SHORT STORY: For them, she'd try and fight

Friday January 14 2022

The people were jubilant, staring up adoringly at her. She felt like hope to them, a fresh start, a new day. This young woman with a vision was going to steer the country right, finally. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA


"Together, as a nation, we will defeat corruption. We will take this country into a new era... one of prosperity for all!”

The crowds thronging the massive stadium roared as the President finished her speech, waving to them and smiling broadly.

She was warmed by their reaction. It overwhelmed her even more than the heady feeling of power that surged through every time it hit her she was now President.

She was touched that these people who had voted for her had now come to celebrate with her; no, to celebrate her.

The people were jubilant, staring up adoringly at her. She felt like hope to them, a fresh start, a new day. This young woman with a vision was going to steer the country right, finally.

They danced wildly under the hot midday sun, those with hats throwing them into the air and others dressed in full suits that resembled the national flag and armed with whistles blew on them till they turned red in the face. Drummers in traditional gear decorated with beads beat on hide-covered drums so hard they were losing sensation in their fingers. But none of them cared; they were frenzied with joy.


The President stood on the dais and took it all in. She felt hopeful too. It had been a long journey to get here, one fraught with many perils but as she stared down at the crowd, every danger and opposition she’d faced seemed worth it.

A slight tap on her shoulder from her body guard, a sharply dressed stoic military man, indicated it was time. She was expected by the Chief Justice for her swearing in. The thought of walking on the State House lawns to swear her oath made her giddy.

With one last wave at the crowd, which roared louder than ever, she turned and allowed herself to be ushered to a waiting convoy of cars.

Her ears were still ringing and her heart pounding with adrenaline when a phone rang shrilly inside the quiet interior of the air-conditioned car. Her stoic bodyguard, who was doubling as her aide today, fished the offensive item out of his breast pocket and handed it to her with a nod.

“Congratulations my dear girl” a deep male voice boomed over the line.

The President bristled. He knew better than to address her that way now, even if he was her father’s acquaintance and one of the influential governors who had endorsed her bid.

“You should be proud of yourself, but don’t forget those who helped you get to…”

At this the President sat up and listened closely. Was the governor saying what she thought he was saying?

“…your speech -- it got the people going, but land reforms? An annual audit?” His voice held a hint of sarcasm as he began to lecture her.

The President sat in stunned silence for a minute before she felt the heat of anger rising in her chest. She had never been one to accept disrespect.

“You will not have the support of Parliament…”

He was still going and she cut him off, her voice steady despite the rage roiling within her.

“Governor, now hear this,” she inhaled sharply, “I campaigned and won on the basis of my agenda, not because you joined me up on stage a time or two,” she paused briefly.

“We’re taking encroachers out of forests and our water towers to ensure our survival,” she powered on as his strangled attempt to respond came over the line.

“We’ll never move anyone with a deed without compensation,” he said, attempting to speak over her.

However, she ignored him and went on, “The audit was publicly voted on and the people were unanimous -- they want it.”

She was tired of him. She wanted to bask in her former celebratory mood but it was already fast fading as she realised this was what she was going to face.

“Thanks and good day,” she said and hung up, tossing the phone aside.

The President massaged her temples with her fingertips and looked out of the window. They were pulling up to the stately white mansion that would be her home for the foreseeable future.

The phone beside her beeped as a message came through. Almost involuntarily, she found herself reaching for it. It was the governor.

"Ask your father how he acquired the family farm, and give him my regards," the message read.

She felt sick, but her door was opening and she was being ushered out and into a small waiting crowd. It was more subdued than the one before. Dignified claps, nods and a few bland smiles welcomed her.

As she stood beside the Chief justice to take her oath, she looked into the tens of faces and saw only as yet unasked favours from those who’d done her any kindness, future blackmail for her every past misstep, corrupt elements who would fight her every decision…

But just outside, she could hear the people still cheering. The President stood taller, squaring her shoulders. For them, she was going to try.