Deserved rest after gruelling political campaign period

Sunday August 13 2017

President Uhuru Kenyatta campaigns in Kiriaini, Murang'a County on July 25, 2017. The end of campaigns and subsequent elections on Tuesday came as a huge relief for politicians who were gunning for various offices. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

President Uhuru Kenyatta campaigns in Kiriaini, Murang'a County on July 25, 2017. The end of campaigns and subsequent elections on Tuesday came as a huge relief for politicians who were gunning for various offices. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JUSTUS WANGA
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The end of campaigns and subsequent elections on Tuesday came as a huge relief for politicians who were gunning for various offices following weeks of intense canvassing that not only left them gasping for financial redemption but also emotionally battered.

It has been a long tiresome journey. For the winner, the victory has soothed their blisters.

But for the losers, it is devastating. Most of them are yet to come to terms with the reality.

Many politicians have been diagnosed with hypertension and stress-related conditions after losing elections.

One of the candidates for a seat which was fiercely fought for was late for a scheduled media interview four days to the election day in what we later learnt was an overwhelming bout of fatigue.

CAMPAIGN RIGOURS

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his arch-rival from Nasa Raila Odinga are not in the state they were before the polls, the rigours of the campaign palpable on their faces with keen observers noting that both look older than they were when they went into the vote hunting mission.

Addressing supporters in one of the last rallies in Mombasa, Mr Odinga had a hoarse voice. Although younger, the President has equally had it rough, having to re-schedule some rallies in order to rejuvenate. 

Mr David Murathe, President Kenyatta’s close ally, says the need to showcase what he had accomplished in the last four-and-a-half years saw him go to all counties to seek a second term.

“It was important for him to go to the ground,” he said.

On the occasions he stayed away from State House, documents that needed his signatures were flown to where he was.

BODYGUARDS

Equally feeling relieved are their bodyguards and aides who have had to endure harsh terrain, hunger and thirst to see to it that their bosses are not only present at the rallies on time but safely so.

Mr Chris Mandu, an aide to one of the Nasa principals Moses Wetang’ula, expressed optimism that the sacrifice was not in vain.

“Having to make do with little resources, it has been like going to war,” he said.

An officer attached to the presidential escort team offered a glimpse into the lives during the period.

“If it was religion, you would equate it to fasting. There are many things we had to forego,” he said.

STAY SOBER

Those who love their bottle had to stay sober longer as many other recreational endeavours were put on hold.

It was more challenging for them in the more than 350 joint rallies Mr Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto addressed together. On all the occasions, it was a security nightmare ensuring that both Mr Kenyatta and his deputy were safe.

Exposed in the rallies and being high premium targets for terror groups like al-Shabaab, what would become of the country if Mr Kenyatta or Mr Odinga were to come under a life-threatening attack. The security apparatus had to work extra hard to ensure the period ended without a hitch.

TRICKY BALANCE

Numerous are the occasions Mr Kenyatta had to cut short his rallies at the intervention of the security detail to ensure he did not risk flying in darkness.

It was always a tricky balance between his safety and wooing voters. 

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga are not the only ones who were affected. Regardless of poll outcome, a majority of politicians are planning to retreat on long vacations in order to recuperate.

RUNNING MATES

The “indefatigable” DP has equally not been spared the weariness just like Nasa presidential running mate Kalonzo Musyoka in what observers say was a severe campaign in the recent times.

After the presidential candidates who have had to traverse the entire country in search of votes, governor’s race generated passionate interest with incumbents having to contend with heavy onslaught from those who were angling to wrest the lucrative seat from them.

Mr Kabatesi Kibisu, an aide to Nasa chief agent Musalia Mudavadi, said, “I have hardly seen my family for the last two months. I leave early, arrive late or I am out for days. There hasn’t been a time you think of anything else. The mind always juggling possibilities, challenges to overcome. Our superiors keep a tight schedule and you have to think on your toes.”

KERICHO GOVERNOR

Kericho governor Paul Chepkwony, who was defending his seat on a Jubilee ticket, admitted that the campaign took a toll on almost everyone running for office.

Admitting that ordinarily he sleeps for about five hours a day, one of the officers guarding the political elite told the Sunday Nation that he had lost count of the occasions he had to go without sleep.

“When the boss flies back to Nairobi, say from Kwale, we followed him by road. And because the next rally was in another extreme border like Busia, we had to drive all the way to get there before him the next day,” he narrated.

PASSING OUT

There were about three cases of candidates passing out but all hushed up as news of such would have given opponents a lethal campaign weapon.

It was more gruelling for the presidential staff who must move with the President but are not allowed to know his itinerary well in advance.

“Sometimes the extra clothes you carry get depleted because you end up staying longer in the field than anticipated. In other instances, you have to find the nearest shop and buy a new set,” another one narrated.

The drivers, the pilots, sometimes cooks endured all this. It was, however, booming business for some like owners of choppers which were the trendiest means of transport.

For the spouses and children of the candidates, the end of the campaigns and voting is good news; it signals reunion.

Having exhausted their cash reserves, many were forced to slow down their activities as others resorted to reaching out to friends for support.

Responding to startling pictures of how much the presidency had aged him in 2015, a year to his retirement, US President Barack Obama told reporters, “When I came into office, I had no grey hair and now I have a lot of it.”