(Continued from Nouveau Riche II)
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Sam is in a meeting at his campaign office when Rick, Kyle and Hellen walk in. As an independent candidate, Sam does not have the machinery of an established party to rely on. But that is exactly the way he wants it. Should he win, he does not want to be bogged down by party politics. He wants to run his agenda for the county the way he envisions it, and the way he has sold it to the people.
He has a team of sixteen full time volunteers, all young people. But these young people, most of them college students on holiday, require someone with managerial experience to guide them. Sam has been doing that all by himself, and he is beginning to feel the early signs of burn out.
He would have loved to bring Grace on board, but she is the one running Hotel Shava and Messa Oval Restaurant in his absence. She would have been the perfect fit. She cut her teeth at Alitad Sacco and improved her experience while working as the general manager of Sam’s enterprises. But Sam cannot afford to have her away from the hotel.
Sam’s running mate, Edith, is very charismatic but she knows nothing about management. She is a long serving MCA and is a very astute politician. She can electrify a crowd, but she is not very keen on details.
Sam’s campaign is not lacking in financing. Sam has invested a substantial amount of his personal money into the campaign, and he has also received the backing of most of the business people in Shava. With his war chest full, he has been considering setting up a paid secretariat.
“If I continue like this, I will lose. I don’t even have time to go out and campaign,” he tells his advisory board.
“I agree. You have done well to get the campaign to this point without an organized campaign secretariat. But to get results you will need a dedicated campaign manager to offer these youngsters direction,” says Juan, a veterinary officer.
“If we are paying some people, we will have to pay everyone. It might bring some issues if we have a team of people who are earning while others are doing this for free,” say Lydia, the principal of Shava Girls High School.
“I think what we can do is pay everyone a stipend across board. The campaign manager, the finance controller and other professionals will get slightly more than the teenage students and the college students, but the disparity should not be much. Everyone, including the campaign manager, should be a volunteer committed to the cause,” insists Juan. The other members of the advisory body agree with Juan, and an agreement is quickly reached. A secretariat will be set up. All the volunteers will report to the campaign manager.
The campaign manager will be a professional manager, but he or she will have to agree to a massive pay cut for the months that he/she will be managing the campaign.
Sam and his advisors have just left the boardroom when Rick, Kyle and Hellen enter the campaign office.
“Good afternoon sir,” Rick greets him courteously.
“Good morning young man. What can I do for you?”
“My name is Rick. My friends and I want to volunteer in your campaign.”
Sam smiles. Volunteers are always welcome.
“Alright, follow me. We need to do a brief interview so that we can see where to place you in the campaign.”
He leads them to the boardroom and calls back the advisory team to conduct the interview. After brief introductions, each of them is interviewed separately.
“My name is Rick. I hold a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering, and a Masters degree in the same field. I also hold a Master of Business Administration degree. I currently work as a senior production manager in a car manufacturing company in Rome. During my time as an undergraduate I played tennis and won two championships in the single category and three in the double category. While I was doing my masters in mechanical engineering I worked part time as a tennis coach for my alma mater. Upon graduation I joined my current employer as an associate engineer and rose to my current position over time.”
“What role would you like to play in the campaign?” Dean, the proprietor and CEO of Dawiri Poultry Farm asks.
“I have never really worked in a campaign so I don’t know. Whatever role you give me I will do it to the best of my ability.”
“Would you like to be the campaign manager?” Sam asks.
“I feel like I am seriously under qualified for that role because I have never been involved in a campaign before.”
“With the exception of Edith, our running mate, we are all novices in the political game. And that is okay because we are planning to do this differently. We are planning to run a honest campaign without playing any dirty tricks against our opponents. If you agree to be our campaign manager, you will be like a CEO. Your job is to ensure that everyone on the campaign is running in the same direction, towards the same goal, which is getting Sam elected,” Lydia chips in.
“And we will be here to support you,” Juan says.
“Okay, I can give it a shot.”
“Thank you Rick. One more thing. You realize that we will not be able to pay you as much as your employer in Rome pays you…”
“No, no…I came into the campaign to help. I do not expect any payment at all.”
“The election is three months away. You cannot stay without sustenance. We will offer you a small stipend…”
“Do not worry about me. I have enough savings to carry me through the three months. Besides, I have never taken full leave from work for the last five years, so I am applying for this to be my accumulated leave. I can work here for free and still draw my usual salary from my employer.”
“Your employer can allow you to do that?”
“Yes. If you have never taken leave for five years or more the company allows you to take a paid sabbatical of up to six months. I think you can offer my stipend to the younger, unemployed volunteers. They need it more.”
“Thank you Rick. When can you start?”
“Tomorrow will be fine.”
“Excellent. We will set up an office for you by the time you arrive tomorrow.”
Hellen and Kyle go through the same process. Hellen, who is a Certified Public Accountant, becomes the campaign accountant and resource mobilization officer. Kyle, a political scientist at a global political think tank based in Rome, becomes a political strategist. The two, just like Rick, refuse the stipends they have been offered.
“There is one more thing Sam,” Rick tells the candidate just before the three friends drive away. “My mother told me to give you this.”
