You won. You’re now the Member of Parliament for Omoro County. You’ve honoured your father. Your father was celebrated in death more than in life. That was out of no fault of his. In our fractured politics there are no living heroes. Only the dead receive accolades. The living have to dodge barbs at every turn.
At the thanksgiving reception you hosted after being sworn in I gave you an earful under the theme of how victory can be the beginning of defeat. It is a paradox but there it is. We all have to deal with it. I guess it is the reason why on their wedding day, couples are told that there’s a difference between the wedding day and the marriage. The rock band Michael Learns to Rock put it better when they sang that even heaven has a rainy day. It is easier to deal with rainy days when you have foreseen them.
I have been in the jungle we call politics (some say politricks) long enough to have a thing or two to say to a young MP like you. Remember, I was sworn in when I had just turned 29 and 10 years later, I retired from Parliament. Not many people retire from a prestigious position before their 40th birthday! But that is me. The things I have to say can be summarised in one sentence: Why learn from your own mistakes when others have made enough mistakes to give you a lifetime of lessons? So here are some reasons why winners end up losing. Many elected leaders who have lost and have disappointed not only themselves but also their supporters will find these things familiar.
I’m sure many friends, old and new, are now seeking your attention for possible deployment as staff in your new office. You know why you sought election. Never forget your priorities. Anybody who doesn’t share your priorities should have no room on your staff. If you ignore this advice you’ll end up with people who are lukewarm about the things you care about and they will prevent you from doing what you intend to do. Better annoy a few climbers than your entire constituency.
If you have space on your office wall, I urge you to pin your campaign promises there so you never forget them. Any incumbent who has lost an election knows that voters are unforgiving when it comes to incumbents who don’t keep their word. Remember that your election was a group effort. Your campaign comprised not just one team. In fact it was a team of teams. Many people allied with you for one reason or another. So don’t forget the coalition that got you elected.
One mistake incumbents make is to become goody-goody and start bending over backwards to get the approval of known opponents. These include media opponents. Stop craving everyone’s love and dreading haters. You’re now in shark-filled waters. Swim without fear. The sharks will eat. Just make sure you’re not eaten. As I told you, making friends of your enemies will make enemies of your friends! As the nursery song goes, make new friends but keep the old. Remember that Omoro is now part of your name. Many times, even the Speaker will simply refer to you as “Omoro”. Politics is like retail business. It is personal. Balance service to your constituency with policy making. Constituents are impatient and sometimes unreasonable. But they will always thank you for paying attention to their problems promptly.
American basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Talent will get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” As an MP, you have some power. The parliamentary letterhead will ensure that your letters get read by important people. When you introduce yourself after your phone is answered, the person at the other end of the line will pay attention. In addition your father’s name will forever be a passport that will fling many doors open before you.
This power will test your character. Remain humble. Don’t be arrogant even when people treat you like a demigod. That will keep your friends loyal and your family ties intact. Above all, your personal morality will not become the subject of tabloids. Keep room for God in your life. Pray! Resist the temptation to become greedy for money or even higher offices that appear to be within your reach but may actually be beyond your grasp.
Finally, don’t forget your political family. Even those who oppose your party are now your “honourable colleagues “. Parliament is a place for collegial relationships. But don’t push the collegiality too far. You’re more likely to accomplish things through your political family. All leaders work with opponents but you have to keep your eyes open for traps.
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