My phone beeped as it notified me of a text from an unsaved number. I was hesitant to open the text as my stomach reminded me that there were more important things to be worried about. In less than five seconds, I reached for my phone and opened the text. Despite my ravenous state, a smile forced its way to my lips. Like a dam that had been opened, my head was flooded with memories.
It was the second term of my second year in Senior Secondary School. Usually around this time of the term, elections were conducted for various prefect posts. The third year students who occupied the posts were busy with preparations for terminal exams so they had little or no time to dispense their respective duties.
One by one, a number of my friends and colleagues picked up forms to indicate their interests in running for different posts. A few posts had just one candidate in the running, some had two and others three. Judging by popularity, it was easy to tell the students who were going to win by a landslide from those who were going to have it tough. Subtle and loud campaign strategies were made here and there. My friends who were normally hostile to the junior students suddenly became friends with them.
In all of these, I put up an apathetic mien. However, deep down, I was toying with the idea of running for a post. What’s more? It was not just any post; it was that of the position of the Head boy. One person had filled his form and had started campaigning. Although it was unspoken, a number of boys were expected to run. I strongly doubted I was in that list not because I was not fit to run but because I lacked the social traction for it. I was not as popular as those boys were as I kept to myself most of the time. Then again, I was a proven leader. I met all of the particularly high requirements for the position. In fact, I had been the class captain for over a year and if I say so myself, I was doing a decent job at it, so why not? I discussed with a few of my friends who encouraged me to go for it. They decided that with the right campaign strategies, I could whip up the needed support needed to win. My parents were not left out in all of these. My dad particularly gave me moral support and told me I was going to make a fine Head boy.
And so, on the day of deadline for submission of forms, I hurried to the staffroom to obtain mine, ran back to my class, hastily filled the form and went back to submit. On getting to the staff room, I met one of the very popular boys who was expected to run for the post I was running for. He too had come to submit. I managed to steal a quick glimpse at his form and what I saw only confirmed my suspicion. He wanted to be the Head boy. In that moment, I wanted to do a 360 degree turn, head back to my class and rip my form to shreds but somehow, my feet denied my wish. Instead, I proceeded to hand it over.
I knew what I was up against. With my relatively low social presence among students, I knew that if I was to stand any chance against either of my opponents, I had more work cut out for myself. We were all required to pass a screening test which we did. From then, my campaign swung into full gear. With the help of my friends, I went from class to class during the lunch break period to campaign. I felt welcomed in some classes as they paid rapt attention to me. I was met with hostility in most. It did not help matters that most of the junior students did not know the first thing about me. One even swore he had never seen me. While speaking in a class one day, I was interrupted by cheers from the other class. Upon investigation, it was my opponent that caused the hullabaloo. I had never been given such reception. The most I got was a round of applause after my speech. At the cafeteria, the thought of mounting a table and making a dramatic speech on why I should be elected the head boy crossed my mind so many times. It remained a thought that never became reality.
I prepared a well thought out speech for the day we were required to present our manifestoes. I rehearsed my speech severally in front of my mirror, friends and parents. Places I needed adjustments were pointed out to me and I did well to make those adjustments. On the manifesto day, I was called upon first. I shivered as a cold chill ran down my spine. As I took those steps to mount the stage, my feet felt wobbly. I started to feel dizzy. My hands were shaky and dripping with sweat. I paused, took a deep breath. No, that never worked for me. I was still nervous. It did not help matters that there was a pin drop silence all over. I took hold of the microphone and started my speech in spite of my state. Somehow, in the middle of it, my confidence was restored. My hands were not shaky anymore and my voice carried a little bit of authority as I wanted it to. I rounded off my speech to the applause of everyone. I even got more reception than I thought I would. Things may not turn out so bad after all.
Again, my hopes were dashed when the third contestant was called upon. His name had barely left the moderator’s lips when a loud ovation followed. It was five times what I got. He had the backing of everyone. His speech was adorned by cheers from every side of the large hall. I thought the roof was going to come off. It was difficult to restore decorum when he was done. I was trying so hard to stay positive. I slouched in my seat once the reality hit me: there was no stopping him. I was certain he was going to win. All I could do was hope that he would not win by a large margin.
The day of election came. I think I was just emotionless that morning. I had accepted my fate already. Academic activities were suspended at noon to allow students cast their votes. Once I was handed the sheet on which I was to tick the names of my preferred candidates, I heaved a heavy sigh. It was so heavy that a number of my colleagues turned to look at me. Embarrassed, I proceeded to tick the names of the students I wanted in the various prefect posts, mine inclusive.
The result of the election was not one I looked forward to. Nonetheless, the days flew by very quickly and the day for the announcement of the results came. It was to be announced during assembly. On that day, I wished desperately for a downpour so that there would not be an assembly to announce the result. Well, you know the saying about beggars and horses. So, no, there was no downpour.
After the prayers were said and the national and school anthems were sung, the principal mounted the podium and began to speak. I think I turned deaf because I could not make out most of what she was saying. I just stood there nervously biting my nails.
I only began to hear her when she slowly started to reveal the results of the election. The post that was contested for, the names of students who ran and the number of votes each had. In that order, on and on she went until she got to the post of the head boy. By then, my palms were dripping with sweat. She called our names. Next it was the number of votes each of us had. I thought I saw a small smile creep up her face. Of course, the boy with the loudest applause on manifesto day had 198 votes. The third person running had 98 votes. I swallowed hard knowing that the number of my votes would be called next.
A hush swept over the hall. The rains had denied me one request. I was hoping the floor would not disappoint because more than anything, I wanted it to open up and swallow me whole.
I felt a soft tap on my shoulder. My friend had returned with the food I asked him to buy. Relieved that I was going to put an end to my stomach’s growling, I grabbed a spoon and dove into the food. After downing half the content of the plate, I picked up my phone and stared at the text that had made me smile earlier. It read;
“Long time 28. How you dey?”