“What is this?” Sam asks, while taking the envelope from Rick. “Your mother is Dorothy? Why didn’t you say so?”
“Because I did not want you to let me into your campaign on the basis of who my mother is.”
“Three million is a lot of money. Tell her I am grateful. But out of curiosity, isn’t Leonard close to your family?”
“My mother sponsored his education and even though he was living with his grandmother, he spent quite a lot of time in our house. But he has changed, and we do not think he is fit to be Governor. I personally think that that office requires someone honest, humble and someone with integrity. That person is you.”
“Thank you Rick, and tell your mother that I am very grateful for her support.”
Leonard and Susan’s kiss does not make the front page of the Daily Nation. There is a photo on page eight, and a caption that simply says “Shava County gubernatorial candidate Leonard exchanges an intimate moment with his girlfriend Susan.”
The Standard ignores the matter altogether, but everyone knows that its tabloid weekly sister The Nairobian will not resist the juicy details of that story. Shava County News runs the story as it main story. It focuses more on the heritage of Susan and what it means to for Leonard to be a billionaire’s son-in-law. It only briefly mentions Hellen and the drama that happened.
Shava Mirror is a local tabloid and it largely focuses on the allegations of Hellen being a lesbian, her relationship with Leonard and her public disgrace. It runs a two page story based on insinuations, pulling photographs where she is pictured with female friends from Facebook and Instagram to push the idea that she is a lesbian.
The mood at Sam’s secretariat on the day Rick, Hellen and Kyle report to work is somber and subdued.
“Did you join my campaign to revenge against your ex-boyfriend?” Sam asks Hellen.
But Hellen is not in a position to respond. She has been sobbing ever since she saw the tabloid story, which is now trending on social media. She feels like locking herself in her room and never coming out. The graphic details of the tabloid story are too humiliating.
“Partly yes,” her brother Kyle answers on her behalf. “We all wanted to hit back at Leonard for the way he treated Hellen yesterday. But in addition, after what he did to her, we realized that he is not the kind of man who should run Shava County. I wouldn’t want him to do what he did to Hellen to someone else. We are sorry we did not tell you about Hellen’s drama with Leonard yesterday. We thought you would reject us if you heard about Hellen’s association with Leonard.”
“It is okay. But please understand that Shava County is a very conservative county, so people will say some very mean things about Hellen. Some might even try to harm her. That is why we will need to push back against that lesbianism story. But most importantly, Hellen will need to pull herself together. She needs to be strong, because the worst is yet to come.”
“I am sorry for dragging you into this,” Hellen says in between sobs.
Sam stretches his hand and holds hers.
“We will fight this together. I am sure Leonard has something to do with that story. But we will overcome,” he says. He looks up at Kyle, Rick and the other volunteers. “Let’s get to work. We have to somehow turn this story to our advantage.”
Edith’s political instincts are unparalleled. But she also has a long history of being a very fair politician, which is what made her very appealing to Sam. Even though she has been in the political game for decades, her integrity is unquestionable. At the campaign secretariat she is fondly referred to as ‘mother’.
Edith knows how to get the votes, and she is seen to be a key pillar in Sam’s election plan. Almost everyone on Sam’s campaign is a political novice, but nobody is worried because they all know they can rely on Edith’s political talent and experience to not only guide them, but also to sway voters to vote for her and Sam.
She is in a meeting with Sam, Rick, Hellen and Kyle, working through the fine details of a campaign rally that is coming up, when her phone rings. It is the editor of the Shava Mirror. He tells her that he wants to discuss “the fact that you guys have hired the lesbian girl.”
Edith sees her chance to win over the tabloid, so she agrees to meet him at the general restaurant at Hotel Shava. She quickly leaves the meeting, hops into her car and speeds away towards the hotel.
She finds the editor sitting on the outside part of the restaurant. She joins him and orders tea. She has been in politics long enough to be comfortable around journalists but also to be mindful of what she says.
She is busy sipping her tea and shadow boxing with the journalist, so she does not see notice the motorcycle. Neither does she see the pillion passenger pull out a pistol and aim it at her head. By the time the time the other people in the restaurant start screaming, it is too late for Edith. One bullet hits her on the shoulder, the other hits her on the neck. She does not even get time to scream. She falls from the chair onto her own pool of blood.
“Where are we going Victor?” Dave asks.
“To the campaign headquarters of that fool Sam.”
“But what are we going to do there? We were specifically instructed to report to the warehouse after killing that woman Edith.”
“We are not going to allow lesbianism to permeate our society, Dave. And stop being a coward. We will go, take out that lesbian girl then head to the warehouse.”
“We do not even know that she is at the campaign headquarters. Plus, after they learn about Edith’s shooting, they will heighten the security around the campaign headquarters.”
“That is you being a chicken again.”
Sam’s campaign headquarters is housed in an old building just outside town. It is surrounded by a live fence, but the gate is open. Victor confidently rides into the compound.
“You are in luck,” he mumbles under his breath. Dave looks up to see what Victor is talking about. Hellen is standing outside the building, making a phone call. Dave lifts his gun, aims at her and fires twice.
Image by Marla66 from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/hand-business-gesture-man-welcome-2548398/
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