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Pain of losing election too much for many candidates to shoulder

It is a fact of any election: There must be a loser.

On the morning of August 9, thousands of candidates who were seeking various political offices across the country woke up to the realisation that they will not occupy the seats that they spent so much time and resources seeking.

Taken in by the praises and accolades of their supporters during the campaigns, many of the candidates truly believed their time had come only to painfully realise that they had come up short.

LUCKY FEW

Few will bear witness to the anguish they are going through behind closed doors.

A lucky few tasted victory in the first attempt, such as 24-year-old university student Paul Mwirigi who won the Igembe South Parliamentary seat as an Independent with scarce finances against much better resourced opponents.

But, for many others, there are stories of victory followed by defeat and vice-versa or crushing defeat over and over.

“Many candidates prepare themselves only for victory and not defeat,” said Dr (Fr) Mwaura Githinji, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Nairobi, who specialises in mass psychology. “It will be long before they come to terms with their losses,” he said.

PERSONAL IMPACT 

Most of the men and women who run for office are people of conviction who truly believe they are the right people for the jobs they are seeking. 

Therefore defeat has a deeply personal impact on them.

A loss for them often means rejection by the electorate which sends some of them into depression. “Everyone is always competent until they are proven otherwise by the voters,” said Dr Mwaura.

The hardest part is the fact that candidates invested a lot of money hoping to recoup their losses once in office but some are now facing financial ruin instead.

PENURY

Levi Kones, a TV producer at Kass Media, narrated to the Sunday Nation how his father’s 20-year quest for a parliamentary seat sent the family into penury.

In 1997 Mr Sammy Naibei, resigned as a banker to contest the Mt Elgon parliamentary seat.

That was the first of four of his failed attempts to capture the seat that would see the family sell all their houses — two in Nairobi and one in Eldoret.

At the end of it, the once comfortable middle-income family was paying rent and boarding matatus.

SUCCESSIVE LOSS

In 1997, Mr Naibei lost the Kanu nominations to Joe Kimkung.

In the 2002 General Election, he unsuccessfully ran on a Narc ticket and lost to Mr John Serut of Kanu.

In 2007 he lost the ODM nominations, which were won by Fred Kapondi and in 2013 he lost on an ODM ticket to Mr Serut.

According to Mr Kones, the first born of five children, his father sold the first house in Nairobi, in South B, in the run-up to the 2002 election, and the second one in Highrise in the run up to the 2007 polls.

He sold the last house in the upmarket Elgon View estate in Eldoret town in the lead up to the 2013 polls. “Every time he hoped he would win and recoup all these losses, but it never worked,” he said.

FINANCIAL STABILITY

With each loss, the family lost financial stability and social standing. “We had no vehicles since all had been sold. People took off. No one wants to associate with a loser,” he said.

Spouses can and do serve as a source of strength.

Mr Kones said although his mother might have had reservations about her husband’s political aspirations, she supported him all through.

“She took a lot of loans to help him campaign and repaying them really took a toll on her,” he said.

Two of his brothers who were at the university were forced skip some semesters for lack of school fees. “But we survived somehow,” he said.

PARTICULARLY PAINFUL

He said the 2013 loss was particularly painful for them.

After the old man indicated he would contest again, father and son had a heart-to-heart talk in which he unsuccessfully tried to convince him otherwise.

“From an outsider perspective, you cannot understand why somebody would do that to themselves over and over.  May be it is the allure of being in politics. Maybe it’s a high that comes from the people around you. One cannot really explain it,” he said.

It took four failed elections for Mr Naibei to realise maybe politics was not for him.

He was nominated by ODM as a member of Bungoma County Assembly, thus partially fulfilling his political dreams.

STILL HURTING

But what would make one keep trying for three or even five times despite losing? “Each time they vie they believe strongly that will be the time they will make it until they no longer have energy,” Mr Kones said.

Naivasha MP-elect Jayne Kihara said she is still hurting from her surprise defeat in the 2007 polls to Mr John Mututho. “I am yet to recover,” she told the Sunday Nation.

Convinced she was robbed off victory, she headed to the courts and had to sell off some of her valuable properties to foot the legal fees. “I was in financial quagmire but I was sure I would get justice,” she said.

