Living life and fully enjoying it needs both a deliberate tact and perseverance. As long as you have a will, no mountain peak will ever be too cold, or too high to reach.
I was born in 1986 at Moi’s Bridge in the beautiful Rift Valley Escarpment of Kenya. When I was six years old, my family was forced to relocate to Keminini, Western Kenya due to the ethnic violence and political tension of Kenya’s 1992 election clashes.
I was the fourth born in a total of seven siblings, and it was tough to make ends meet in our house. My father was a primary school teacher but resigned in 1996 to be a peasant farmer and a mason. My mother was a full-time housewife and dedicated mother. My siblings and I were forced to provide non-skilled labor to my father in his mason duties and farming. It was mandatory to wake up by 4:30 am, tend to the farm, or assist in completing other construction work with strict deadlines before leaving for school. We’d resume the same work on our return from school, carrying it out into the night. My father would coach us until we finished at midnight.
Even still, money was tight. In a desperate plea to pay our school fees, my father would undertake any school repairs that came his way. He would keep us in school in exchange for his services. He would also sell most of the farm produce to the school just to have us in class. Despite his best efforts, the proceeds were barely enough to cover the high school fees required for the seven of us.
I worked hard for my father, but I was curious as to what my school had to offer. My only mistake was to get myself involved in the school politics. From it, I was accused of masterminding the strike in the school. At the time, sports were not funded, and students were charged a fee if they wanted to participate. I felt such injustice towards this fact because I knew how beneficial athletics were to every student — regardless of their parent’s income. Though I did not lead the student strike, I was very vocal and had great influence among my peers. I was ultimately singled out as the sole culprit, so in 2007, I was expelled.
It hurt my feelings considering how much I had to go through to reach that level in school. I had to bear the brunt of their decision with a dismal performance in KCSE, forcing me to retake the exams in 2008. I finished school at the age of 22. Even after the second chance, I still scored a C (plain), a result that made me envy the A students I knew.
After high school, I borrowed about $2 from my mother, which I used as capital to start hawking. “Hawking” is what they call the business of a small-time street vendor, ones who load as much produce as they can in their arms or balance on their heads. Groundnuts was my first business venture, and I worked the job with all my heart.
I expanded slowly to a full-fledged town hawker, dealing with all sugary products in my hometown. I also ventured into hand-cart business. When I was not hawking, I would carry baggage for people. I expanded so much that I employed six youths to aid my venture. People look down at hawkers despite their honest work, which hurts. Though people looked down upon me, I was beyond feeling sorry for myself. I did what I had to, just to liberate myself from abject poverty that faced me.
After a year of hawking, when I was about 23 years old, my uncle enlisted me to manage his petrol station and hardware in Kapsara in Kitale Town. I worked for a year and I was happy that it earned me more respect among my peers. I also gained experience in book-keeping and other managerial skills. This was unlike my previous hawking venture, where I lost a lot of friends who did not approve of my lowly business. These events between 2008 to 2010 really opened my eyes to my ability to be more, if I wanted to.
With my positive attitude to work and learn, my elder brother offered to enroll me in a diploma course in business administration. I finally had a chance for a more formal education and I was over the moon with joy. During the course, I worked as a security guard and cleaner for the college to supplement my brother’s contribution towards my schooling. But soon, my brother’s unstable work life forced him to cut off his funding. I struggled for a while with the hope I could resume full responsibility. But soon enough, I failed to raise the exam register fees, and was forced to quit college in 2011.
I returned home and went back to my hawking business, but the market space had changed since I left it. More hawkers had flooded the market and competition was stiff.
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My maternal aunt took me in as an M-Pesa agent assistant, for a money transfer system. Here, I raised funds to open my own gym and pro-photo studio.
My star seemed to dim whenever it saw my success. Things took a turn when I fell into the hands of fraudsters who made me lose my aunt’s money. I was forced to draw all the funds I had invested in my own business to bring my aunt’s shop back to its former state. The amount was not sufficient, forcing both our businesses to close. I was devastated. At this point, I had two children and a wife to provide for. It was a tough choice to return to the village, for I did not think I could make ends meet.
In August 2012, my elder brother had a stable income and offered to enroll me at Musinde Muliro. I was like an owl on this schedule. I would attend the classes during the day and work as a security guard during the night. After one year, I was promoted to a middle-level management and my payment was reviewed, making it a little better to sustain my family. By 2015, I had earned my diploma in business management. Now I had papers to back my skills. Nothing could put me down now.
One night, I took a walk around my hometown, watching the gentle lives of the passersby. As I reflected, I saw my story paralleled in the lives of most youths. Challenge and joblessness was real. I respected the youths of Kenya. We commonly call them “hustlers,” but I welled with inspiration from them. Despite the hardship they face, they still give their best to make a living. I resolved to change the leadership narration. Most politicians promised jobs and other basic amenities to the youth, but never delivered. It’s a bait they use year in, year out. I wanted change.
In the year 2017, I ventured into politics and took 90 days leave from my security work to give my political ambition the full attention it needed.
I participated in the Party Primaries under the wing of the Wiper Democratic Movement Kenya and emerged the winner with a landslide. Things were looking up. During the campaign period, towards the general election, I had the challenges of funding. The party failed to fund me as was expected. I had to race against time to find a sponsor among people in my family, friends, and community. Including my personal savings, together we managed to raise a total of 1.2 million dollars.
My competitors with stronger financial muscles saw an opportunity in my lack of money to win over my supporters with money. A day before the election, they came to my strongholds and splashed money that I could never afford to dish out. I was shocked, but somehow expected dirty play. It became obvious that my people were still in shackles of being persuaded with money rather than agendas. I lost the elections, emerging position 5 out of the 24 aspirants that vied for the MCA seat in Nabiswa Ward, Trans Nzoia County.
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I learned great lessons from my experience. I was disappointed in the results, but I found comfort in the knowledge that at my first attempt at politics, I had beaten some aspirants that looked likely to win the elections because of how long they had been in the political scene. I have reassessed myself and known where more work is needed. I spend a better part of my campaigning period in town rather than in the village due to my work as a security guard. This made most of my voters feel like I was not in touch with them. I am now preparing myself to give it another go in 2022. Having been a high school and college student leader, I believe, in a way, that life had prepared me for leadership roles. I attract leadership positions in a lot of areas.
I am a man on a mission, which is to set the youths free to explore their talents and to contribute to our economy. That is not to say it is a walk in the park. You have to choose wisely. I stick with friends that build me, not ruin me. You must turn your eyes from the constant temptation to join crime and earn quick money. Life is a battle ground, so get your gloves on and sweat it out.
This is the story of Bonface Chisika
Bonface Chisika, 31, is a man on a mission to be the ideal political candidate. He believes in youth leadership and is very optimistic about his political ambitions. He believes his upbringing and challenges have prepared him to represent the people. He still works at his security job with a lot of humility.
Since his loss in the 2017 elections, Bonface started a tree planting project in his foundation where he provides a source for young seedlings and plants them at homes, schools and other public spaces. Through the money they raise from it, they help children attend school that cannot afford it otherwise. So far, the project has ensured two orphan students to remain in school. Bonface has been elected an estate leader in his neighborhood where he tackles issues to do with security, environmental cleanliness and welfare of the tenants. He has started a tournament called the “Chisika Cup” where young people can engage in sports to enhance their talents. This has been instrumental in getting youths engaged in non-criminal activities.
Life Log #73
| Writer: Opondo Maureen | Editors: Colleen Walker; Kristen Petronio |