restoring order. The use of excessive force by the police only converted spontaneous outbursts of anger into fatal encounters.

The weak and helpless had to seek refuge out of school. While the police and the students had their reasons, I believe that the police could have had more regard for human rights and common sense, rather than coming on a revenge mission against hapless students.

But then again, maybe the students had it coming. How could they claim that the strike was a peaceful demonstration when, candidate-supplied whistles blaring, they set hostels on fire and robbed innocent passers-by? The discomfort these activities caused people far outweighs the satisfaction they gave to those who started them. I share this view and regret that the students involved saw it fit to behave in this fashion. As a result, the cost will be borne even by those who had no involvement with the incidents.

It is so irrational and retrograde to base one’s vote on factors that are not related to a candidate’s qualifications to serve. It is a shallow act for it is unsupported by reason. Although there was no consensus on the integrity of the elections, I have difficulty understanding why university students decided to act in a manner so inconsistent with their ideals of such an educational institution.

It is true that people display a diversity of attitudes and position, but there are certain acts that should not be in the minds of intellectuals. It is the high time that every ‘comrade’ should be accountable for every stone that he throws. Otherwise, universities will never be worthy of the name they bear.

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