However, she lost the case and friends deserted her.

In 2013, she vied for the senatorial seat and again lost.

Devastated by the two losses, she announced her exit from politics. “I had sold off several vehicles and other machinery to try my luck. The two losses were too much to bear,” she said.

DOUBLE DEFEAT

Evans Kimori, the eldest son of Mr Peter Kimori who is the Nairobi County Water and Environment Executive said his family was hit the hardest by his father’s double defeat in the 2013 General Election. 

The elder Kimori vied on an ODM ticket for the Bomachoge Borabu Constituency and lost to Mr Joel Onyancha of TNA.

He successfully petitioned Mr Onyancha’s election, but lost again narrowly to the MP in a by-election held in December 2013.

The fact that a candidate does not lose by a landslide provides losers with little comfort, said Dr Mwaura. “It’s both easier and harder when it’s close,” he said.

Mr Kimori said his father spent a total of Sh 62 million in both campaigns — Sh32 million during the first election and Sh30 million during the by-election.

FAKE SUPPORTERS

“At the end of it you feel it’s just money down the drain,” said the younger Kimori. “My dad became sick after the loss. People disappeared. Even the media shifted their focus to the winner,” he said.

Veteran lawyer Muturi Kigano who was elected the Kangema MP on his fourth attempt decried the commercialisation of Kenya’s politics as being “unacceptable”.

In 1974, at the age of 28, he stood against Mr Joseph Klamath and lost by 370 votes.

But he says that loss didn’t sting as the latter ones. “I was not really bothered by it,” he said.

“In 1974, how much money one had did not count for much. People looked at leadership qualities and family credentials, such as if your family had fought in the Mau Mau war. On that score, I was solid because my father was detained by the colonialists, but I do not remember how much I spent but it was negligible,” he said.

100,000

Out of respect for his friend Mr John Michuki who had dislodged Mr Kamotho from the Kangema parliamentary seat, Mr Kigano shifted base to Kamukunji Constituency and contested the parliamentary seat on a Safina ticket in 1997, losing by 500 votes to Mr Norman Nyagah of DP.

Following Mr Michuki’s death in 2012, Mr Kigano made another attempt to capture the Kangema seat on Saba Saba Asili ticket but was defeated by Mr Tirus Ngahu of TNA whom the Michuki family had endorsed.

Mr Kigano, running on a Jubilee Party ticket finally won the seat with a landslide during last week’s elections by garnering 32,958 votes against 7,550 of his closest challenger Mr John Mucheru of NARC-Kenya.

But his victory did not come cheap.

He said he spent Sh100,000 each day for three months since February until the end of campaigns for party nominations in late April and a similar amount each day in the last two months to last week’s elections a total of Sh15 million.

CONFIDENT

Former journalist Nyambega Gisesa said he spent about Sh5 million in his second failed attempt to represent Rigoma ward in the Nyamira County Assembly.

Mr Gisesa, who was vying on an ODM ticket went down with 2,448 votes to Mr Benson Sironga of Jubilee who got 3,076.

Mr Gisesa first contested in 2013 and was confident the hard lessons of the contest would stand him in good stead in the campaigns for last week’s general elections.

What more, he was contesting on an ODM ticket which was thought to be the most popular in Kisii and Nyamira counties.

“I put everything I had in this campaign,” he told the Sunday Nation. “I spent all my savings. I have not earned a cent since I resigned from my job in February. It is a hard time,” he said.

NEXT MOVE

He is thinking of challenging the result in the High Court but he estimates he will require about Sh500,000 in legal fees. “Where will I get that money from?” he said.

As he mulls over that weighty question, Mr Gisesa says he has taken a low profile. “I am just at home now and only answer a few calls. I want to stay off the pressure a bit,” he said, adding that some of his supporters still call him for handouts and other favours he can hardly afford. “You can go mad because of it,” he said.

Dr Mwaura says defeat should offer the candidates a chance for reflection in preparation for the next election. “This was an opportunity for them to undertake self-understanding. The lesson for them is this: Don’t start a fight you cannot win.”

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