I enjoy going for drives, parties, and other functions with my friend Annette and her husband Jeff because I have always thought that they have one of the best relationships. Whereas he is a bit reserved, sometimes strict and quiet, she is very friendly, lively and loud.
She is funny too and their personalities’ complement each other. She brings out the life in him and he helps to tone her down. Additionally, the two have been through the fire so many times but their ten-year marriage still survived.
Such moments include a period just before they got married when they both lost their jobs after management of the company where they both worked asked them to stop their relationship or get fired.
The past weekend, however, things were different as I found myself being a referee in what started as a petty squabble about the coming elections and ended up in becoming a full blown argument. My friend Annette is a diehard Jubilee party supporter while her husband is a Nasa supporter.
At some point, I was afraid that Annette, who was driving, would let go of the steering wheel and we would all plunge into early and undeserved deaths. Granted, they both had very solid arguments on why they supported their respective parties and I thought they should just leave it at that until the chair of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Wafula Chebukati tells us who won.
“Can you believe we don’t even watch the same TV in our house anymore? Whenever our beloved president starts addressing his supports he changes the channel or switches it off altogether.This is not the first time it is happening either, he was still like this in 2007 and in 2013, why can’t he realize that I am an educated woman who keeps abreast of the current affairs and have obviously done my research to come up with my decision? ” asked a now livid Annette.
Jeff, who barely waited for her to finish her sentence angrily, retorted that he was the head of the house and she was being disrespectful. He asked her to go move in the Jubilee building in Ngara if she could stomach that his chosen candidate had tried it many times but was still hopeful. He told her that he was an adult and knew that his chosen candidate would surely carry the day.
He went on to ask if I had written about such women so far and wanted to know if he was the only one suffering in the hands of a wicked woman. Not to be outdone, Annette asked me to write about him to see if there any other unreasonable men out there like him. I decided to indulge both of them and combine their misgivings in one article. So I am not snitching on my friends’ marriage, I have their permission.
While the relationship between by beloved friends has so far been reduced to watching TV individually and having public spats, there were people in the two previous elections who actually broke up or had to seek intervention from their families for their marriages to stand.
Given our tribal politics, many intermarriages are usually peaceful for four years only for elections to come and spoil the party for everyone.
My dad tells me that during their time, they used to have the mlolongo system of voting where the electorate had to queue behind their candidate of choice. He said that women who stood behind the opposing candidate to the one their husband had chosen would find themselves being dragged to the husband-friendly line.
Some women would be asked not to come back home in the evening and that the marriage had been publicly dissolved. It turns out that apart from tribalism, there is a lot of sexism that rears its ugly head during this time as well.
After posting about the current campaigns and my analysis on them on my Facebook page a person I thought was my friend rudely commented, “You are a woman; you do not know anything about politics. Go look for a husband to cook for or children to nature. ”
This came from a man I had been friends with for a long time and of course, I retorted by letting him know that if he only interacted with women who could not voice their opinion on anything he should certainly change his crowd because women are now knowledgeable, have opinions and are not shy to voice them.
Suffice it to say that our relationship changed and so far many people have told me that they have since had to reconsider some friends and business relationships.
You wake up and log in to your social media platforms.
“The first tweet or post that greets your eyes is from a person your family has really helped and who is now denouncing your tribe and lumping everyone in a horrible stereotype. It feels really bad because you have never seen them like that, ” lamented Alex during our interview.
Michael also tells me of the time his boss started frustrating him when he realized that he supported a different candidate. His boss actually asked for his tribe and started throwing in bad stereotypes of the tribe whenever he could. Sounds stranger than fiction but these things are actually happening.
Does it, therefore, mean that we Kenyans are a pretentious lot because we attend each other’s birthday parties, funerals, baby showers, bridal showers? Some of us worship and serve together in various capacities in temples, mosques, church; school committees really hate each other beneath the surface?
Can we not accept that every one of us has a right to vote for the candidate of their choice however ridiculous, unlearned, unpolished, poor they seem in your eyes? Can we not agree that there can only be one winner and that our candidate put his best foot forward?
We have to protect our relationships at all costs because no man is an island and we will need each other in September going forward. We should not be willing to close the doors on relationships that have taken us from one level to another just because of elections.
If you do find yourself in such a pickle, you can choose to be the bigger person and just walk away from the argument. It might seem like you are weaker but after elections, you will have fewer words to swallow.