Reflections

The President that never was

By Mpuga Rukidi

I remember that day clearly, at least as clearly as a day many years ago can be. It was in my rural primary school. The occasion was a speech day, but for some reason, unknown to us and everyone else, we called it 'speak day'. Perhaps it is because we spoke a lot. I was part of the class choir – not a feat considering singing formed the bulk of our class work. Singing made more sense to me than the ludicrous things of which European discovered; which mountain or which lake.

On this occasion the class' task was to sing a simple song in which each of us was to say what they wanted to become in future. I had lined up 'my' professions. And it wasn't the simple professions you may think of. My lineup included pilot, lawyer, doctor and engineer. I had even bragged to my friends the previous day. But they were not the sort of boys to tell a secret. When the singing time came, the devils were faster. They sang what I had planned to sing. They stole my profession, those boys!

But I was not the one to give up. I had to come up with an idea. I went for another profession -president. The audience was pleasantly surprised, but deep in my heart I knew this was not what I wanted to be. I was determined never to be. When at University, what would I tell grandma I was studying? Presidency? Didn't sound cool to me. And that, dear folk, was my folly. I was to regret the decision later in life.

With time, what I would have become, had I been serious about what I sung, became more and more clear.  Glaringly clear. The next time I saw the president, his motorcade was longer than all the trees in my village put together, and how everyone tried to get a glimpse of him. And I imagined I should have been the one in his place, if not for the blunder.

I saw, for instance, that if I had become President, I would have been in position to pull off feats that other mortals only dreamed of. Did not the big boys say the president was capable of transforming himself into different creatures? Did they not say that the president, once in a while, turned into a cat? And the closest I ever came to that was when a magician made me lay an egg. I remember nothing as the damn egg came out. I wonder if magicians still do these in schools.

And there are other attractions to being president. You are an expert on everything under the sun: the economy, agriculture, religion, education. In short you know everything. You advise even your advisers. In school, I have seen clowns get privileges for being involved in politics. Who knows, they could be on their way to becoming what I ignored but could have been.

But what I missed more are the loyal supporters, the ones that love you more than they love themselves, the ones that say they would rather lose their lives than you losing your own. They will fight your enemies at no cost. Then there are the praise singers. I miss these the most. They don't sing the lousy songs that I sung in my rural school.  They sing praises and say you are the best among all mortals; that you are the best, most exciting thing that happened to politics, or on mother earth. Well, until a certain Western Power begins to hunt for you like vermin. It does happen to many a president here in Africa. But until it happens, I will look at the admirable things about the profession, and miss being what I sung.

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